It's not something you see every day.
Photo: Eamonn M. McCormack / Stringer / Getty Images
As the breastfeeding mom of a 6-month-old, I've pumped in a lot of unusual places since she was born. The back seat of my car, the balcony of a hotel room (facing the street!), the mall, the library at my in-laws' synagogue. But that pales in comparison to the place model Valeria Garcia just pumped: the runway at London Fashion Week. (Related: This Mom Stopped to Breastfeed Her Baby 16 Hours Into a 106-Mile Ultramarathon Race)
The model, who gave birth to her second child in June, walked in the Marta Jakubowski spring 2019 show wearing a look by the designer and a breast pump by Elvie, a British technology company that also makes a smart Kegel exerciser. The breast pump is one of the wearable styles that seem to be the way of the future when it comes to pumping, and Elvie claims that it's totally silent, too.
My first thought when I saw these photos? Damn, that's impressive. I own a wearable pump—the Willow—and I tend to hide under a giant poncho whenever I use it in public. So I give Garcia major props for walking with hers so exposed. I'm also impressed by the wearability of this new Elvie pump. With my Willow, I need to be wearing a supportive nursing bra to use it. But Garcia seems to be wearing something more like a bralette, and the Elvie pump looks totally secure. As for the silent claims, that's more of an I'll-believe-it-when-I-see-it kinda thing (the pump is only available for pre-order right now)—many of the pumps on the market claim to be silent but aren't quite there. But at the very least, any noise it might have made didn't seem to disrupt the fashion show.
Mostly, though, I'm impressed that the designer and the model wanted to bring a spotlight to pumping in such a unique way. There's been a lot of comparison of this moment to the moment when Sports Illustrated model Mara Martin walked in SI's swimwear show breastfeeding her 5-month-old daughter. But in this new mom's opinion, the moments really aren't that similar. When breastfeeding gets a chance to shine, it is portrayed as intimate, sweet, maternal and natural.
Pumping, if it gets talked about at all, is a grind, an unpleasant necessity, or a punch line. But for many moms, pumping is our reality. Pumping is what lets us do our jobs—whether that's returning to an office or walking down a runway—and most of us can't bring our babies along for the ride. So more than anything, I'm impressed that the Marta Jakubowski show didn't feed into the myth of "women having it all." Sure, Garcia happens to be in a very glamorous line of work, but it showed the unglamorous reality for so many women: going back to work, and pumping while doing it.