Viral photo creates controversy over breastfeeding in public

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- There are a lot of decisions parents have to make when they have a child. One of those decisions is controversial and has been brought to light again by a viral photo on Facebook.

On Nov. 24, Ashley Kaidel posted a photo to Facebook of her breastfeeding her son uncovered in a restaurant.

Kaidel writes, "Earlier today I posted this picture of my son and I breastfeeding uncovered in a public restaurant. In the picture, it appears I'm staring off into the distance. In reality, I'm staring into the eyes of a woman staring at me. She is looking at me with disgust and shaking her head with judgement in an attempt to shame me and indirectly tell me without words that I am wrong and need to cover myself."

The post went viral this week and has been shared more than 100,000 times. There are thousands of comments of both criticism and support.

Many say it's not about a matter of location, but discretion.

Tina Humphreys commented, "Have some modesty!!! Yes, your baby needs to eat when and where it's hungry, but there is no need for total exposure like that. That mother is just seeking attention. Drape a cloth diaper or small blanket over yourself for pete's sake."

Casey Salyers commented, "Why is this even a question??? If your baby is hungry you feed her. You go momma!"

Kemble Calvert-Ruff, of Huntington, has a 6-month-old son named Samuel. She breastfeeds him, just like she did with Samuel's older sister.

"For me personally, I don't mind breastfeeding him anywhere," Calvert-Ruff said.

She says breastfeeding, covered or not, is a personal choice and should be up to the mother.

"It's a little funny that it is controversial because society really does sexualize women in a big way," Calvert-Ruff said. "Breastfeeding is not sexual. It's what you do to feed your baby."

Dawn Kinser, the lactation consultant at Cabell-Huntington Hospital, said the decision should come down to what a mother thinks is best for her and her baby.

"I think that's just a decision that's totally up to mom and what her baby needs at that point," Kinser said. "Babies have to eat."

Kinser said the hospital offers classes about breastfeeding and said nursing has a lot of benefits for the health of both the babies and their mothers.

Unlike bottle-fed babies, Kinser said breastfed babies don't stick to a set eating schedule, which leads to moms nursing anywhere at any time.

"They just nurse as often as they want for as long as they want," Kinser said. "Anytime the baby wants to eat is when they need to be put to the breast."

Christine Compton with the West Virginia Breastfeeding Alliance gave WSAZ this statement on the topic: "The WV Breastfeeding Alliance is proud to have championed legislation in 2013 that protects a Child's Right to Nurse in public, bringing us in line with the other 49 states in America. Nursing in public helps to normalize breastfeeding. We encourage the support of moms in their individual choice to feed their children as they choose."

Calvert-Ruff said she will continue to breastfeed no matter what people think.

"I feel like it's natural so I don't think it should be a big issue," she said. "However long this works, it works. And it is a personal choice as to how a mother wants to feed her child."

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