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Health and wellness

Empowering or a ‘farce’? ‘Sports Illustrated’ swimsuit model Mara Martin breastfeeds on catwalk

The decision to breastfeed baby Aria during a Miami show was spontaneous, according to Martin and event organisers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2018, 8:20am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2018, 8:25am

An American model has breastfed her baby daughter on a Miami catwalk – no small gesture in a country where many women still feel uncomfortable nursing in public.

Walking the runway at a Sports Illustrated swimsuit show on Sunday, Mara Martin stepped out in a sparkling gold bikini while breastfeeding five-month-old Aria, kitted out for the occasion in green swimwear and noise-cancelling headphones.

In an Instagram post a day later, Martin expressed thanks for the positive public response – which outweighed the smattering of posts on her social media feed criticising the move as “not appropriate” or even “gross.”

And feminist-oriented website Jezebel’s story about the incident carried the headline “The ‘Empowerment’ of Breastfeeding Has Become a Farce”.

“I can’t believe I am waking up to headlines with me and my daughter in them for doing something I do every day,” Martin wrote. “It is truly so humbling and unreal to say the least.”

“I’m so grateful to be able to share this message and hopefully normalize breastfeeding and also show others that women CAN DO IT ALL!”

According to Martin and organisers interviewed Tuesday on NBC’s Today, it was a spontaneous decision to breastfeed Aria on the runway.

“She was getting a little hungry and it was her dinner time, because the show kept getting pushed back,” Martin told Today.

So when one of the team suggested she go ahead and nurse her on the runway, she said yes.

The debate over public breastfeeding regularly resurfaces in the United States, where women are strongly encouraged to nurse their babies, even though many return to work within weeks of giving birth.

While all but a handful of US states give legal protection to mothers who breastfeed in public, much of society remains squeamish about the practice.

Cases of women being asked to cover up while feeding babies in restaurants, in stores or on public transport sporadically make headlines in the country – with “nurse-ins” held in protest to demand wider acceptance of the practice.

In the latest breastfeeding-related controversy, US President Donald Trump weighed in this month to defend women’s “access” to formula milk, after the United States was accused of seeking to torpedo a World Health Organisation resolution promoting breastfeeding.

The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding until the age of six months, and partial breastfeeding for two years or more.