Swim Search finalist Mara Martin joins brands like the Gap, Yoplait and Equinox in normalizing nursing.
Sports Illustrated is the latest brand putting its breast foot forward.
Mara Martin, one of the mag’s 2018 swimsuit model finalists, breastfed her five-month-old while walking the runway at Miami Swim Week on Sunday.
Sports Illustrated posted a clip of Martin, 50, rocking a gold one-shoulder bikini while cradling daughter Aria, who wore a tiny blue pair of noise-canceling headphones so that she could nurse in peace on the catwalk. The magazine’s caption praised her with “GIRL POWER!” in all caps.
Martin took to her own Instagram page on Monday to marvel at her mothering moment gone viral, as the clip has been viewed more than 242,000 times. “I can’t believe I am waking up to headlines with me and my daughter in them for doing something I do every day,” she wrote. “It is truly so humbling and unreal to say the least. I’m so grateful to be able to share this message and hopefully normalize breastfeeding and also show others that women CAN DO IT ALL!”
But some online critics griped that the clip is “over-glorifying” breastfeeding. And in 2016, model Diandra Forrest received some outraged backlash when she walked the Gyspy Sport catwalk at New York Fashion Week while appearing to breastfeed her seven-week-old daughter; in reality, she was cradling the baby close to her chest just after nursing her. “I was so shocked when people were shocked by it. It’s a natural thing … So when she’s hungry, I feed her,” she told The Telegraph, adding she would have fed her baby on the runway if the little one had been big enough to support her own head.
Many moms like Jenny Gill, 42, from Manhattan, cheered Martin’s high-profile feeding. “I’m all for this mom nursing on the runway. I am sure a lot of people think it was a stunt, but I can also think that her baby was just ready for a feed — and what are you going to do?” Gill told Moneyish.
She used to breastfeed her son Jack, now 7, at Mets games all the time. “I nursed him once while walking around Citi Field during a rain delay,” she said. “Nursing is really hard when you’re starting out, so hopefully a new or expectant mom would look at this (SI video) and think, ‘Hey, it CAN be done! AND I can live my life while doing it.’”
The Love by GapBody line also got a lot of love earlier this year after posting an ad on Instagram showing a model breastfeeding her infant son while wearing one of the company’s v-neck sleep shirts. The post has been “liked” about 45,000 times and received more than 2,000 comments since February — a huge jump over the company’s average Instagram snap, which gets 5,000 likes and a few dozen responses.
“At Gap, we 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,” a Gap spokeswoman told Moneyish.
And many potential shoppers are responding to this message. “I have never shopped at Gap, but I will be purchasing something tonight! This is amazing!” gushed one new customer. That’s good news for Gap Inc., whose CEO Jeff Kirwan stepped down in February in the midst of slipping sales and plans to close around 200 Gap and Banana Republic stores over the next three years (although it’s adding 270 Old Navy and Athleta shops in that time).
Yoplait’s “Mom On” video also served justice for nursing mothers last summer by calling out the haters giving moms side-eye for breastfeeding in public, wearing yoga pants to work, and other judgments they receive on a daily basis. “As we’ve talked with moms over the years, mom judgment comes up frequently and is something we want to help them disarm,” Yoplait marketing communications senior manager Susan Pitt said in a press release. “We know how much moms love their kids and don’t want to be boxed into one right way to mom, so Yoplait is surrounding moms with support and telling them, ‘You’ve got this! Mom On.’”
A Colombia shopping mall also went viral last summer for featuring breastfeeding mannequins in several stores, while Apple finally released a breastfeeding emoji.
Equinox also got many moms pumped with a 2016 ad that showed model Lydia Hearst wearing an evening gown while nursing two babies in a restaurant as part of its “Commit to Something” campaign showing people multitasking and chasing different pursuits. “Thank you for beautifully portraying the determination of every nursing momma in such an unapologetic way,” read one comment.
#Repost @breastfeedingart with @repostapp. ・・・ @equinox gym add campaign, shot by @stevenkleinstudio, and featuring @lydiahearst debuted yesterday, January 4, 2016. From the press release: "The provocative new campaign, a collection of seven images shot by world renowned fashion photographer Steven Klein, displays the powerful, conscious, human expression of commitment. Equinox believes in a world where 'commitment' is a worthy pursuit….Commitment is achievement. It is a discipline. It is about having deliberate intentions and following through….'Equinox is about commitment, we are obsessed with it, and we challenge our members to know who they are and what they want. It's not just about fitness – it's about life. The concept of commitment is bold, incredibly powerful, and it's real, especially in a world today where commitment is lacking,' says Carlos Becil, Equinox Chief Marketing Officer. The striking campaign celebrates various forms of commitment, addressing socially relevant issues including activism, sexuality, lifestyle choices and women's rights. Steven Klein effectively captures the brand's masterful and bold personality through his skillful lens. Each of the seven images tells a different story about commitment. From a young mother unapologetically breastfeeding in public (portrayed by Lydia Hearst), to an activist who is seen fearlessly taking a stand for her cause (featuring Bianca Van Damme, daughter of Jean-Claude Van Damme), to a male-cheerleading champion who wasn't threatened by a stereotype and dedicated himself to winning in his own way (featuring MMA fighter Alan Jouban). All vignettes are a virtuous expression of taking deliberate action and going 'all in.'" #breastfeeding #breastfeedingart #nip #tandemnursing #tandembreastfeeding #nursinginpublic #twins #normalizenursing #powertotheb00bies #stevenklein #lydiahearst
Denise Albert, a mother of two and founder of TheMoms.com with Melissa Musen Gerstein, told Moneyish, “Gap wins. Brilliant. I would look. I would buy. Who wouldn’t? This ad screams, ‘Go Mom!’ It screams, ‘You can do it all!’ Good for them.”
“Go GAP! I think the image is beautiful and very smart if Gap is trying to win over mothers,” agreed Musen Gerstein, a mother of three. “There is an emotional feeling to this ad, and it would absolutely make me want to get behind them and support them, and of course shop with them.”
Getting on board with breastfeeding moms seems great for everyone’s bottom line. Global nutritional health nonprofit Alive & Thrive reports that the world is losing about $300 billion a year from women not breastfeeding, as mothers’ milk has been shown to lower mothers’ risk of breast and ovarian cancer, helps their uteruses rebound after delivery, strengthens bones and reduces postpartum depression risk. And breastmilk has been shown to lower babies’ risk of asthma and allergies, as well as boost their immune systems against viruses and bacteria, resulting in fewer ear infections, respiratory illness and less diarrhea.
But in the U.S. — despite the fact that the Department of Labor reports 62% of all moms with children less than a year old are working, as are 70% of those with kids under 18 — the mother of all stigmas still surrounds women who wish to pump while employed. A 2016 report found that only 40% of women had access to both break time and a private space for pumping milk, despite federal laws requiring both.
Of course, breastfeeding can also be incredibly difficult, and many moms have a hard time getting their babies to latch on, leading many families to turn to formula instead. It’s a delicate and personal issue for women and their families that spurs passionate responses, which is one reason many brands shy away from breastfeeding ads.
Backlash was swift when Dove UK ran a print advertisement showing a mother breastfeeding her baby that read, “75% of people say breastfeeding in public is fine. 25% say put them away. What’s your way?” Customers criticized the brand for shaming moms who nurse in public for the “put it away” part, and made 391 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority. Dove had to apologize and pull the ads.
— Ad Age (@adage) July 16, 2017
The Equinox spot was also criticized for making breastfeeding look too glamorous. Plus, the brand message was muddled; many customers were confused as to how nursing twins in an evening gown related to joining a gym.
But the road to normalizing nursing in public starts with making one of a mother’s most natural acts go mainstream, like this Gap post. “I didn’t breast feed. I’m not pro or con. I’m just a mom,” said Albert. “And I’m a fan. It celebrates women.”
This article was originally published in February 2018 and has been updated with Sports Illustrated.
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