If you haven’t already, now might be a good time to fall (back) into the Gap. The American-based worldwide clothing-and-accessories retailer, long known for its diverse casting and fresh, fashion-forward campaigns featuring basics like jeans, khakis and tees, just gave us another reason to love it with a sweet and subtle nod to breast-feeding moms.
During a recent sleepwear shoot for the brand, Nigerian-American model Adaora Akubilo was modeling with her 20-month-old son, Arinze, when she sensed that he was hungry. As Akubilo told the Chicago Tribune, she asked for a break to nurse him:
“I let them know,” she said. “They’re like, ‘Oh, my God, of course it’s OK, go ahead. ... You can do it right here.’” She went on to explain, “I’m so comfortable just nursing my son anywhere. If my son needs to nurse, I’m going to nurse him.”
Akubilo proceeded to nurse on the set. Witnessing the beautiful and perfectly natural moment between mother and son, the photographer asked if they could continue shooting.
“Absolutely,” Akubilo replied.
One of the beautiful shots captured in that moment became one of the featured shots in Gap’s spring campaign, which the brand also posted on its Instagram page. Over 39,000 likes later, the support for the image has been overwhelming, with fellow breast-feeding moms lauding the brand for normalizing a biological maternal act that is often still seen as taboo.
This taboo holds even truer for black women, who have long been stuck with the stigma that we don’t breast-feed. Despite medical evidence that the “breast is best” for newborns and infants, as of 2008, black infants still typically had the lowest rate of breast-feeding initiation. [Editor’s note: While we were looking for a stock image for this article, the only images available of breast-feeding black mothers were National Geographic-style photos of African tribal women naked from the waist up.]
Organizations like Black Women Do Breastfeed and the Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association have risen in response, providing support, information and encouragement for new mothers who choose to breast-feed. And last December, a group photo of the Birmingham, Ala., breast-feeding collective Chocolate Milk Mommies went viral. As one of its members, Rauslyn Adams, told People magazine: “It is taboo within the African-American home to breastfeed your child, let alone to do it past the age of 1. ... Breastfeeding has been seen by some African American women as reverting to ‘slavery days’ when feeding a child by breast was the only option.”
Akubilo has faced her own stigmas and shaming, admitting to the Tribune that she has repeatedly been asked why she has continued to nurse Arinze past his first six months, as she’d initially planned.
“I felt like I was doing something wrong,” she said. “Our society in particular is not very supportive of women who nurse after a certain age.”
But Akubilo is letting her son guide the process, along with the support of his pediatrician, who has impressed upon her the many health benefits of continued breast-feeding.
With Gap showing its support with a now viral campaign photo of Akibulo nursing, she told the Tribune that she hopes it helps to support and inspire other women to do the same.
“I don’t want women to feel shamed,” she said. “It’s so important to encourage mothers.”