The ad for a new luxe line called Love By GapBody was shared on the company’s Instagram page on Saturday and depicts a mother modeling the line’s sleep shirt while breastfeeding a child. Notably, the child appears older than the age of 1, in a practice called extended breastfeeding.
The image was a total hit on Instagram, where people called it “awesome” and praised Gap for “supporting mothers.” Many used the hashtag #NormalizeBreastfeeding, a movement started in 2014 by Ghanaian-American mother of three Vanessa Simmons, which encourages women not only to nurse in public (as is their legal right in most states) but to do it shame-free, if it means not using a cover.
A representative from Gap tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “We aim for the marketing around Love By GapBody to 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.”
According to Leigh Anne O’Connor, a New York-based international board-certified lactation consultant, the ad is a win.
“It’s wonderful to support breastfeeding as a daily part of life for women who do it, and there are lots of mixed messages about what’s appropriate,” O’Connor tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “For example, you can nurse, but not in public, or up until the baby reaches a certain age.”
O’Connor says the term “extended breastfeeding” isn’t quite fair, since babies don’t naturally wean before the first year of life. Guidelines on nursing from the American Academy of Pediatrics advise breastfeeding either exclusively or in combination with other food “until at least 12 months of age.”
Breastfeeding ads can be a tricky territory. In 2016, Equinox launched its “Commit to Something” campaign, shot by photographer Steven Klein, featuring model Lydia Hearst wearing an evening gown while nursing two babies. A representative from Equinox told Fortune, “We didn’t want to take a stand on a specific issue or pick a cause,” but for many, the images misrepresented the challenges of breastfeeding by making it look glamorous and added to the pressure to nurse that many women already feel.
Last year, U.K. Baby Dove pulled a breastfeeding ad that read, “75 percent say breastfeeding in public is fine, 25 percent say put them away. What’s your way?” and issued an apology, which read, “Our ad, as well as our campaign, aims to celebrate the diversity of parents and parenting choices in the UK. However, we realize that our message in this instance has not come across as we intended, and we did not mean to cause offense.”
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