When Jacci Sharkey graduated from Australia's University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland (USC), she had more reasons than some to celebrate. Not only had the 24-year-old finished her degree, she also had two babies in the process. The years of juggling diapers and feedings with midterms and homework were tough, yes, but Sharkey felt indebted to school for its support. So she decided to send them a thank-you note.
To fully express her gratitude as a mom and student, Sharkey sent administrators a photo her sister-in-law took on graduation day showing the mom breastfeeding her son, Alek, in full cap and gown. And that was that.
Until USC posted the sweet picture on its Facebook page (with Sharkey's permission, of course)-- and it promptly went viral. As of this writing, the post has 278,974 likes and nearly 10,000 shares. It's gotten more coverage than Alyssa Milano's recent nursing selfie: Media outlets around the world have picked up the story, calling the photo "beautiful" and crediting it for "normalizing breastfeeding." It's a much warmer reception than the one California mom Karlesha Thurman received when she nursed her baby during her own graduation earlier this year
But here's the funny (and kind of awesome) part: Sharkey says she wasn't trying to make some big declaration about breastfeeding. Nope, she was simply a mom who was feeding her hungry baby, and she thought the photo perfectly summed up her years as a parent and a student. "It wasn't a statement [on breastfeeding] or anything like that. I would have sent the same picture to the uni had he [Alek] had a bottle or a sandwich ... it was just the fact that I'm a mum, it's not I'm a breastfeeding mum, just I'm a mum," she told Australia's ABC. Sharkey's right, of course. And hopefully, photos like hers will keep driving home the point that for women who nurse, breastfeeding (in public or at home) is as much a part of motherhood as diaper changes or bath time.
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Image of Jacci Sharkey courtesy of the University of the Sunshine Coast via Facebook