Zephyrhills mom goes viral after posting breastfeeding photo on Facebook

Published December 5 2015

Ashley Kaidel was halfway through lunch at Fred's Southern Kitchen when her 5-month-old son started tugging on her shirt, a sign he was hungry.

Kaidel pulled down her shirt to breastfeed Phoenix.

From across the room, she caught an icy glare from a woman with crossed arms.

Kaidel, 24, glared back. The stare-down continued for several minutes, Kaidel said, until the woman stood up, "huffed" past and left the Plant City restaurant.

Kaidel's 16-year-old brother snapped a photo of the encounter, and Kaidel posted it to Facebook that night, Nov. 24, with a message about supporting breastfeeding mothers — emphasizing that they should not be expected to cover up.

When she woke up the next morning, the photo had thousands and thousands of shares. All the notifications crashed her phone.

As of Friday, the post had been shared more than 120,000 times and picked up 405,000 likes.

The self-proclaimed "crunchy" mom has received lots of media attention too, with stories written about her in People, The Huffington Post, The Daily Mail and numerous parenting sites.

But said she didn't post it to get famous.

"It's all about normalizing (breastfeeding)," she said in an interview Friday. "My breasts were designed to feed a baby before they were sexualized by America. If you don't like it, there are four cardinal directions, you can look in a different one."

Kaidel said she wasn't looking to start a fight with the woman.

"But I'm not going to sit there and be shamed," she said. "I had to let her know that I saw her, and that I wasn't going to feel bad about what I was doing."

In her Facebook post, she wrote that she's not suggesting all women should bare themselves in public to breastfeed. She just wants women to be able to do what they're comfortable with.

"The reason I post these types pictures is for the mother that tried breastfeeding uncovered once and she got shamed," she wrote. "She got stared and pointed at, she got nasty comments, she got asked to leave the room, she got asked to cover up."

Her opinion is not without its detractors. Kaidel's post drew negative comments along with the thousands of "you go girl" sentiments. An "Anti Ashley Kaidel" Facebook page even popped up, calling her photo "trashy."

Kaidel, who also frequently posts information critical of circumcision and childhood vaccinations, went from zero to thousands of followers overnight.

"I'm really not all that interesting, I promise" she joked. "I'm strong-willed, but what about the mothers who are struggling with what people think — giving her a look like that would really mess with her head.

I want this to be about breastfeeding mothers everywhere."

Contact Hanna Marcus at hmarcus@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374