The story behind Gap’s breastfeeding ad is beautiful + important 👏

A recent image by Gap was intended to promote the brand’s new Love by GapBody sleep shirts—but an Instagram post by the clothing giant also promotes something else: breastfeeding.

The stunning photo of model Adaora Akubilo and her son, Arinze, has racked up views and accolades on social media, with commenters adding the hashtag #normalizebreastfeeding and calling the pic a “gorgeous depiction of motherhood.”

It truly is: As Akubilo told the Chicago Tribune, the shot organically happened when Arzine needed to nurse in the middle of his mama’s otherwise normal photo shoot. “I’m so comfortable just nursing my son anywhere,” Akubilo told the Tribune. “If my son needs to nurse, I’m going to nurse him.”

When the photo shoot wrapped, that image stood out not just because of its beauty, but also because of what it represents. As a Gap spokesperson tells Motherly in a statement about the company’s decision to post the image, “We aim for the marketing around Love by GapBody to encourage and empower all women to be the woman they want to be as a friend, partner, wife, mother and voice in today’s society.”

On her own Instagram account, Akubilo notes how thankful she is that her career allows her to bring her son with her to shoots, noting that the flexibility has helped her continue breastfeeding.

“I had the desire and determination to breastfeed for as long as possible,” she writes. “But the reality is if I weren’t in the industry that I’m in, I believe that fulfilling this goal would’ve been challenging or near impossible.”

She continues, “Most moms do not have the privilege of working with a brand like @gap or photographer @cassblackbird who supported me and went with the flow of the shoot as I nursed.”

Thank-you @byalisonbowen for featuring my son and I in your @chicagotribune article (click in bio link to read) to offer insight into an important issue. I had the desire and determination to breastfeed for as long as possible but the reality is if I weren�t in the industry that I�m in, I believe that fulfilling this goal would�ve been challenging or near impossible. Most moms do not have the privilege of working with a brand like @gap or photographer @cassblackbird who supported me and went with the flow of the shoot as I nursed. My friends who are working moms and countless working moms in other industries find that they have to quit reluctantly because they don�t have a designated area to pump in order to maintain their milk supply. Not only that they aren�t given adequate number of breaks in order to pump. Hearing these stories is absolutely heartbreaking because these mothers want to provide the nutritional and health benefits for their children as well as have the opportunity to bond with their children in this unique way. When my son was born the hospital staff provided me with information about my rights as a mom in the workplace. Please learn about the laws in your state and pass the information along to your friends, your sisters, co-workers, bosses, and moms who you love. Learn your rights in your state. (Click on About on my Facebook page @adaoraakubilo to learn about the law for nursing moms in Connecticut where I�m from). #normalizebreastfeeding #freedomtoexpress #knowyourworkplacerights #lovebygapbody #gap #love

A post shared by Adaora Akubilo Cobb (@adaoraakubilo) on

Akubilo is right, breastfeeding can be challenging, especially in environments where it is not normalized, and the stats prove her point. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization encourage breastfeeding, and while most moms in America do start out breastfeeding, fewer than a quarter are able to exclusively breastfeed to six months.

Research indicates embarrassment is often cited as one reason why mothers choose not to breastfeed. Akubilo says she has been teased about breastfeeding her son, who is not yet two. “Our society in particular is not very supportive of women who nurse after a certain age,” she says. “I don’t want women to feel ashamed. It’s so important to encourage mothers.”

Akubilo’s photo is already doing just that. When big name brands like the Gap include breastfeeding imagery in campaigns, nursing moms see themselves reflected in the mainstream and other people begin to see breastfeeding as just a normal thing people do. Because that’s exactly what it is.

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When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.


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Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.


Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.


Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.


boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.


Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.


Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.


Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.


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Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

It sounds simple: Wash your child, sing them a song or two, let them play with some toys, then take them out, place a towel around them, and dry them off. Should be easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

But it hasn't been. It's been more—as one of my favorite memes says—difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Because until this towel hit the bathtime scene, there was no easy-peasy way to pick up your squirming wet baby without drenching yourself and/or everything around you.

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