Strangers Shamed This Mother for Doing the Most Natural Thing in the World

After a photo of Karlesha Thurman nursing her baby at her college graduation went viral, the mom found out just how awful the breast-feeding backlash can be.

(Photo: KiaraxBlanco/Twitter)

Jun 11, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Karlesha Thurman had no idea that a photo of her doing one of the most natural things in the world could cause such a controversy. But after an image of the 25-year-old mom breast-feeding her four-month-old daughter, Aaliyah, during her graduation from California State University Long Beach went viral, Thurman is finding out just how heated the debate about nursing in public can be.

A fellow classmate snapped the photo of Thurman while the recent grad was sitting in her seat, feeding her daughter. Thurman shared it on a Facebook group that encourages African American mothers to nurse their babies. Next thing she knew, strangers were using social media to shame her.

“I do not care how natural breast feeding is, a college graduation is not the place…decorum, people,” commented one Twitter user. “Maybe I still have sleep in my eyes but did I just see a pic of a chick really breastfeeding during middle of her graduation?” tweeted another. Those are the nice comments. Other social media users called Thurman names and accused her of being promiscuous.

Thurman, told Today.com that her own mother breast-fed her and encouraged her to do so with Aaliyah. “If you can give your child a gift as great as breast milk, I don’t see why you would deny them that because of society,” said Thurman. Breast-feeding has been shown to have numerous health benefits for babies, including reducing ear infections and lowering the risk of asthma and allergies.

La Leche League International lactation consultant and spokesperson Diana West told Today.com that Americans are uncomfortable with breast-feeding because we tend to associate breasts with sex. Because of vocal detractors, women have been forced to nurse their babies in closets or filthy bathrooms. But “the more women that breast-feed in public, the more normal it becomes,” said West.

As for Thurman, she plans to continue to feed her baby as she sees fit. “I love looking down at my daughter and knowing I have what she needs to grow and that I’m the one that’s nurturing her,” she said. “The connection that you have when you’re breast-feeding your child, it’s unexplainable.”