Show of hands: Who here has ever gotten the side eye/stink eye/tsk-tsk from a stranger while breastfeeding in public? Ashley Kaidel feels your pain.
The 24-year-old Florida mom was grabbing a bite to eat in a restaurant when her infant son got hungry, too. So she did what lots of us do: pulled down her shirt and latched her baby onto her breast. But this very normal act struck at least one fellow patron as totally off-putting, and the woman shot Kaidel a nasty look. The implied message? "Cover up."
Now here's the part where I want to jump up and cheer. Rather than close up shop and take the feeding session to the bathroom or her car (as many of us have done), Kaidel locked eyes with the woman and continued to nurse. A companion took a picture of the staring contest, which the gutsy mom of two posted to Facebook along with a searing commentary on shaming moms who nurse in public:
"I don't mean to say 'Everyone should breast feed without a cover. Show the world your boobs!'" the self-declared "badass breastfeeding (uncovered) mama" wrote. "If a mother is more comfortable covering herself because SHE feels better doing so, then I totally support that. With that being said, the reason I post these types [of] pictures is for the mother that tried breastfeeding uncovered once and she got shamed, she got stared and pointed at, she got nasty comments, she got asked to leave the room, she got asked to cover up."
The fired-up Kaidel went on to say that nursing moms "should not ever feel shamed, belittled, embarrassed or wrong for feeding your baby the way nature intended. ...[B]reasts were made to sustain your baby's life before they were made to bring pleasure to any other man, woman, partner, or spouse. Their sole purpose is to make food and dispense it straight into a baby's mouth. There is nothing weird about this and there's no difference in me feeding my baby with my breast than you feeding yourself with a spoon."
She also pointed out that it is "exponentially unfair and selfish" to boot out a nursing mom simply because it makes others feel uncomfortable. "Just look away," she wrote. "It's simple to do so. No harm done at all." (Can I get that printed on a T-shirt?)
For Kaidel, this is personal. She knows firsthand how tough breastfeeding can be without steeling yourself against the withering scorn of looky-loos. When her now 4-year-old daughter was born, she had a severe lip tie that prevented her from getting a good latch. Kaidel had issues with her son as well. His poor latch left her with such severe nipple trauma and damage that she says she developed Raynaud's Phenomenon and vasospasms.
Not surprisingly, the impassioned post has gone viral. As of this writing, it's racked up nearly 400,000 likes and more than 122,000 shares and has made headlines around the world. But Kaidel says her work is far from over. "I think there are so many moms that have been in my exact situation," she told Today. "[T]he only difference is I have been blessed enough to be heard. And now that my voice has been heard, I won't stop speaking out on this until breastfeeding is normalized again in our country, and all over the world."