Breastfeeding a baby takes a lot of time consuming hard work, and too often, breastfeeding mothers lack adequate facilities and even face public shaming for breastfeeding and pumping when they are out and about. Which is why this story is so awesome: One brave mom breast pumped during a half-marathon a couple of weeks ago. Posting an image of the race under the hashtag #normalizebreastfeeding, she showed other moms that they can commit to breastfeeding and keep doing the things they love.
Anna Young competed in the Big Cottonwood Half-Marathon on September 10 in Salt Lake City. She has a 5-month-old daughter, and the timing of the race didn’t align with her usual nursing schedule (She had to leave at 4:30 am, but usually nurses at 7). Knowing that she couldn’t get through the whole 13.1-mile race without nursing, she decided to pump partway through. In a Facebook post tagged to Occupy Breastfeeding, Young wrote,
Yesterday I ran a half marathon at five months postpartum. I had to leave at 4:30am and the race started at 6:45am. I nursed my daughter before I left my house, pumped after running the first 8 miles and nursed her after I made it past the finish line. This group and Le leche league motivated me to find a way to run my race and take care of my daughter.
“I was nervous to pump during the race,” Young told Bustle. “I was nervous about getting dirty looks or someone getting confrontational.” But most of the other runners, coming up from behind her, probably couldn’t see what she was doing. “There was only one person in the race who said anything and she cheered me on because she knew exactly what I was doing,” Young said.
Young’s decision to pump during the race and to share the photo stemmed from her own struggles with breastfeeding her daughter. “I had a rough start and nursing was not going well for me or my daughter,” she explained. “… I thought something was wrong with me and couldn't understand why breastfeeding just wasn't working.” She sought help through La Leche League, a nonprofit that supports breastfeeding mothers. Young consulted an IBCLC (international board certified lactation consultant), who was finally able to diagnose the problem. Throughout the ordeal, she looked for support from her local La Leche League and the Occupy Breastfeeding Facebook group.
“Posting this photo was an attempt to thank the breastfeeding community and an effort to help normalize it,” Young told Bustle. She hopes that it will help raise awareness of the resources available to nursing mothers through IBCLCs and organizations like La Leche League.
Young’s post has gone viral, with more than 11,000 likes and 900 comments on Facebook. Although some of the comments have been negative and have questioned Young’s need to pump (because this is the Internet, land of “People Chronically Missing the Point”), most of them praised Young for doing what she needed to do to be happy and healthy. For example, one commenter wrote, “Anna, congrats on completing your half marathon run while simultaneously enduring the marathon we call motherhood. What an amazing example you are, your willingness to share makes my heart sing!” Another added, “This is so awesome! So proud of you for continuing your running goals while nurturing your little girl! This is serious dedication!”
Young offered some advice to other moms who maybe nervous about nursing in public: “I know it can be intimidating,” she told Bustle, “but the more good experiences you have the easier it becomes.” She also hopes the photo will show new mothers that they have more options than they might think. She explained,
I want other moms to see that you can still take time to do the active things you love and nurture your baby. My daughter's needs come first but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the things I am passionate about together. Breastfeeding and motherhood does not limit what we as women are capable of.
This post has been updated to include comments from Young.