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World Breastfeeding Week: 5 Empowering Stories That Broke Down Barriers

If it wasn’t a big deal, none of these stories would matter.
Serah Small/John Legend/Parlvu

This is normally where we'd engage in some enthusiastic cyberspace high-fives with all you nursing moms out there, but that would involve everyone shifting their babies into a football hold or engaging the one free hand you have to shovel (extremely necessary) snacks into your mouths, so we'll settle for a respectful group head tilt.

World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is celebrated August 1 to 7 every year. Its purpose is to inform people about breastfeeding's health and economic benefits, anchor breastfeeding as "the foundation of life," engage with people and organizations for bigger impact, and galvanize action to "advance breastfeeding as a part of good nutrition, food security and poverty reduction," according to the WBW website.

The world's top health experts recommend exclusive breastfeeding until a child is six months old with continued breastfeeding to age two and beyond. While not every new mom is able to or chooses to breastfeed, those who do often face a host of physical, practical, and social challenges.

Marathon 2 a.m. nursing sessions, pumping in between work meetings, and being asked to cover up are just a few of the less-than-ideal realities those who breastfeed can face. Which is why we cheer when we see breastfeeding stories that break down barriers.

To celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, here are five stories that empowered us so far this year:

1. This Alberta hockey player breastfeeding in the dressing room

Serah Small, a teacher from Grande Prairie, Alta., posted a photo of herself nursing her eight-week-old daughter — while wearing her hockey gear — hoping that it would help other new moms. And it went viral, making headlines around the world.

Small brought her daughter to her hockey game, and breastfed her at the beginning and between periods because she didn't have her pump with her, she told HuffPost Canada. In the past, covering up messed up her daughter's latch, so she didn't bother and figured if anyone was bothered they could look away, Small added.

Serah Small breastfeeds her daughter in her hockey locker room.
Serah Small
Serah Small breastfeeds her daughter in her hockey locker room.

"I feel very empowered when breastfeeding uncovered and feel that as a young, confident mom that I can help change the stigma of breastfeeding and help normalize it. Because it should be seen as something beautiful and normal. Breastfeeding is done anytime, anywhere," Small said.

BRB crying.

2. This Canadian cabinet minister breastfeeding in the House of Commons

Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould had already made history as the first federal Canadian cabinet minister to give birth while holding office. But then in June she casually breastfed her baby in the House of Commons during question period, and we all cheered.

Gould gave birth to Oliver in March, and returned to work three months later.

"No shame in breastfeeding! Baby's gotta eat & I had votes," Gould wrote on Twitter of the experience.

It's very rare for a public political figure to breastfeed openly (and while televised) at work. In 2016, politician Unnur Brá Konráðsdóttir breastfed her baby while addressing Iceland's Parliament about an immigration bill she had put forward.

*all the applause*

3. This transgender mom who was able to breastfeed her child

In January, a transgender woman who was able to produce breast milk with the help of hormone treatments became the first in medical literature to be able to breastfeed her baby. The woman produced enough breast milk that she was the sole source of nourishment for her child for six weeks, according to the medical journal Transgender Health.

PeopleImages/Getty Images

"This is a very big deal," Dr. Joshua Safer of Boston Medical Center, who was not involved with the case, told New Scientist. "Many transgender women are looking to have as many of the experiences of non-transgender women as they can, so I can see this will be extremely popular."

"The patient breastfed exclusively for six weeks. During that time the child's pediatrician reported that the child's growth, feeding, and bowel habits were developmentally appropriate," the authors wrote in the case report.

The woman also pumped several times a day for over four months before the baby was born to stimulate milk production, and that. Is. Commitment.

4. Chrissy Teigen

Chrissy Teigen.

Oh, sorry, did we need to say more?

Luna making me feed her babydoll so I guess I have twins now

A post shared by chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) on

Model and mom Teigen — who is perhaps most famous for keeping it real — has been de-glamourizing and demystifying pregnancy and motherhood one hilarious social media post at a time.

In July, she posted a topless photo of herself while breastfeeding her son, Miles ... and her daughter's doll. "Luna making me feed her babydoll so I guess I have twins now," she wrote. And she quickly shut down critics who suggested posting a photo made her narcissistic, telling them they have "weird titty issues."

She also recently posted a photo of herself breastfeeding in the nude, and in June her husband John Legend posted a photo of her pumping breast milk in the car on the way to dinner.

Chrissy. Teigen.

5. These midwives who took a stand for bottle feeding

Support for women who don't breastfeed is empowering, too. For a multitude of reasons, not everyone is able to, and not everyone wants to breastfeed. And those who don't breastfeed say they feel "judged at every turn."

Getty Images/iStockphoto

So when The Royal College of Midwives in the U.K. put out a position statement in June emphasizing that the decision to bottle feed is a woman's choice that must be respected, we cheered for all the formula-mixing, bottle-sterilizing mamas out there.

"The reality is that often some women for a variety of reasons struggle to start or sustain breastfeeding," chief executive Gill Walton said in a news release. "If, after being given appropriate information, advice and support on breastfeeding, a woman chooses not to do so, or to give formula as well as breastfeeding, her choice must be respected."

Damn. Right.

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