I know I’m making the understatement of the year when I say that there’s been a lot of difficult news lately. Which is maybe why this viral photo of on-duty police officer Celeste Ayala breastfeeding a starving child at a hospital had me weeping into the blue light of my laptop screen.

Top image: Marcos Heredia via Facebook 

Related: This pro-breastfeeding Gap ad has us cheering. And melting. 

Ayala was working at a hospital when she noticed a screaming baby, the youngest of six siblings who had been brought in due to complications of being separated from parents for unclear reasons. The incessant crying was proving too much for the already overwhelmed medical staff. So Officer Ayala, a mom herself, asked if she could snuggle and nurse the baby herself.

Witnesses say that the malnourished, distraught baby stopped crying immediately when Ayala started to nurse. And OMG are you crying now too?

We talk a lot about breastfeeding freely on this site, and overcoming the shame and stigma still associated with public nursing. So Ayala’s boldness — to breastfeed publicly, while on duty, without a cover — blew me away.

What a reminder that women’s ability to nourish and comfort through breastfeeding is an incredible power, and not something to be shamed or covered.

What’s more, in a world where family separation and child abuse have become depressingly regular themes in my newsfeed, this portrait of a woman caring for a stranger’s child gave me so much hope. She didn’t hesitate because the child wasn’t her own or because, as hospital staff warned her, he was “dirty.” (And I have some words for them.) She saw an urgent need, and took action without a second thought.

She even received a promotion for it this week. Which now makes her Sergeant Ayala.

What a perfect reminder that we all have the ability — and obligation — to look out for kids in need.

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