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Has Breastfeeding Jumped the Shark?

Breastfeeding is everywhere these days. It seems you can't swing a nipple shield without hitting a headline about a mom being shamed for nursing her baby in public; Alyssa Milano is tweeting about her milk being confiscated at Heathrow Airport while Olivia Wilde poses with her newborn son, Otis, in Glamour; a hauntingly moving image of a post-mastectomy mom nursing her newborn went absolutely viral; and Kourtney Kardashian posted this kickass "After the show it's the after party" shot of her pumping in a Vegas hotel room:

And then there's the rise of the brelfies. A Who's Who of celeb moms have shared pictures of themselves breastfeeding their little ones, including Gwen Stefani, Pink, Julie Bowen (impressively tandem nursing twins) and basically the entire lineup of Victoria's Secret models. (Doutzen Kroes just posted this one of her feeding 10-month-old daughter Myllena, garnering 92k 'likes' and counting.)

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When Time published a photo of Jamie Lynne Grumet nursing her 3-year-old son on its cover in 2012, along with the somewhat incendiary headline, "Are You Mom Enough?" it ignited a blaze of controversy. Attachment parenting and extended breastfeeding advocates applauded; others cried foul at the thought of a preschooler still drinking milk straight from the source. A year later, Gisele fueled the fire with a glam-squad image of her simultaneously breastfeeding, having her hair styled, nails manicured and makeup applied. "Supermom!" some women hailed. "Unrealistic!" plenty of other moms cried. "That's not what normal breastfeeding looks like."

Now, lactation is everywhere. Elle Australia just featured a nursing mom on its cover; Elisha Wilson, the wife of "Sons of Anarchy" actor Michael Beach, caused a stir after posting a snap of herself breastfeeding while on the toilet. There was the TEDx speaker who nursed on stage during her "Why Breastfeeding Is Everyone's Business" presentation.

Women are selling their breast milk on Craigslist to body builders. Not to be outshone, People magazine even featured a one-pager on a cat nursing a bunch of Rottweiler pups.

As a nursing mom myself, I'm thrilled and feel fortunate to be parenting during such an important cultural shift, an unprecedented mammary zeitgeist where, perhaps more than ever, people are talking about breastfeeding. When celebs like Alyssa Milano and Jamie King post pics of themselves nursing, they're helping to normalize what should be considered a very natural activity but has somehow become sexualized and something to be hidden.

Every day, new research emerges pointing to exceeding health benefits for mom and baby. Moms are gathering together in online forums to trade tips and offer support. Personally, I'm a member of a Chicago-based group that I visit every day. Sometimes I ask for advice, like where to pump while in O'hare that isn't grungy and gross (Answer: Family Restrooms); other times I'm "Like"ing a photo someone has posted of her 32-week-old NICU baby latching for the first time; or I'm ooh and ahhing over another member's report of receiving an awesome thank you card like this one while feeding her daughter in public.

Cool improvements are being made to help make nursing easier for women who choose to do so. For instance, Cincinnati Reds mommy fans can now slip into Great American Ball Park's Pampers Nursing Suite for a quiet place to feed and care for their second basemen, complete with relaxing gliders, changing stations and even flat-screen TVs so they don't miss any big plays. Mothers flying in and out of Milwaukee's Mitchell Airport or Vermont's Burlington International Airport can pump or feed in a "lactation suite—private Kiosks (sort of like a photo booth) with seating, soft lighting and outlets. And people are celebrating photo collections like this one, showcasing how beautiful breastfeeding can be.

But. (And it's a big but.)*

With all of this lactation celebration, bottle-feeding moms may feel left out, let down (see what I did there?) or, even worse, shamed or judged for not breastfeeding. That's not right, nobody wants that. I'd imagine that if you're not nursing—either for medical reasons or personal choices—the perpetual "Breast is best!" chant might get a bit old.

All of the public discourse is stimulating a vibrant discussion and helping normalize and de-sexualize the act, while shedding light on the importance of nurturing our kids, whether the nipple is attached to us or not.

Moms face enough guilt over our various choices. Can there be a way to extoll the benefits and beauty of breastfeeding while also applauding bottle-feeding mamas for their motivations and dedication? After all, they (and/or their partner) are still getting up around the clock in those early months for feedings. They feel similarly pressured and rushed when baby is wailing for food and they can't seem to get nourishment in their wailing mouths fast enough. Some research even suggests no major differences between breastfed kids and formula-fed. Plus, let's be frank: Even though that ethereal Ivette Ivens photo series is pretty to look at, it's not entirely realistic. I've now been nursing our youngest for a little over a year and not once have I done so while standing in a foggy lake at sunset while wearing a crown of flowers on my head.

So no, breastfeeding has not jumped the shark. If anything, all of the public discourse is stimulating a vibrant discussion and helping normalize and de-sexualize the act, while shedding light on the importance of nurturing our kids, whether the nipple is attached to us or not. It's also bringing plenty of women together to feel empowered in their decisions (see: The TGIFriday's breastfeeding mom, who fought back with a Facebook post of her proclaiming, "You've given me the opportunity to display what kind of person … I truly am during a time of negativity. I now know that I am strong, you didn't break me, in fact you made me stronger.")

RELATED: So Everything I Thought About Breastfeeding Is Wrong?

And check out this gorgeous "United We Feed" photo series celebrating women feeding their babies in all sorts of ways—bottle, pump and breast.

Image via Caitlin Domanico

We don't necessarily need to rename Twitter "Titter," or start giving our milk ducts their own Pinterest pages, but for now, bring it on, @Doutzen.

*According to a 2010 study, moms with big butts give birth to smarter kids, and those IQs keep growing if mom nurses.

Featured image via Instagram/Doutzen Kroes

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