Like some people across the social media universe, I was thrilled by the recent Glamour magazine photo of actress Olivia Wilde, posed in a diner, right breast partially exposed to feed her 5-month-old son.
I thought this widely disseminated image would boost acceptance of breast-feeding in public. This cause is personal to me. When my now-teenage son was a baby, I didn't want to retreat to a public restroom or otherwise hide away when he was hungry or needed comforting.
It turned out that not everyone was thrilled by Wilde's photo. But the backlash didn't come from the usual curmudgeons calling the image indecent or saying things like "urinating is natural, too, but I wouldn't do it in front of strangers."
It came from writers who put themselves in the pro-women's choices camp. And they didn't address the issue of women breast-feeding in public. They complained that another photo of a beautifully lit celebrity mom, with a baby positioned at a strategically covered nipple, presents an unrealistic fantasy image of a practice that isn't always easy for a lot of women.
Los Angeles Times blogger Susan Roher called Wilde's photo a "slap in the face" to regular moms who must deal with everything from uncooperative workplaces to plugged milk ducts and other health issues that make nursing difficult or impossible.
"We need to stop the myth that breast-feeding is intuitive when it really isn't for many moms," she writes. "That myth is especially painful when we live in a society that tells us 'breast is best' over and over again, but doesn't actually have the kinds of public policies in place that can help make the mantra a reality."
Welcome to the latest round of the Mommy Wars over lifestyle and parenting choices. Roher's lament about Wilde's photo seems to be part of a larger push-back against a pro-lactation movement that, some argue, puts unrealistic expectations on women, as well as overstates the health benefits, perhaps as a way of reducing the shame long attached to it.
But this rhetoric turns the shame on moms who use formula and "reinforces the idea that women can't be trusted to decide what's right for their bodies," writes Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti, who also protested the Wilde photo. She says she was chastised by strangers who saw her bottle-feeding her daughter in public, not knowing that she gave up breast-feeding because she couldn't produce enough milk for her daughter, who was born three months early.
"Is it too much to ask that mothers who bottle-feed -- by necessity or choice -- are given the same kind of adoration as gorgeous, breast-feeding celebrities? We love our kids too, you know," she writes.
Certainly, writers have a point in saying there is a lack of institutional support for breast-feeding. I also sympathize with women who say they've felt pressure to keep trying, no matter how difficult or painful it can be.
I felt some of that pressure when I was going through prenatal education classes and after I gave birth. Some of the hospital staff emphasized breast-feeding to the point that I jokingly referred to a couple of them as "lactation Nazis."
I also don't remember any woman coming to the new-moms group at the hospital and feeding her baby with a bottle. If she did, she might have felt out of place because the conversations focused on sore nipples or other issues revolving on the central activity of our lives: feeding our babies.
I chose to give breast-feeding a try because I was convinced of the health benefits, not because of pressure from peers or health-care providers. And I definitely didn't see myself as "more mom" than anyone else.
It simply turned out that breast was best for me and my son. He took to it pretty easily. Also, I was able to stay at home with him until he was 3, so I didn't have to deal with pumping milk to leave at day care. I feel lucky to have sweet memories of nursing him at naptime or of him crawling over to me, trying to lift up my shirt and proclaiming "na-na time."
And I nursed him anywhere: At Starbucks, waiting at the airport, on the beach. Maybe there were strangers who disapproved, but no one ever said anything. I covered up with a blanket or sweater; some current breast-feeding moms say such efforts at modesty perpetuate the shame.
I'm not sure how long I could have pushed myself to continue if breast-feeding was unduly painful or stressful. I had enough friends and relatives who raised healthy, well-adjusted babies on formula. If I had to go that route, I wasn't going to add this choice to everything else I was going to guilt trip about as a parent.
Of course, I agree with writers who say women should be able do what works best for themselves and their babies -- and not be demonized either way.
On the other hand, the Guardian and L.A. Times writers should stop worrying about celebrity moms spreading unrealistic fantasy images -- especially as noncelebrity moms are getting into the nursing photo trend. They proudly post selfies on Facebook or hire professionals to capture them and their babies in beautifully lit photos.
Maybe bottle-feeding moms could do likewise, as this latest round of the Mommy Wars continues.
Contact Martha Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.