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Mothering › Baby Articles › Should You Care About The Photo Of Gisele Bundchen Nursing Her 1 Year Old

Should You Care About the Photo of Gisele Bundchen Nursing Her 1-Year-Old?

I am thrilled to feature the following guest post from Avital Norman Nathman, author of the anthology The Good Mother Myth coming out in January.



A few days ago, supermodel and mom Gisele Bundchen posted a picture of herself nursing her 1-year-old daughter. The photo, which Gisele captioned “What would I do without this beauty squad after the 15 hours flying and only 3 hours of sleep #multitasking#gettingready." showed her sitting in a chair being made up by a team of stylists while donning a white robe and breastfeeding her daughter.


It’s no surprise, that the picture drummed up quite the reaction. Someone from TheMoms.com showed up on Good Morning America, stating that breastfeeding is "a very personal choice" and that the photo is "obnoxious" and "a little outrageous." Fortunately, not everyone felt the same way. Most people championed Gisele for normalizing breastfeeding, especially of an older baby and I have to agree. There is something incredibly powerful about seeing women going about their day to day lives while engaging in normal tasks of motherhood, like breastfeeding. It’s one reason that I appreciate seeing pictures of Italian MP Licia Ronzulli wearing her baby to parliamentary proceedings.


However, while I love the picture Gisele posted to her Instagram, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated that the average nursing mother does not have the same support or financial ability to make breastfeeding as easy or carefree. The reality is that most women head back to work due to the lack of paid maternity leave and are faced with jobs where there is little support when it comes to pumping or breastfeeding, despite legislation.


While our society can tout “breast is best” all it wants, the reality is that we lack the policies needed to ensure every mother who wants to breastfeed can. The reason this is so disheartening is that breastfeeding quickly falls into one of the battles in the so-called “Mommy Wars.” Women pit themselves against each other over who is the better mom. Did you breastfeed or bottle-feed? I have seen Facebook postings devolve into messy, heated arguments over this, and have heard of more than one real life friendship coming to a head over this debate.


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Unfortunately, in these types of battles, nobody wins, especially mothers. Instead of fighting each other, we should be fighting the system that holds us back and does not allow for equal access to the support needed to succeed.


Avital Norman Nathman, is a freelance writer whose work places a feminist lens on a variet

y of topics, including motherhood, maternal health, gender, and reproductive rights. Her work has been featured in Bitch magazine, Every Mother Counts, The New York Times, xoJane, CNN, and more. In addition to her blog, The Mamafesto, Avital has a regular series for Ms. Magazine’s site, and a regular feminist parenting column for The Frisky. Her first book: The Good Mother Myth (Seal Press) will be out January 1st and is currently available for pre-order. 





About Brian Leaf

Brian Leaf is author of forthcoming parenting memoir, Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi: Cloth Diapers, Cosleeping, and My (Sometimes Successful) Quest for Conscious Parenting as well as the yoga memoir Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi: My Humble Quest to Heal My Colitis, Calm My ADD, and Find the Key to Happiness. You can find him online at www.misadventures-of-a-yogi.com.

Comments (19)

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I made the choice to quit work because my 1 year old was still breastfeeding.  It has been hard financially but I will never regret that decision.  You can't get the time back.  Everyone is different.  That was my personal choice.  Quite a few people think I was insane to give up my job.  I think I was right to choose what was right for my own child.  And a few months later, it was all over.  And I didn't have a crew blowdrying my hair!  I love Gisele's advocacy.  Why on earth should that be shocking?
I breastfed both of my child.  My going on 4 year old just recently self-weaned.  I think it's fantastic that Giselle is breastfeeding her 1 year old and I do think that people are reading WAY too much into this.  She's like any other mom who is doing their job to comfort/feed her baby - whether you breastfeed or bottle feed - is it not EASIER to get things done when your busy little baby is happy and content?  No, most of us momma's don't have a stylist team following us around, but here's a WORKING mom who is showing us that you can be creative and still nurse your baby past the recommended 6 months or 6 weeks if you have to go back to work right away.  So, she travels with her baby (keeping her close), baby is hungry and fussing, Giselle is busy getting ready for a photo shoot and she picks up her baby like any other NORMAL mom and feeds her - to comfort and quiet her so that she may continue getting ready for work.  Totally normal.  Totally awesome.  You go, Giselle. 
No, we shouldn't be making a big deal of it. She's feeding her baby human milk...Human milk for human baby, nothing shocking about that really. 
I find it funny that if she was holding a bottle while doing this, nothing would even be said...
We should be patting her on the back if anything and telling her she's doing a great job because let me tell you, although breastfeeding is natural it is not easy and making it to one year is a great achievement. 
World Health Organization states that formula is the 4th best choice for feeding babies (1st: Right from the tap lol, 2nd: Expressed milk in a bottle, 3rd: Donated human milk and 4th: Formula).  There's a reason why.
In Brazil majority of mummies breastfeed if they have the chance and conditions to do so. It is cultural. I am breastfeeding my 3years and 8months daughter and most people here say: still breastfeeding??? But in my home country I am not seen as an alien but as someone who had the opportunity to do what is right.
Gisele is Brazilian and Brazilian women usu. breastfeed. It's no biggie. I really don't understand the shetstorm around this photo, really. It's one woman's reality.
i love this picture.  Gisele is a beautiful woman, and it's wonderful that she is nursing her little one (and  looking so serene while nursing!)
I wish I'd had that team for when I was breastfeeding! But rather than elevate the controversy about it, I do feel that Mothering should be promoting normalcy of breastfeeding. Especially toddlers and young children. It's a human rights issue.
It was wonderful What's the big deal!! Linda in Miami
Shocking?  Yes.  But only because she thinks she is multi-tasking.  
Great photo, but honestly my first reaction is, "Eesh, I'm glad *I* don't have a bunch of people messing with my body simultaneously like that!!"  Breastfeeding, fine.  Loved one brushing my hair for me while I'm breastfeeding to save time and help me relax, fine.  People doing stuff to my eyelids and fingernails--igh, get away!
We do need better policies and societal attitudes so that more mothers can breastfeed or pump while employed.  However, I don't think the publicizing of this photo does anything at all to undermine that idea.  In fact, I think there's a bit too much excessively generalized talk about "It's so hard to continue breastfeeding if you go back to work" and this discourages a lot of moms from doing one or the other.  Yes, there are problems in some jobs where you are really "on duty" and there isn't much privacy, like sales and food service--but thousands and thousands of moms work in offices where it is really pretty easy to pump if we try.  I heard so much discouraging talk before my first child was born that I was surprised to find how easy it was to pump; if I didn't come from a breastfeeding family and have several experienced friends for support, I might not have persevered.
I understood the controversy to be more about her using the hashtag "multitasking" in a photo in which she is being waited upon by three people.  The average mother doesn't have that much support, nor does she earn the kind of income that Bundchen does.
This photo shows a mom relaxing and being supported while breastfeeding at work.  No, not everyone gets this kind of support but the more employers do it (and make it known when they do), the more likely it is that other women will get supported, even in thier homes.  I also like that its pretty tastefully posed.
Breastfeeding is really common here in Brazil and is seen as the better option when feeding a baby. Of course, some women cant breastfeed and that's ok too, but using formula it's a last resource most of the times. All my friends breastfeed and it's oh so normal to see women breastfeeding everywhere (buses, parks, restaurants, movies, etc.) that i find myself having a hard time to understand how this picture could generate shock. Brazilians are also really jokefull and i can see myself saying that i was multitasking if i where on her shoes. It's a playfull and light way to comment on this situation!
Forgot to say... nowadays every brazilian women has the right to 6 months of paid maternity leave. Many women put their babies inndaycare near their work so they can breastfeedmon their lunch time.
Interesting that she doesn't mention breastfeeding her daughter, she is showing appreciation for the team of people helping her to get ready for whatever she has to do, and most people missed the fact that she just flew for 15 hours and got 3 hours sleep.  That was the part that resonated with me, I worked as cabin crew for Emirates airlines and a long flight with no sleep afterward is horrible.  Many professions require a professional hair and make-up team, and she is obviously paying homage to her awesome crew who help her do what she does.  How many models, actresses and singers actually post pics of their hair and make-up people with a thank-you for doing a great job in a short time?  Oh, and of course, the issue of the breastfeeding baby.  Did anyone honestly notice that part before you read all the emotive comments on facebook or somewhere?  I had to look twice to see that she was breastfeeding, because where I live, that's just what mothers do.  I wish people would get over it.
Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival.
If every child was breastfed within an hour of birth, given only breast milk for their first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding up to the age of two years, about 220 000 child lives would be saved every year. Globally, less than 40% of infants under six months of age are exclusively breastfed. Adequate breastfeeding counselling and support are essential for mothers and families to initiate and maintain optimal breastfeeding practices.
WHO actively promotes breastfeeding as the best source of nourishment for infants and young children. This fact file explores the many benefits of the practice, and how strong support to mothers can increase breastfeeding worldwide."
It's good to see the community of Mothering.com are all pretty much in the same boat on position to this photo not being a big deal.  Celebrities hold too much power of the world when we decide to use them as a poster for the "norm".  Celebrities aren't the norm, and sure it could make a Momma jealous to see this gorgeous woman looking so relaxed and being pampered by several people all devoting attention to her (does any regular Momma ever get this kind of attention?!)  I think any negative reaction to a photo of this nature may be coming from some frustrated, tired, and unsatisfied women who are really miserable in thinking their experience should look like this.  
As for the legislation and policies needed to support breastfeeding, along with women banning together for the sake of said issue- I say absolutely!  But, until the medical community (and publications) are not being supported to the level that they are by these formula companies, the "ease and convenience" of the choice to bottle feed will just be there.  
Each of us can do our own little part by being fans and supporters of women.  Women and their right to make choices themselves. In our own lives, in our own communities, we can each model the behavior we wish to see in others.  If we want women to feel comfortable breastfeeding in public, or bottle feeding with pride, we must let go of our fear of the reactions we may receive and live our lives as such.   
A round of applause for Giselle!!! We need more of this in "real" life and celeb life.
Mothering › Baby Articles › Should You Care About The Photo Of Gisele Bundchen Nursing Her 1 Year Old