Why we need more covers like ELLE’s of Nicole Trunfio breastfeeding

Earlier today, ELLE Australia announced its June subscriber cover: a photograph of model Nicole Trunfio breastfeeding her son, Zion Clark.

The photo itself is striking and certainly a departure from your standard women’s magazine fare — and that’s an amazing thing. Somehow, breastfeeding remains an extremely contentious topic, and a cover like this is a powerful statement in support of mothers and women everywhere. In some places, it’s still illegal to breastfeed in public — and even where it is allowed, women are often made to feel ashamed for doing it and are told that they should cover up or get out. By presenting this everyday moment of motherhood in such a positive light, Trunfio and ELLE can help to normalize breastfeeding in a culture that still aims to sexualize and discriminate against it.

“When I saw the [subscriber] cover of me breastfeeding, which was unplanned and just natural, I teared up and thought, ‘Wow, this is such a special moment where my worlds have collided,’” Trunfio told ELLE.

While society has objectified and sexualized the female form, we shouldn’t forget that our breasts have a serious purpose that has nothing to do with sexuality. (Shout-out to #FreeTheNipple.) Bottom line: A new mother feeding her baby shouldn’t be something she has to hide.

But for most women, the consequences of breastfeeding in public remain all too real: just today, a woman in Oklahoma was allegedly threatened with eviction for breastfeeding on her own porch. Women are constantly kicked out of restaurants and other establishments for feeding their children, just because our standards of what’s socially acceptable haven’t evolved to include the most natural aspect of motherhood there is. If this cover can help to shift the conversation on how we talk about motherhood, breastfeeding, and even women’s bodies in general, it has the potential to do some incredible good.

Trunfio and her son’s cover is also significant because it shows that going back to work after having a child should be a feasible choice for a woman. While some are more than happy to be stay-at-home moms (and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that), a woman shouldn’t have to feel like she can’t have a career after she’s had a child. The cover is all kinds of empowering, and the perfect reminder that motherhood shouldn’t take away a woman’s ability on the job.

“This wasn’t a contrived situation: Zion needed a feed, Nicole gave it to him, and when we saw how beautiful they looked we simply moved her onto the set,” ELLE‘s editor-in-chief Justine Cullen said. “It was a completely natural moment that resulted in a powerful picture.”

It’s not the first time that a fashion magazine has featured a woman breastfeeding — last summer, Glamour included a photograph of Olivia Wilde feeding her son, Otis — but it’s still a statement. As Refinery29 points out, it was only last year that Instagram changed its policies to allow pictures of women breastfeeding.

“There is nothing more powerful and beautiful than motherhood. The last thing I want to do is be controversial, so please take this for what it is, [and] let us #normalizebreastfeeding,” Trunfio wrote in a Facebook post about the cover. “There is nothing worse than a mother that is judged for feeding her hungry child in public. . . I’m so proud of this cover and what [it] stands for.”

Our need for diverse representation in popular media remains as important as ever; and this includes honest, accurate portrayals of what it means to be a mom. As many pointed out just a couple weeks ago in response to the “dad bod” trend (myself included!), “mom bods” are mostly only celebrated in our society when we get rid of them. But it’s essential that we change this. Rather than trying to erase all signs of motherhood to confirm to a narrow standard of beauty, we should be expanding our standards of beauty to include motherhood — and we think this cover is the perfect start.

“For all women out there, whether you breastfeed or not, we gave birth, we are women, we are mothers,” Trunfio continued in her Facebook post. “Thank you to ELLE for being so bold and making such an encouraging, positive and healthy statement.”

(Image via ELLE.)