Mother Defends Breastfeeding Her Baby During Graduation

Karlesha Thurman, 25, celebrates her graduation from University of California Long Beach. Courtesy of Karlesha Thurman

A photo of Karlesha Thurman breastfeeding her baby during her graduation from California State University Long Beach was supposed to be just a sweet shot captured by a fellow classmate of a beaming mother with her 4-month-old daughter.

That photo has since become the most recent battleground about the propriety of breastfeeding in public.

Thurman, 25, posted the photo Saturday night to the comments section of the Facebook group Black Women Do BreastFeed in support of a post from a mother who was outraged that she received dirty looks after breast feeding in public.

The Facebook group used Thurman's photo as a separate post and that got a lot of attention. By Sunday morning, social media was hotly debating Thurman's photo.

"I personally have gotten nothing but positive feedback, but the people on Twitter are being very harsh towards the photo," she told ABC News.

"I do not care how natural breast feeding is, a college graduation is not the place…decorum, people," tweeted @theSilentGiant.

"I never said not to be proud, but breast pumps exist for a reason! Middle of graduation is not the time to whip breast out," read a post from @urQuel_5dawg

Thurman said she didn't post the photo to get attention, and it's since been deleted. But she said she doesn't understand what the big deal is about the photo.

"Nobody there had a problem with it," Thurman told ABC News about her breastfeeding during her May 22 graduation ceremony. "I was facing the other graduates. The crowd couldn't see me."

Her daughter, Aaliyah, was hungry and needed to be fed, she said.

Molly Peterson, manager of Healthcare for Lansinoh, told ABC News that breastfeeding in public shouldn't be a concern.

"This was a beautiful natural expression of a mother's love for her baby," Peterson said.

"Seeing pictures like this is something that normalizes it so that more mothers are able to feed their babies whenever, and wherever, they need to," Peterson added.

The Facebook group where Thurman posted her photo uses the hashtag #normalizebreastfeeding in their posts to spread awareness. The group, according to their blog, was created as a means to "highlight the many black mothers in the United States (and beyond) who do indeed breastfeed their children."

For Thurman, having her daughter by her side at graduation was important since Aaliyah helped her get to that day.

After finding out she was pregnant in her last year of school, Thurman contemplated dropping out or taking a break, she said. However, once she had her daughter, she said she knew she had to finish.

"With me having a better education, I would be more likely to provide her with the things she wants and needs in life," Thurman said.