"There's a huge schism out there; women feel judged because of how they choose to feed their child," the Hart of Dixie star tells PEOPLE
Jaime King Omega Dark Side of the Moon

Laura Cavanaugh/FilmMagic

A picture is worth a thousand words — or more than 19,000 likes.

Jaime King is in awe of the “most beautiful responses” she has received after posting an Instagram photo of her son James Knight nursing, she told PEOPLE Wednesday at the launch of OMEGA Dark Side of the Moon in New York City.

The Hart of Dixie actress says the sweet moment between her and her now 8-month-old baby boy — captured by King’s doula — was a very intimate moment in her life.

“I feel like now that I’m a mother, I realize that there’s a huge schism out there; that women feel judged because of what they choose to do and how they choose to feed their child. Why should we hide it?” King, 35, asks.

But the first-time mom, who exclusively breastfed her son “for a long time,” says the photo was meant to encourage all mothers — whether they nurse or bottle feed — and celebrate their choices without judgement.

“I also wanted to share the idea that it doesn’t matter whether you breastfeed or formula feed –as long as you are loving and caring for your child, that’s all that matters,” she explains.

According to King, her decision to bring attention to a woman’s right to choose breast or bottle is a response to celebrities pushing their views on the public, she says. It wasn’t long after she posted her photo that support from mothers all over the globe started pouring in.

“The responses from mothers were so grateful because there have been people out in the media being very judgmental, saying women have to breastfeed, or have to do this or have to do that,” she says. “I think that it’s really unfair for anybody in the spotlight — any sort of celebrity who has a very privileged life — to go out there and tell mothers what to do when they don’t understand their socioeconomic circumstances, when they don’t understand their health circumstances, when they don’t understand what their life is about.”

She continues, “I feel a responsibility as somebody who’s in the spotlight and as a public figure to let these women know they are not alone. I grew up in Omaha, my mother did both, and I am perfectly healthy and happy and fine.”

In the now famous photo of King nursing her baby, the two are cuddled up on a bed, but the actress insists breastfeeding is not just for behind closed doors.

“I think that it’s ridiculous that it’s okay to walk around with pasties or no clothes on, and that’s fashionable and cool, but it’s not okay to feed your child?” she muses. “Rihanna looked so epically stunning at the CFDA’s the other night when I was there, and she was completely nude. And she looked beautiful. So why is there a problem for a woman to be nude nourishing her child?”

She adds, “We all eat in public. I don’t see why it should be frowned upon. Nothing about the way a mother feeds her baby should be frowned upon.”

— Jessica Fecteau with reporting by Maggie Parker