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Breastfeeding graduate row sparks #normalizebreastfeeding campaign

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A campaign to #normalizebreastfeeding has been launched on Twitter, following a row over a US student who posted a photo of herself breastfeeding her baby on graduation day.

Karlesha Thurman, 25, received a torrent of abuse after uploading the photo of herself dressed in a gown and mortar board feeding her three-month-old daughter Aaliyah at the ceremony in Long Beach State University in California last month.

The student uploaded the photo to the Facebook page Black Women Do Breastfeed at the weekend, in support of another mother there who posted about receiving dirty looks when she breastfed in public.

Karlesha Thurman and her daughter Aaliyah in the original post on Facebook - photo Karlesha Thurman/Facebook

The group decided to share her photo in a new post with the caption: "Congratulations, mama!!!! Giving her daughter more gifts than one! Isn't this beautiful?! #normalizebreastfeeding."

It then got picked up by Twitter, where a furious debate quickly broke out over whether someone should breastfeed in public.

"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 @SarahKitty21.

"1.Why you breast feeding at your graduation. 2. Why you post of a picture of you breast feeding ...ppl weird b ppl weird smh," said @SoulikeDarkskin.

But just as quick to respond were those in support of the act, with mothers posting pictures of themselves breastfeeding under the hashtag #normalizebreastfeeding in solidarity with Karlesha.

"#normalizebreastfeeding because it's natural and amazing and goddamnit I worked so hard to be able to do it," declared @anne_theriault.

"If mothers don't want to be shamed for their choices, why are the way they choose to feed ALWAYS up for discussion? #normalizebreastfeeding" said @HFofNicholes.

And from @MrsChach214: "breastfeeding selfies are beautiful. Such a great way to #normalizebreastfeeding I applaud any woman who does this!"

A reaction from a #normalizebreastfeeding supporter on Twitter - photo: @ItsThatLalaGurl

Karlesha said she was not attention-seeking with the photo and has since removed it from the Facebook group.

"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 honestly thought that as a society, people were more understanding to breast-feeding and understood the importance of breast-feeding," she added to Today.

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

"Nobody there [at the graduation ceremony] had a problem with it. I was facing the other graduates. The crowd couldn’t see me."

Controversy over breastfeeding in public has affected women in the UK too. Just last week, a young mother spoke of her distress at being called a "slut" while breast-feeding her infant son in a cafe.

Rhea Holley, 27, says she was in "floods of tears" after the verbal abuse in a Costa Coffee shop in Croydon.

Back in March, thousands of people attended breastfeeding protests in support of a Staffordshire mother who was labelled a "tramp" for feeding her baby in public.

Emily Slough, 27, was secretly photographed in Rugeley on 7 March and the picture was posted anonymously online.

Between 600 and 1,000 people turned up in Rugeley, and women breastfed their babies on steps opposite The Shrew pub, after she launched a campaign in protest of her treatment.

Take a look at some of the #normalizebreastfeeding tweets in this latest US case, below.

Some of the #normalizebreastfeeding tweets:

Photos: Facebook/Twitter

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