Swimsuit model breastfeeds daughter on the runway, cheered on by crowd

A model who walked the runway in a Sports Illustrated swimsuit show is making huge waves for the way she owned the catwalk: She worked the runway while breastfeeding her baby daughter.

Mara Martin strut down the runway Sunday night in a metallic gold one-shoulder bikini while nursing her 5-month old daughter, Aria. The baby wore noise-cancelling headphones and a diaper inside her own bikini bottom.

"She was a little hungry. It was her dinner time and the show kept getting pushed back," Martin, 30, told TODAY in an exclusive interview. "Honestly, I didn't even think twice about it because I do it every single day."

MJ Day, editor of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue, said the scenario came together naturally.

"Mara was holding her baby and was nursing her. I was like, 'Do you want to just nurse when you walk down the runway?'" Day said. "She was like, 'I would love to do it that.'"

Photo: Getty

Martin was among the 16 finalists chosen by the magazine in an open casting call for Miami Swim Week. Before the show, she uploaded an Instagram photo of herself with her happy baby and expressed gratitude for the opportunity.

"I'm so so so thankful for the entire team at Sports Illustrated for picking me," she wrote.

As mother and daughter later walked the runway, the audience cheered the duo on. The pair also received broad support on social media. Television producer Shonda Rhimes was among the fans, tweeting, "Love this."

It's not the first time the fashion world has celebrated motherhood. Dolce & Gabana dedicated one of its ready-to-wear collections to moms three years ago.

For her part, Martin is surprised that doing something as natural as feeding her child has raised such media attention. The day after the show, she posted a note on Instagram describing the experience as humbling and unreal.

"I'm so grateful to be able to share this message and hopefully normalize breastfeeding and also show others that women CAN DO IT ALL!" she wrote. "But to be honest, the real reason I can't believe it is a headline is because it shouldn't be a headline!!! My story of being a mother and feeding her while walking is just that."

She told TODAY that she would love to see the day when nursing a child doesn't become a news story.

"I think a woman should be able to feed their baby when, where, how they want to feed them and shouldn't be a topic of discussion," she said.

"I'm just grateful to be a part of it and that they chose me to represent a mom, which is exactly who I am."

RELATED: Celebrities open up about breastfeeding: 

Celebrities who have spoken out about breastfeeding
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Celebrities who have spoken out about breastfeeding
And now this #pumpupthejams #mombreak

“Everyone’s fine with [Miley Cyrus’] nipples being out, but if I post a picture of me breastfeeding it’s like, you know, craziness," she once said, according to The Huffington Post

"You know, I think people are more comfortable sexualizing breasts than relating them to what they were made for, which is feeding another human. It’s crazy.” 

#JamesKnight is now 8 months old! These are the moments a mother lives for. Breastfeeding should not be taboo- and bottle feeding should not be judged- it's ALL fun for the whole family:)
"What would I do without this beauty squad after the 15 hours flying and only 3 hours of sleep..." she captioned her photo. In 2010, the model was slammed for her comments on breastfeeding and mothers.  
According to Today, Pink almost got into a fight over the remark someone made about her nursing. “I think breast-feeding is healthy and natural and it’s a comfort to my baby,” she explained. 

“It should be a choice for everyone. I don’t like the idea of breastfeeding being forced on anyone or anyone feeling guilty,” Olivia Wilde, mom to Otis and Daisy, explained to People.

 “[Breastfeeding] is not easy — it’s messy. Like 90 percent of the time you are soaked in milk. It is a difficult thing. But it is, personally for me, a great experience.”

Victoria's Secret Candice Swanepoel posted in 2016: Many women today are shamed for breastfeeding in public, or even kicked out of public places for feeding their children. I have been made to feel the need to cover up and somewhat shy to feed my baby in public places but strangely feel nothing for the topless editorials I've done in the name of art..? The world has been desensitized to the sexualization of the breast and to violence on tv...why should it be different when it comes to breastfeeding? -Breastfeeding is not sexual it's natural- Those who feel it is wrong to feed your child in public need to get educated on the benefits breastfeeding has on mother and child and intern on society as a whole. 💪🏼💙 👫👭 #mothernature
To People, Alanis Morissette said: “We live in a very funny society, a society that on one hand says that we’re just a sexual object … and then when this other sort of otherworldly, biological wind-in-the-hair goddess power comes out in the form of feeding our children in a very beautiful, animal way, that can actually be more intimidating.” 
"Breastfeeding is just obviously really convenient with my lifestyle. I don’t know when I’m going to stop [nursing]. I’ll just keep going while I can — he’s getting his teeth so it is a little bit scary. He’s bitten me a few times!Gwen Stefani said in 2007 when nursing Kingston, according to People
"Honestly, I took that picture for David because we were in bed snuggling and he was at work … There should be no stigma — it’s a very beautiful and natural thing," Liv Tyler said, according to People, in 2016.
Molly Sims captioned a photo of her breastfeeding her third child, Grey: "BREASTFEEDING=JUDGEMENT FREE ZONE! 💙 " 

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