Supermodel and supermom Nicole Trunfio looks at us with heavy, expectant eyes as she breastfeeds her naked baby on the June cover of Elle Australia, her suede Burberry trench slipping off her left shoulder.
She cradles the child against her bare chest, her mouth open and partially smiling as if in intimate conversation: from one breastfeeding mom to millions of others just like her.
Well, not quite.
The 29-year-old model mom has evidently spent the day getting her hair and makeup done by a team of professionals, pausing intermittently to nurse her four-month-old son, Zion.
After posting the cover image on Instagram, Elle Australia’s editor-in-chief, Justine Cullen, insisted the cover “wasn’t a contrived situation…Zion needed a feed, Nicole gave it to him, and when we saw how beautiful they looked, we simply moved her onto the set.”
So Elle presents the Madonna and Child dressed in Burberry to its subscribers. Breastfeeding has never looked so glamorous.
But that image has been reserved for subscribers, a move Cullen justified as a “beautiful bonus” in the face of critics denouncing her for, as the Daily Mail put it, “refusing to sell the magazine.”
The newsstand cover shows Trunfio fully clothed in a black Prada dress and a naked Zion asleep in her arms, his cherubic face tilted towards the camera. (It’s unclear whether or not any thousand-dollar designer clothes were soiled by the child, as they invariably are in real life.)
Trunfio beams at the camera, her head thrown back in laughter and not a hair out of place. She’s a successful working mom by day and glam dinner party host at night, plenty wealthy enough to pay a full-time nanny but happier being a hands-on momma.
And the hands-on practice of nursing your child has never been more in vogue.
We’ve seen actresses and models like Trunfio post photos of themselves breastfeeding on social media, many crusading for the “free the nipple” movement to destigmatize breastfeeding and bare breasts.
Last year, Gisele Instagrammed a photo of her flanked by her “beauty squad” while nursing her 1-year-old daughter, Vivian.
In 2011, Miranda Kerr announced the birth of her son on her skincare line website with a breastfeeding photo taken days after he was born.
Images of beautiful women breastfeeding their beautiful babies have become a trope on social media and in magazines, much like the trope of pregnant stars (and our tabloid obsession with “post-baby bodies”) on magazine covers that Vanity Fair kicked off with their 1991 cover of a naked, very pregnant Demi Moore.
While celebrities’ lives are nothing like those of most working mothers, their nursing photographs are a sisterly rallying cry for moms across the board: bring the boob out from behind closed doors and from beneath burping cloths. Free the nipple. Why hide something so beautiful and natural?
With Elle Australia’s two June covers, the cult of motherhood has reached its glossy magazine apex. W hinted at breastfeeding with its 2008 cover of Angelina Jolie, an intimate photo taken by Brad Pitt that shows a baby’s hand grasping for the mother’s breast.
Then came Time magazine’s controversial “Are You Mom Enough?” cover in 2012, featuring a young bombshell mom nursing her 3-year-old son. She stands brazenly, with one hand on her hip and the other around her child’s back; her son stands on a stool, latched on his mother’s nipple and looking insouciantly at the camera.
The image itself provoked a fevered reaction, with some saying it only sexualized the practice. And the accompanying story on attachment parenting inspired further debate about nursing. At what age should mothers wean their children off the boob? Are women who are physically unable to breastfeed not “Mom Enough?” Why has breastfeeding become so pressurized?
While Time intended to shock, Elle Australia aims to glamorize motherhood—to dress it up in luxury fashion and sell it to the masses as an aspirational lifestyle.
But the subscribers-only cover also aims to take a defiant stance against stigmatizing breastfeeding. At a time when Facebook has only recently stopped policing nursing photos showing goose-pimpled nipple flesh, Elle Australia is standing behind mothers who are tired of nipple censorship. They have much more important things to worry about.