When a friend reached out to Rebecca Wanosik, asking if she could breastfeed the newborn daughter of a women going into surgery, it was an immediate yes.
The mom of six cut a dinner date short and spent the rest of the night nursing the 5-month-old, often in tandem with her own 8-month-old son. And when the babies started holding hands, Wanosik snapped a photo of the adorable moment.
“The hand holding got me,” Wanosik, 29, tells PEOPLE. “I shared it with the other mother, and she pretty much had the same tear-jerking reaction of, oh, this is so precious. She wanted to share it with her family, and everyone was so excited that they were holding hands and it was so cute.”
The mom’s reaction inspired Wanosik to post it on her own Facebook page, where it got similarly joyful reactions. But as it started to get shared with a wider audience, the comments turned nasty.
“Someone called me a pedophile, someone said, ‘Oh, can you feed me next?’ People said some really hateful things. It was awful,” she says.
Wanosik, who is based in Missouri and owns a business that makes lactation cookies, which are made with oats, flax seeds and other ingredients thought to improve lactation, says people on Facebook were horrified that she would breastfeed another woman’s baby, highlighting one of the taboos that currently exist about nursing.
“It’s hard to put into words without making it sound as taboo as our society makes it out to be, but if you don’t feed your baby, you’re neglecting their needs, and if the baby is refusing the bottle and not eating, what other choices do you have? You really don’t have that many,” Wanosik says. “It’s not as easy as shoving a bottle in their mouth. If they wont take their food, you have to find another way to feed them.”
But three days after posting the photo on Facebook, she tried to log into her account, only to find that it had been disabled.
“I had to send them [copies of] my cosmetology license, my marriage license, my Sam’s Club card, my military I.D. — I could open a bank account with less,” Wanosik says. “It’s very disconcerting to know that you can’t post something that someone’s going to disagree with without them trying to say that there’s something wrong with it.”
“I agree that everyone’s entitled to an opinion, but saying nasty things isn’t going to spark change.”
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Wanosik is now back on Facebook, and now wants to use her platform to support the Normalize Breastfeeding movement.
“At first it wasn’t about making a statement, but after this outrage it’s clearly something that’s not normalized and we need to raise awareness,” she says. “Breastfeeding’s not easy for everyone. It’s not something that people can just start doing without support and help. Some people — yes. Others, no. and it’s so stigmatized.”
“I don’t want any person to feel like they have to stop breastfeeding because someone around them is uncomfortable with what they’re doing. For your body to do it, you need to feel comfortable.”