Why Gap's advert featuring breastfeeding empowers all women

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Carly-Ann Clements
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Gap used an image of a woman nursing her child in an ad campaign and it’s started the positive breastfeeding conversation the world needs right now.

Adverts have a habit of hitting the headlines. But unless it’s John Lewis at Christmas, it’s usually for negative reasons. Not this time. This week, apparel giant Gap has hit the headlines for all the right reasons.

As part of an Instagram campaign for ‘Love by GapBody’ - a new collection of comfortable basics – the clothing company featured images of women relaxing at home, doing everyday things.

Among the images of women lounging in bed or drinking coffee sat a photo of a woman cradling a young child. 

So far, so run-of-the-mill, right? Well, the story didn’t end there. This intimate shot prefaced a second image, in the same post, of a mother breastfeeding her son. 

The beautiful image celebrates a real-life and very normal moment that is often criticised and demonised by the masses. And Gap’s followers are 100% on board with the positive representation.

In addition to the 34,000+ likes – which is more than triple the number of likes received by any other image in the campaign – are thousands of comments praising the photo and the message.

Between the barrage of heart emojis and exclamations of “Gorgeous! Love this!!” and “YAS GAP” are declarations of thanks from those wanting to #normalizebreastfeeding.

Gap is also being praised for showing a non-white woman feeding a toddler, too. “This makes me proud as a black breastfeeding mother and advocate!!” said one Instagram user. “Thank you for helping to normalize breastfeeding, featuring a black woman breastfeeding and a toddler nursing!” commented another.

Though cynics will call it genius marketing, it all happened organically – not in a board room.

Chicago Tribune revealed that the trending ad was actually a candid shot taken of model Adaora Akubilo and her son. Both had been booked for the campaign and while shooting, he needed to nurse. “I let them know,” Akubilo told Chicago Tribune. “They’re like, ‘Oh, my God, of course it’s OK, go ahead.’ And they said, ‘You can do it right here.’”

While nursing, Akubilo consented to having photos taken, photos which later became a benchmark in the campaign. “I was so happy,” she said. “I felt it was affirming. I don’t want women to feel shamed. It’s so important to encourage mothers.” 

This is more than just a powerful moment for the global brand’s reputation. It’s a big step for breastfeeding.

Just last year, Dove released an advert showing a nursing baby with “75% say breastfeeding in public is fine, 25% say put them away” scribed on it. The skincare brand then pulled the ad after the Advertising Standards Authority received 378 complaints. An action that inadvertently strengthened the taboo surrounding the subject. 

So we applaud Gap for helping normalise breastfeeding. Let many more brands follow in suit.

Image: Gap