A mother sparked online debate after she was photographed breastfeeding her child during a ride at Disney World’s EPCOT.
Meredith Barnyak and her husband Jeremy had travelled to Florida along with her mother and stepfather to introduce their children Graham, 3, and Poppy, 1, to the most magical place on earth, Walt Disney World. The family had been on a ride, with Ms Barnyak holding Poppy in her arms when the one-year-old began to squirm.
“She would just pull on my shirt and I thought, ‘OK, it’s dark out. We’re all humans. We’re all honestly going to enjoy the ride a lot better and you’ll be happier being fed,’” Ms Barnyak told Today. She added that it was normal for her to breastfeed her daughter whenever she needed it, which so happened to be the Frozen Ever After ride. “I am a pretty big proponent of any way you can feed your baby you should be able to do it — in any place.”
On a lot of Disney rides, there’s a camera that usually snaps photos of the riders, and when the camera went off on the Frozen Ever After ride, Ms Barnyak said she felt mortified. She laughed to the outlet, “As soon as I saw the flash, I was like, ‘Oh no, I think all these people have a picture of [me] breastfeeding my baby on this ride.’”
Her cousin Jo Goddard - who runs the women’s lifestyle website, Cup of Jo - asked Ms Barnyak if she could post the photo from the ride to her Instagram page. Ms Goddard posted the photo with the caption, “My cousin @meredithbarnyak being an absolute MOM on this Disney ride.”
Ms Barnyak thought the photo was funny and didn’t care that it was going on social media. “I thought it was a great picture and our family was laughing about it. And so I was more than happy for Joanna to post it.”
But among comments with messages of support, were comments expressing concern that bordered on mom-shaming.
“Not to be a stick in the mud but this seems…kinda dangerous??” one commenter wrote. “Am I overestimating the thrill level on this ride? The rest of the adults seem to be clinging on pretty tight!”
Another added that Ms Barnyak breastfeeding her daughter on the ride was “stupid, dangerous, and irresponsible,” while another commented that the mother had “ruined the photo” for other ridegoers with her breastfeeding.
Others defended Ms Barnyak, pointing out the double standard mothers face.
“If this happened to be a father holding a child in this exact photo, I can’t help but wonder if the responses would sound something like, ‘What a fun dad!’” someone wrote. “But, when we see a mother doing as she knows best, we are so prone to be more critical.”
The mother found herself surprised by the negativity, pointing out that her entire was strapped in safely with seatbelts, and her husband could be seen holding their three-year-old son Graham tightly in his arms. Both of them had been holding their children securely.
“I guess if you look at this picture, it might look like it’s an intense ride. But it’s a boat ride,” she explained to the outlet. “There’s no seatbelts. It’s a very nice relaxing ride except that there is a drop that you don’t see coming because it’s dark. And that’s what that photo was taken.”
Ms Barnyak added that she wouldn’t have breastfed her daughter if the ride was anything but safe. “If anything, I felt like it was actually more secure because she was in one place versus me having to juggle her moving around. I wouldn’t have breastfed my child if it was a roller coaster,” she said.
According to the Disney Parks website, the Frozen Ever After ride is family-friendly, safe, and appropriate for people of “all ages” and “any height.” The ride is reportedly slow with little to no drops.