GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Sports Illustrated model Mara Martin is used to being in the spotlight, but now she is getting extra attention after breastfeeding her child on the fashion runway over the weekend.
Martin told reporters she was proud to represent working moms, saying you don't need to give up your career to have a baby.
While some disapproved of her actions during the Sunday fashion show in Miami, calling it a ploy for attention, some midwives in Grand Rapids say they were thrilled to see what happened. They hope this furthers their push to normalize breastfeeding.
"We need this," said Tiffany Townsend. "Keep doing it, and let people see you breastfeed, and I just thought it was beautiful that she chose to present herself in such a way."
Townsend works at Simply Born Midwifery in Grand Rapids and is a big advocate of normalizing breastfeeding.
"I'm all for breastfeeding in public," she said. "Of course people stare, but I feel like a part of making it normal is just making people uncomfortable and making them look. And if they don't want to, they have the ability to turn their heads," she said.
Townsend and Sara Badger, who also works at Simply Born, both breastfed their kids in public but got different reactions.
"I'm from California originally, and in California it's very public," said Badger. "It's very open; there's not the stigma that there is here in West Michigan."
The women say breastfeeding in public is becoming more normal, but say there's a long way to go. They say Martin's actions are a step in the right direction.
"She just gave a voice to women who feel like they're missing out on life because they're hiding in the back, trying to feed their babies," Townsend said.
"It shows that women can do lots of things simultaneously, as well," Badger said. "We’re moms, but we’re also career people. We’re also friends, we’re also wives. It shows we do multiple hats in a day, and they sometimes overlap or interchange."
They hope this is just the beginning of change. "Put a mom that has stretchmarks in a bikini. Praise that," Townsend said. "Let's stop body shaming."
Martin is currently in the running for Sports Illustrated's "Rookie of the Year" competition. She says she brought her 5-month-old daughter to the casting, and they asked her to walk in the show with her baby. She added that she's gotten a lot of support from people all over the world and hopes she set a good example for her daughter.