Magazine Features Breastfeeding Model on Cover

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Model Nicole Trunfio nurses her infant on the June cover of Elle Australia, for the subscriber version only. (Photo: Elle Australia)

A striking image of model Nicole Trunfio breastfeeding her son on the cover of the June edition of Elle Australia is causing gasps of surprise and excitement around the world — and has kicked off the latest round of discussion regarding the finer points of nursing in public.

The photo, taken by Georges Antoni, features the 29-year-old Italian-Australian model in a thrown-open Burberry suede jacket, nursing her bare-bottomed 4-month-old son, Zion.

STORY: How to Breastfeed Two Babies at Once

It puts the act of breastfeeding front and center in a way not seen since 2012, when Time magazine famously featured mother Jamie Lynn Grumet breastfeeding her 3-year-old son as he stood on a chair (and, before that, in 2008, when a smiling Angelina Jolie breastfed on the cover of W Magazine). But whereas the Time image was planned and provocative, eliciting sometimes-angry debates about extended nursing, the Elle cover is drawing just a smattering of controversy among what’s mostly been praise — plus, it captures an organic snippet of life, writes editor-in-chief Justine Cullen on the magazine’s website.

“This 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,” Cullen notes. “It was a completely natural moment that resulted in a powerful picture.”

STORY: Alyssa Milano on Having Kids at 38, Baby Weight, and the Fight to Breastfeed

It’s reminiscent of other recent glamour breastfeeding shots — including Olivia Wilde’s Glamour spread and Gisele Bundchen’s famous Instagram photo — although those images never made as far as a magazine’s cover.

There is a catch in this case, though, which is that the buzzed-about photograph only graces the covers of the subscriber versions of Elle Australia, while the newsstand version will feature an alternative shot of Trunfio simply holding a sleepy Zion (post-milk slumber?) while wearing a black Prada dress.

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This alternative cover is the one being sold on newsstands. (Photo: Elle Australia)

Cullen’s message on the magazine’s website did not include an explanation for the split covers, and no one at Elle Australia could be reached for comment on Friday. But the duel images raises questions about why such a bold statement was available only to subscribers (who receive the magazine in the privacy of their own homes), a move that’s seemingly contradictory to the idea of empowering nursing women and the popular online movement #NormalizeBreastfeeding. The disparity was pointed out on Twitter. 

Still, the overwhelming majority of tweets and Instagram comments were celebratory. Paris’s Avance Magazine called it “The Gorgeous Ode Moms Deserve,” while the Bump called it a “powerful media statement.” Others were simply grateful that Trunfio had put such an image of herself out there.

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Some tweets predictably stirred debate, such as London tabloid Daily Star asking, “Bizarre or beautiful?” and still others wondering if such a pose was “necessary” and noting that it looked “sexualized,” while some Facebook critics were upset that Trunfio looked too primped and perfect to advance any real, messy messages about public breastfeeding.

“Fair enough, but this is her reality,” notes Scary Mommy. “She’s a working mom with a breastfeeding child, and the image promotes acceptance of the unique things a working mother has to deal with. Breastfeeding mothers face the same judgment, whether they’re gorgeous supermodels posing on the cover of a magazine, or regular women attempting to feed their children in a public space. There’s always someone begging the question, ‘Why?’ Because our babies are hungry and they want to eat, that’s why.”

Trunfio herself is thrilled the image. “When I saw the [subscriber] cover of me breastfeeding, which was unplanned and just natural, I teared up and thought, ‘Wow this is such a special moment where my worlds have collided,’” she told Elle

The model also posted the photo on all of her social media pages — and once again on Thursday, in an attempt to quell the rising tide of Facebook critics. That time, she wrote the following powerful message:

“There is nothing more powerful and beautiful than motherhood. The last thing I want to do is be controversial, so please take this for what it is, let us #normalizebreastfeeding. There is nothing worse than a mother that is judged for feeding her hungry child in public. #weareonlyhuman. I’m so proud of this cover and what its stands for. I obviously don’t look like this or wear while I am breastfeeding but this stands for all women out there, whether you breastfeed or not, we gave birth, we are women, we are mothers. Thank you to ELLE for being so bold and making such an encouraging, positive and healthy statement #womenunite”

Take that, haters.

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