A mother who has been accused of trying to 'steal' other women's men by breastfeeding in public has shared nude photos of herself nursing her two-and-a-half-year-old child in defiance of her critics.
Reka Nyari, a 39-year-old photographer living in New York, revealed she was on a flight from New York City to Budapest with her 34-month-old daughter, Ilo, when the woman sitting in front of them degraded her for breastfeeding her little girl.
'She called me "disgusting" followed by a litany of degrading swear words,' Reke recalled. 'Apparently she thought I was trying to steal her man by quietly breastfeeding my baby during the landing of the plane.'
Reka, who has more than 31,000 Instagram followers, uses her social media platform to educate critics about the benefits of nursing by sharing photos of herself breastfeeding her little girl.
One captivating image shows Reka breastfeeding Ilo while majestically sitting on a chair with an owl perched on her right arm.
In another stunning shot, Reka is lying on a sofa in an open robe while nursing her daughter. A black and white picture shows her breastfeeding in the nude.
She has also shared a photo of herself nursing Ilo while cuddled next to her husband, Ian, and their dog.
Reka has been breastfeeding her daughter since she was born in November 2015 and has never given her formula.
She has always been an advocate for moms who choose to breastfeed their children beyond the age of one and insists that the natural practice is beneficial for the mother and child in the long term.
Reka, who is originally from Finland, unapologetically breastfeeds her daughter anywhere she would want to be fed, including public places.
'Breastfeeding is natural, and our breasts were made for feeding our babies. Associating breastfeeding with sex or perversion is disturbing,' she said.
'I breastfeed everywhere my baby would want to be fed. It doesn't happen that often anymore as my daughter is older, but when she was a baby, I would do it everywhere; restaurants, shops, meetings, streets, the subway, you name it.
'Looking back at it, it was my way of defying societal norms — I was waiting for someone to start complaining to me so that I could educate them about it.'
Reka noted that only a few people have given her trouble for breastfeeding in public, but, interestingly enough, most of those critics were women.
'It has been irritating how judgmental people can be about women who breastfeed, and how sexualized the breast and nipple have become,' she said.
The mom admitted that the judgement has only gotten worse because of Ilo's age.
'Now that my daughter is thirty-four-months-old, I get judged and criticized a lot,' she said. 'Friends and family roll their eyes, give unapproving stares, and tell me that I should quit.
'They tell me that it's somehow harmful for my child and for me, that what I am doing is somewhat selfish, disturbing or perverse. People are shocked.'
Reke explained that she considered weaning Ilo off of breastfeeding when she was one year old, but she found so much evidence that said continuing nursing is beneficial for both the mother and child.
'Talking with accomplished, experienced pediatricians sealed the deal. I was not pushing it — I let my daughter decide how she felt, and if she still wanted to feed.
'I am a working mom, with a career and busy travel schedule, and I always assumed that when I returned from my travels, she would be weaned off. So far, that has not happened,' she said.
'Breastfeeding her right now is a bonding experience and it has been amazing for her immune system.
'I can't even tell you how many times she has gotten the antibodies from my breastmilk and avoided the cold that both me and my husband get.'
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a mother’s breast milk contains antibodies and other immunological factors that can help protect her infant from flu and is the recommended source of nutrition.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first six months with continued breastfeeding along with introducing appropriate complementary foods for one year or longer.
'She usually has breast milk in the mornings when we wake up, and if I am at home, at night when she goes to bed,' Reka said of her daily breastfeeding routine.
'If she is feeling sick, she may want to feed more often and during the day. I have always been a bit of a lactivist.'
Now that her daughter is a toddler, breastfeeding has become easier in a way, because it is no longer a constant food source for Ilo.
'But it's harder because you have to deal with a toddler who does acrobatics while they have a nipple in their mouth,' she added. 'It's also harder because people judge you, and you have to constantly explain yourself.
'That is part of the reason I continued to post breastfeeding pictures on social media; to educate people that judge without doing any research.
'Why does a breastfeeding mother anger and irritate people so much? I have found that most of this anger is unfounded. As soon as people read on the matter, they become less judgmental.'
Reka believes that 'breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding should be normalized,' and it upsets her to read stories about mothers who hide the fact that they are breastfeeding their children past a year out of shame or fear of judgement.
'The more women speak publicly about this; the more people are exposed to the idea and the more acceptable it becomes,' she said.
'I ask those that judge, what research they have that backs up their criticism. Then I kindly present them with the abundance of research that states that extended breastfeeding is beneficial to the mother and child.
'Of course, I give my daughter solid food too — she loves to eat. But some of the benefits of extended breastfeeding include: boosting the child's immune system, helping brain and intellectual development, and making children more socially adaptable and independent.'
Although she has received some negative reactions in public, Reka said she has gotten mostly positive comments on social media.
'I get a lot of supportive messages from women that have also breastfed their toddlers till around three-years, or longer,' she said.
'For the few negative comments I get per post, I try to educate those people so that we can remove the negative stigma surrounding this matter.
'We should also stop the negative cycle of constantly criticizing and judging women's bodies and the decisions they make regarding their bodies.
'Choosing to breastfeed, or not to breastfeed, is an individual choice. These are my breasts, hear them roar.'
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.