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Would you feel better about breastfeeding in public, knowing that Beyoncé does it too?

Breastfeeding advocates hope so. They're calling the pop star a role model for other mothers after she was recently seen breastfeeding her two-month-old daughter Blue Ivy Carter while dining at a New York restaurant with partner Jay-Z.

The small act of breastfeeding her child at the table is being regarded as a big step in the crusade to remove the stigma of breastfeeding in public.

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"I think Beyoncé has a huge impact on being able to renormalize breastfeeding and give women confidence to do the same," childbirth and breastfeeding educator Emma Kwasnica told ABC News. "Images of pop stars and celebrities giving their babies nourishment will never harm our cause."

Added Alison Stuebe, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina Health Care System: "By bringing breastfeeding into the mainstream, Beyoncé can help break down barriers so that mothers and babies can breastfeed in peace."

As Time magazine's Healthland blog points out, Beyoncé has given a big boost for the cause, especially for black women, whose breastfeeding rates are much lower than those of white mothers.

There's no doubt about the health benefits of breastfeeding, and mothers undeniably still have a long way to go to fight taboos about nursing in public.

Paradoxically, there are strong taboos against bottle-feeding too. Last month, a government anti-smoking ad showing New Zealand All Blacks rugby star Piri Weepu bottle-feeding his baby daughter caused such a stir among breastfeeding advocates, the images were pulled.

In a press release, the pro-breastfeeding group La Leche League said the images "would have given mixed messages to the public." Images of bottle-feeding "undermine messages promoting breastfeeding, and one of the proposed images in this ad could inadvertently counter the messages of the government's breastfeeding education campaign," the group added.

Quite likely, Mr. Weepu hadn't intentionally meant to take an anti-breastfeeding stance when feeding his daughter, just as Beyoncé probably didn't mean to become a breastfeeding champion.

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How much do celebrities influence public opinion when it comes to parenting?

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