August is National Breastfeeding Month! To celebrate, and as a member of the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project, I gathered four mamas and photographed them feeding their babies at a Seattle-area farmer’s market. In my happy little progressive bubble of Seattle, I sometimes forget that women feeding their children in public is often frowned on. I see babies being fed all the time and it’s no big deal. Actually, I love it. But I was recently reminded by a scathing comment on my PBAP blog post from last year that there is still much work to be done to normalize feeding babies in public. I hope my children will grow up knowing that they can feed their babies any time and in any place and in any manner they choose. I hope they will see babies being fed EVERYWHERE, and that is why I’m part of this project. Women have felt like they needed to hide away while feeding their children for too long. No one should feel guilt or shame about feeding a child in any circumstance. Period. That’s my hope. Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed or SNS or formula feed or exclusively pump or supplement with goat milk or WHATEVER, we are all humans doing the best we can for our children.
These PBAP sessions bring me so much joy. Please look through these images and stories and enjoy the beauty of mothers and families doing what they do best: loving and caring for their children.
From Whitney, mother of Paisley, age 5 months:
“I’ve always wanted to nurse my baby and worried throughout my pregnancy that it would be difficult because of everything I read on the internet about how painful it was. I went to classes and prepared the best I could before Paisley came. When she did my midwife helped me for a few minutes with our first latch and sent us on our way. At first things seemed easy although I was super sore… A little tongue tie sent us to lactation consultants… Then I got severe nipple damage… Then Paisley developed a red mark on her tongue that sent us to Children’s hospital. It turned out to simply be a birth mark but the doctor there sent us to Robin Glass, a therapist who saved our breastfeeding relationship. She and other therapists and LCs were shocked I had nursed exclusively for seven weeks with severe nipple damage and deep radiating pain. I was so stubborn to not give up! After another six weeks of pumping, prescription medications, and mouth exercises, we are finally “back on the boob” exclusively. The experience was more challenging than my natural birth and it made me truly appreciate the natural gift of breastfeeding and just how hard it can be for some moms. I originally thought I’d use pretty covers but after all our challenges it seems like such a trivial thing to be concerned about. I’m able to feed my baby and I’m proud of it! I just want to celebrate this and be thankful to those who helped me.”
From Sam, mother of Huck, age 2.5 years:
“I think this session is particularly important to me because I never expected to be the mother who nursed her toddler, and I wasn’t sure I would even be able to breastfeed. My original goal was to nurse him for three months, then six months, then one year…and here we are and I don’t even know how. Because I have Multiple Sclerosis, I haven’t had a single doctor that has supported my decision to breastfeed longer than three months, so I am grateful for every day that I am able to provide for my son and sneak cuddles in, as we truly have no clue what tomorrow brings.”
From Autumn, mother of three (with one on the way!), with Riggins, age 9 months:
“Riggins was breastfed exclusively for six months when I found out I was pregnant again and my supply dropped dramatically. I worked with an amazing lactation consultant, but it became necessary for me to supplement with formula. After six weeks we were exclusively formula-feeding. I consider myself an active participant in normalizing breastfeeding and am so passionate about women feeding their babies that when I found myself in my current situation I was quickly humbled. I had never needed formula in the past and never for a minute thought I would need it for any of my children but found grace, forgiveness and understanding…for myself. Today I proudly feed my son, we are bonded and have a love for one another that is hard to put into words. I am proud of myself and him for doing what was needed to survive a very difficult time in our lives and know in my heart that we are doing the right thing. Again, not at all how I imagined it would go but nonetheless perfect and beautiful.”
From Kristen, mother of Ryleigh, age 7 months:
“‘Can I do this?’ Whether it’s pushing through that next contraction, soothing my teething babe or trying to make new mom friends, this anxious first-time mama is constantly asking herself this question. But when it comes to giving my daughter the nourishment she needs WHEN she needs it (no matter where we are), I should not have to ask, ‘Can I do this?’ Being a mom is hard enough without having to ask for society’s permission to do such an extraordinary, life-giving thing. I wanted to be a part of this project because I wholeheartedly support the movement to normalize public breastfeeding and want to tell ALL mamas out there, ‘Yes, we CAN do this!'”
And one shot of our whole group: mamas, daddies, and children.
For more gorgeous images that normalize feeding our children in public, please check out the talented Kristin Bell. Kristin Bell Photography strives to empower women through family, birth, breastfeeding, and boudoir photography.