Girl breast feeding baby at graduation

Mother Defends Breastfeeding Her Baby During Graduation

By Danielle Genet June 9, 2014

Karlesha Thurman, 25, celebrates her graduation from University of California Long Beach. Courtesy of Karlesha Thurman

A photo of Karlesha Thurman breastfeeding her baby during her graduation from California State University Long Beach was supposed to be just a sweet shot captured by a fellow classmate of a beaming mother with her 4-month-old daughter.

That photo has since become the most recent battleground about the propriety of breastfeeding in public.

Thurman, 25, posted the photo Saturday night to the comments section of the Facebook group Black Women Do BreastFeed in support of a post from a mother who was outraged that she received dirty looks after breast feeding in public.

The Facebook group used Thurman's photo as a separate post and that got a lot of attention. By Sunday morning, social media was hotly debating Thurman's photo.

"I personally have gotten nothing but positive feedback, but the people on Twitter are being very harsh towards the photo," she told ABC News.

"I do not care how natural breast feeding is, a college graduation is not the place…decorum, people," tweeted @theSilentGiant.

"I never said not to be proud, but breast pumps exist for a reason! Middle of graduation is not the time to whip breast out," read a post from @urQuel_5dawg

Thurman said she didn't post the photo to get attention, and it's since been deleted. But she said she doesn't understand what the big deal is about the photo.

"Nobody there had a problem with it," Thurman told ABC News about her breastfeeding during her May 22 graduation ceremony. "I was facing the other graduates. The crowd couldn't see me."

Her daughter, Aaliyah, was hungry and needed to be fed, she said.

Molly Peterson, manager of Healthcare for Lansinoh, told ABC News that breastfeeding in public shouldn't be a concern.

"This was a beautiful natural expression of a mother's love for her baby," Peterson said.

"Seeing pictures like this is something that normalizes it so that more mothers are able to feed their babies whenever, and wherever, they need to," Peterson added.

The Facebook group where Thurman posted her photo uses the hashtag #normalizebreastfeeding in their posts to spread awareness. The group, according to their blog, was created as a means to "highlight the many black mothers in the United States (and beyond) who do indeed breastfeed their children."

For Thurman, having her daughter by her side at graduation was important since Aaliyah helped her get to that day.

After finding out she was pregnant in her last year of school, Thurman contemplated dropping out or taking a break, she said. However, once she had her daughter, she said she knew she had to finish.

"With me having a better education, I would be more likely to provide her with the things she wants and needs in life," Thurman said.

Breast-feeding mom's college graduation photo stirs controversy

With her arms wrapped around her baby, the California mom who nursed her 3-month-old daughter at her college graduation in cap and gown last month — an image now going viral — was filled with pride and happiness. And she doesn’t know what all the fuss is about.

“I was proud of the fact that not only did I graduate but that I got to share the moment with the one person who is the most important to me and that is my daughter,” Karlesha Thurman said Monday.

The photo (posted below), which shows her baby at her breast, has racked up many words of support in recent days, but also drew some negative comments as well. Some said it was inappropriate, that she should have covered up — and worse. 

Thurman, who earned her accounting degree, said she never wanted attention because of the photo and didn’t realize that some people have a problem with public breast-feeding. She didn’t think twice about nursing amid her fellow graduates, and has never had a problem nursing where she needed to.

“I honestly thought that as a society, people were more understanding to breast-feeding and understood the importance of breast-feeding,” said Thurman, 25.

“It’s not disgusting, it’s not a bad thing, it’s not a negative thing,” Thurman added. “It’s the best thing for my daughter. More people should do it.”

The photo was taken at California State University, Long Beach on May 22. After her name was called and she crossed the stage, Thurman returned to her seat and her friends asked to meet her daughter, Aaliyah.

Within minutes of retrieving her daughter from her own mom, Aaliyah became fussy, so Thurman did what she always does when her daughter is hungry: She breast-fed her. Nobody said a word, except for a friend who “thought it was so cool” and asked to take her photo.

Thurman did nothing with the photo until this past weekend, when she posted it on the Facebook page, Black Women Do Breastfeed, to support a woman who wrote of getting dirty looks while nursing in public. 

Karlesha Thurman breast-feeds her daughter, Aaliyah, at the California State University, Long Beach graduation ceremony on May 22, 2014.Today

“I did it to show it’s natural, it’s normal, there’s nothing wrong with it,” Thurman said. “I didn’t even know there was a big controversy about breast-feeding in public until all of this happened.”

Though Thurman has since deleted her photo, she became the newest face of the effort to normalize breast-feeding in public as Black Women Do Breastfeed shared her photo in a new Facebook post.

“Congratulations, mama!!!! Giving her daughter more gifts than one! Isn't this beautiful?! #normalizebreastfeeding,” read the caption.

As the photo spread, online support poured in, with many congratulating her for completing school as a breast-feeding mom.

“Congratulations to the mom for graduating & putting your baby 1st,” Michelle Spruill wrote on the group’s Facebook page. “I breast-fed all 3 of my babies. I didn't let my babies starve because of how it would make someone else feel. Good job!”

“It shows she really cares about her child by getting her education to make her life better and breast-feeding her,” Medricka Vaughn wrote on the Blacktating Blog’s Facebook page.

Other reactions on social media, however, were not nearly as supportive.







The photo makes news at a time when black women have the lowest rates of breast-feeding among all races and ethnic groups across the U.S., said Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, a pediatrician at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, N.J., who found the photo beautiful.

“It’s a wonderful image because it brings together the fact that she’s educated, and is going to be an educated professional, and black and choosing to breast-feed,” said Feldman-Winter, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ section on breast-feeding. “It’s just nice to have more and more role models of black women breast-feeding. That’s what we need to overcome the deficits we’ve seen over the years. We’ve seen this disparity between black women and other women in the U.S.”

Among all babies born in the U.S. in 2010, 77 percent were breast-fed compared to 62 percent of black babies, according to the latest figures from the CDC.

Thurman’s mother breast-fed her four children and encouraged Thurman to nurse as well. Thurman, who has several black friends who are nursing, wondered why any mother would not choose to nurse.

“If you’re able to breast-feed, I don’t see why you wouldn’t regardless of race,” she said. “If you can give your child a gift as great as breast milk, I don’t see why you would deny them that because of society.”

Although breast-feeding rates have risen, some women face a backlash when they do it in public when people confuse a lactating breast with a sexual breast, said Diana West, a lactation consultant and spokeswoman for La Leche League International who felt the photo could help.

“Sometimes they can enlighten people,” West said. “The more women that breast-feed in public, the more normal it becomes.”

Thurman, who is engaged, says detractors won’t deter her from feeding her daughter anywhere she needs to.

“I love looking down at my daughter and knowing I have what she needs to grow and that I’m the one that’s nurturing her,” Thurman said. “The connection that you have when you’re breastfeeding your child, it’s unexplainable.”

Lisa A. Flam is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter.

Breastfeeding in public | Tips for breastfeeding moms

Open breastfeeding in public takes some getting used to. Here are some tips to help you and your baby feel more confident

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The beauty of breastfeeding is that everything you need is always at your fingertips: you can feed your baby wherever you are, and the temperature of the milk will always be just right. But while there's nothing more natural than breastfeeding, the very idea of ​​breastfeeding in front of everyone, especially the first time, can be a little unsettling. Whether you are worried about what others will think or not, our tips will help you prepare for this event. nine0003

1: Rehearse

If you feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding your baby for the first time in a public place, practice in front of a mirror at home to imagine how you will look from the outside. You will surely notice that the chest is not so open at the same time: it is blocked by the head of the child.

First, try breastfeeding in public in a friendly environment. In the company of other mothers or in a cafe with a friend, you will obviously be more comfortable than alone in the train or in a noisy shopping center. nine0003

2: Dress comfortably

When it comes to comfortable clothing for breastfeeding in general and in public places in particular, there are many options. If breastfeeding is going well and you intend to continue, it's worth picking up a few pieces of nursing clothing that will make feeding easier.

“I had a very comfortable nursing shirt. It was possible to discreetly feed the child in it even in winter, since nothing had to be removed. Just put the baby on the slit in the T-shirt and you're done. You can feed anywhere and anytime!” says Caroline, mother of two from France. nine0003

However, it is not necessary to buy special nursing clothes - you can just wear two regular T-shirts. “I solved the problem with a stretch blouse that I wore under a loose top. When it was necessary to feed the child, I pulled the jacket under my chest and lifted the top. He covered my chest, and the jacket - my stomach. So it was possible to feed discreetly anywhere, while not freezing and not showing anyone your tummy that sagged after childbirth,” recalls Suzanne, a mother of two children from the UK. nine0003

Other handy options are tops and dresses with buttons or front zips, with straps or side slits. You can also try wraparound styles, collar collars or shawl collars.

“Wrap-around cardigans have been a lifesaver when I have to feed in public,” says Natalie, a UK mom. - I just untied one floor and covered my baby's head with it during feeding or when she cried. And you didn’t have to carry anything with you to disguise.” nine0003

3: Know your surroundings

Before you go anywhere with your baby, make a list of good feeding places in advance so you don't have to rush around looking for them at the last minute. Shopping malls, department stores and children's clothing stores often have mother and baby rooms where you can feed your baby in peace and quiet, sitting on a comfortable chair, or use the changing table. Many cafes and hotel restaurants also try to create comfortable conditions for nursing mothers.

“If you're worried, look ahead for breastfeeding friendly places so you know where to go if you need to. Feeding in public can be difficult at first, but over time it gets better and better. And then you do it so quickly and imperceptibly that people around you don’t even realize that you are breastfeeding a baby, ”says Rachel, a mother from the Maldives.

Other potentially suitable locations are fitting rooms in department stores, furniture stores, community centers, libraries, museums, and parks. Ask around moms you know - they can probably share their experience about suitable feeding places nearby. nine0003

“In the UAE, children under the age of two are legally allowed to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is highly encouraged here, shopping malls have dedicated facilities for breastfeeding, and mothers who breastfeed in public places like restaurants are treated with respect,” says Fay, mother of two from the UAE.

4: Try a breastfeeding cape

Some moms prefer to cover themselves and their baby with a cape when breastfeeding in public. The choice here is huge - from simple shawls and ponchos to special capes and aprons with a rigid semicircular hole on top, which allows you to watch the baby during feeding. There is a solution for every taste. And you can also feed your baby in a sling or carrier - this is both convenient and shelters you from prying eyes. nine0003

“I recommend buying a carrier,” says Caroline, mother of two in the US. “With a little practice, you can feed on the go, without looking up from other things.”

However, the last word often rests with the baby. Some babies do not tolerate any capes when feeding, and someone, on the contrary, is distracted if he is not covered. “Both of my babies didn’t like it when I tried to cover them with a shawl during feeding, so I just had to rely on their heads to cover their breasts enough,” recalls Esther, mother of two from the UK. nine0003

5: Know your rights

Breastfeeding in all public places is legal in many countries. Moreover, there are laws aimed at protecting breastfeeding mothers. If you are not sure if there are such laws in your country, search the Internet for information. The best place to start is with the websites of government and health agencies. Or try asking your doctor. You can also ask familiar mothers, friends and relatives about their own experiences. The answers may surprise you. nine0003

"Breastfeeding is widely accepted in Australia, and it's quite normal to sit bare-chested in a cafe while a nice waiter takes your order for a fat-free latte!" says Amy, mother of two from Australia.

If someone is upset that you are breastfeeding your baby in a public place, politely remind them of your rights. If you believe that asking you not to breastfeed in a store, cafe, or similar establishment violates your rights, you can file a formal complaint—if you are willing and supported by local law. nine0003

“One time I decided to breastfeed my baby in a diner after I had eaten by myself, and I did it right at the table because they didn't have a feeding room. A confused junior manager was sent to me asking if I could move to the women's room for this. I replied that no - do they eat there? Then I was asked to move to a side booth. But I refused here and didn’t budge until we were done!” recalls Maya, a mother of two from Spain. nine0003

“My advice is don't worry! I was worried at first, but I regularly had to breastfeed my baby in public places, both in the city and in the countryside. And never once did I encounter a bad attitude, or comments, or sidelong glances. Not everyone, of course, is so lucky, but I breastfed for a whole year, so people had a lot of opportunities to show their bad sides - but nothing like that happened. Not a hint. So the fears may turn out to be completely unfounded, ”Tiffany, a mother from the UK, reassures. nine0003

In a Kemerovo cafe, a woman was driven out to feed her baby in the toilet - Gazeta.Ru

In a Kemerovo cafe, a woman was kicked out to feed her baby in the toilet - Gazeta.Ru | News



In Kemerovo, a visitor was forbidden to breastfeed in a cafe. This is reported by NGS42.RU.

A girl came to a cafe with a friend and a baby. The woman decided to breastfeed the baby. According to her, she covered herself so that nothing could be seen. nine0003

“I always try not to see anything. As soon as the baby began to eat, the administrator approached me and said: “We do not allow breastfeeding in the hall, so please go to the toilet.” It was strange to hear this, since we came on Tuesday, it was the middle of the working day and there were no other visitors in the cafe, ”the girl told the publication.

According to the Russian woman, there was no “mother and child room” in the cafe, and there was only one toilet for men and women.

“It turned out that there was only one restroom in the café, for both men and women. While I was feeding, the toilet handle was twitching endlessly - the visitors did not understand why it was busy for so long, ”the girl admitted to the publication. nine0003

The visitor checked the cafe regulations. The rules of the establishment did state that it was forbidden to breastfeed in the premises. However, customers with animals were allowed in the cafe.

“It is allowed to come to this cafe with dogs, they even put a bowl of water at the entrance.

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