One Tree Photography » Seattle Maternity, Birth, Newborn, and Lifestyle Photography

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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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!'”

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And one shot of our whole group: mamas, daddies, and children.

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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.

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Motherhood in our culture is often a very lonely place. It’s a place that receives criticism from every direction: culture, religion, politics, friends and family. No matter what choices a mother makes, she faces people who will openly tell her that they disagree with her decision, or people who will give her sidelong glances and raised eyebrows. And sadly, much of the time, mothers are the ones doing this to other mothers. But here’s the truth: we are all doing the best job that we can. We’ve all got things that limit us, things we have to deal with and work around. But we all love our babies and want the best for them.

I’ve been a lurker in the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project for a couple of years now. My friend, Leilani Rogers, started this project in 2013 to help normalize breastfeeding in public. She wanted to show the world images of women feeding their babies in all the places babies need to be fed. I joined the project because I believe that women should feed their babies whenever, wherever, and however they choose, but it wasn’t until this year that I finally made the time to participate with photography. I decided to take a group of mamas and their little ones on a ferry ride. As a photographer, I knew that light on the ferry would be beautiful, and as a mama who nursed all three of her little ones on ferry rides, it felt like a very real life scenario. I opened up my model call to breastfeeding AND bottle-feeding mamas because I wanted to show that there are many “normal” ways to feed a child.

What I didn’t expect, though perhaps I should have, was how powerful this session would be. Nine mamas boarded the ferry (and several daddies) with their little ones ranging in age from seven weeks old to over two years old. They sat and chatted and fed their babies and shared their stories, and it was beautiful. We were all there for a common purpose, to normalize breastfeeding in public, but what hit me is how supportive everyone was of each other. We were all mamas, doing mama things, and there wasn’t an ounce of criticism to be found.

Below are some of the images we created, along with a little testimonial from each mama. These mama’s stories bring so much power to this project. I am honored to have met and photographed each of these amazing mamas. Mamas who are doing the very best job they can. Enjoy!

“I never thought I would be the woman to openly breastfeed without a cover, let alone the one to be doing so with a toddler. My original goal for breastfeeding was 3 months, but the by the time we made it to that milestone I felt as if our journey was just beginning. Looking back, I’m not sure how we’ve made it this far, but I also can’t imagine things being any different. Huck and I have always had a special bond since the moment he was born and climbed towards the breast. He’s my buddy and my best friend, and the fact that we have an excuse to sit down together and cuddle several times a day is magical. He is and will be our only child, and I just love that these moments allow me to embrace motherhood and soak up this beautiful and perfect little boy that I’m lucky enough to call mine. For every sideways glance or rare “you haven’t weaned him yet?” remark, I get ten times more high fives and fist bumps from other moms that are struggling. That’s why I wanted to do this project, to give every other mom out there a fist bump and let them know they’re not alone.” — Samantha with Huck
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“Growing up, I did not see many breastfeeding mothers in public and if I did they were always covered up. In fact, I remember thinking “weird, why are they doing that in public (even covered up)?” I remember watching so many formula commercials that had me thinking formula is the standard choice in nourishing babies. As I got older and learned more about the benefits of breastfeeding, I decided I would make the effort and nurse my own babies without any expectations. I have had a successful breastfeeding relationship with my daughter for over two years and would not be here without the support of many people. Having a supportive husband, healthcare professionals, veteran breastfeeding friends and fellow first time mothers of toddlers have been crucial for my success. There were food allergies and overproduction issues in the beginning which is always the hardest part of the breastfeeding journey. I breastfeed in public to show women who aren’t yet mothers or mothers who want to try with the next baby, that breastfeeding is so natural and a relationship like no other. Finding support can really make or break it for a new mom and I hope to help more mothers feel confident in meeting their child’s needs anywhere at anytime.” — Erin with Madeleine20150806_4742bwPINIMAGE20150806_4701bwPINIMAGE

“Wyatt was born thirteen weeks premature due to severe preeclampsia. I have been exclusively pumping for him,and now he will be one in September. After I donated my five thousand ounce stash, my supply started dropping. I’m only able to supply about five ounces a day and he drinks about thirty. We started using donor milk due to allergies, and he has been growing fast and healthy. You would never know he was a two pound three ounce 13.5 inch baby.” — Rachel with Wyatt20150806_4786PINIMAGE20150806_4668bwPINIMAGE

“I always wanted to breastfeed- I had great role models in my life, my mom had breastfed my sister and I and my sister was still breastfeeding her toddler while I was pregnant. I never understood why people kept going once their kid was older, or why they wouldn’t want to use a cover- that seemed so intimidating to me! But then my daughter arrived and while I felt prepared to breastfeed, it was far from easy for us. It took us a couple of weeks to figure out she had a tongue and lip tie and were able to have those corrected, but it took a lot longer for Sawyer to latch correctly. By that point we were using a nipple shield, SNS, and I was pumping around the clock to supplement her feedings. After she was born I so desperately wanted to be able to just nurse her- it was so much work and I was a very tired new mama. Using a cover was out of the question while trying to man the SNS and keep her in the right position so we ditched it and never looked back! I couldn’t have continued those first months without the help of my wonderful husband and my parents who visited often to help among many other friends and family who brought meals and held Sawyer while I pumped or slept. I was very lucky to have so much support and after 4 months, we finally weaned off the SNS and nipple shield and we’ve been going strong ever since! I’m so thankful I get to bond with her through nursing, to help calm her when the world is just too overwhelming or when she scrapes a knee and all the other little moments in between. I never knew something as simple as a mother feeding and comforting her child the best way she knows how could be so powerful!” — Moriah with Sawyer20150806_4803PINIMAGE20150806_4592bwPINIMAGE

“Carter and I knew almost instantly that breastfeeding just wasn’t going to be right for us. We gave it a try, but with his painful latch and my sudden complications from delivery, my husband had to take over with the formula. I did have guilt because I worried I wasn’t giving my baby what he needed. Now I look at my happy, healthy boy and am surrounded by mamas with their happy, healthy babies and I know that we’re all just being mamas giving our babes what they need. I would love to see the stigmas surrounding formula feeding and public breastfeeding to end, because feeding our children is natural no matter how it’s done. Support for women begins with us women and that’s why I am thrilled to take part in World Breastfeeding Week.” — Sara with Carter20150806_4637bwPINIMAGE20150806_4878bwPINIMAGE

“Before having my daughter, I never understood the bond and connection a mother has with their child through breastfeeding. It just seemed like a way to feed a baby. I never thought I would breastfeed to comfort my baby, let alone my toddler! It seemed lazy to me, if not strange and unusual. While I was pregnant, I knew that I would always use a cover and I would probably have my baby weaned at 12 months. Turns out It was so hot the July my little girl was born, and the cover was just so uncomfortable. I also just wanted to see her sweet face. It made me uncomfortable at first, but I tried to ignore everyone else, and focus on what was important: my child’s well being. Deciding to nurse my toddler until she self weans was an easier decision: I couldn’t imagine it any other way. It brings so much closeness to our relationship and solves so many issues such as illness, injuries, sleeplessness, and tantrums, as well as gives her vital nutrients and calories when I can’t get her to eat her veggies! As my breastfeeding community got bigger, I felt braver and more firm in my convictions. I now breastfeed my now two year old proudly, in solidarity for anyone who feels or has ever felt uncomfortable. It only seemed strange to me before because I wasn’t used to seeing it. Public breastfeeding is an important component to ensuring the success of all mothers, including the future mothers we are currently rearing.” — Jenna with Aria20150806_4825bwPINIMAGE

“Breastfeeding for me is about nourishment, connection and really being present in the moment with my baby. Early on when I first became a breastfeeding mama with my older son, I decided to let go of worrying about what other people thought when I nursed in public (which was not immediately easy, but ultimately so worth it). By feeding my baby when and how he needs, I’m able to model for my three sons that nurturing them doesn’t stop at our front door. Being authentic in my own mothering experience, allows me to live my family life to the fullest.” — Jamie with Ewan20150806_4605bwPINIMAGE20150806_4848bwPINIMAGE

“When I was pregnant with my first baby I had a friend who taught me about the importance of nursing your baby. She was an amazing for model for listening to your babies cues, nursing in public, caring for the little being that I had just given life to, AND not worrying about what others thought about our decisions. Now I am here nursing my 3rd and 4th babies out loud and proud. I want people to know this is normal and with twins clearly not something done discreetly! I think that that is one of my favorite things about it, because people seeing more of this will help make it more normal.” — Shannon with Caeris and Burke20150806_4590PINIMAGE20150806_4583bwPINIMAGE20150806_4772bwPINIMAGE

“Maeve was born petite and her weight gain was slow. So the first few weeks of our breastfeeding relationship were overshadowed by what I now understand is a not uncommon obsession with weight gain, fueled by her pediatrician’s concerns. Of course I wanted her to gain weight, and all of the pumping and supplementing probably did help get my milk supply up faster. But now, at 4+ months, things are so good that I wonder if Maeve and I could’ve figured it all out on our own. And yet I am very grateful and not taking this for granted – I had always wanted to breastfeed and I know it doesn’t work out for many moms and babies. I plan to breastfeed her on demand, wherever we are, for as long as I am able. I feel supported and empowered by reading the stories of, seeing photos of, and being around moms who will do whatever it takes to nourish their children – whether it means public breast- or bottle-feeding, public pumping, with our milk, donor milk, or formula. We fight for our babies and they fight with us. I’m proud of Maeve and I’m proud to be one of these tenacious mamas. And oh yeah, I wouldn’t want to eat with a towel over my head and I don’t think Maeve does either.” — Mel with Maeve
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And one last shot of our beautiful, supportive, inspiring group…
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For more beautiful Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project photos, visit Paige Wilks of Austin, TX.

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  • Leanda - Absolutely stunning images xoxo

  • Jamie Elzea - Jessica, I just wanted to express my gratitude for letting me be a part of your public baby feeding project. It was so lovely to be on that ferry and get to talk to all those mamas nurturing in their own unique ways. It was amazing for me how much the power of that experience continued to amplify with each beautifully photographed moment of feeding you shared online.
    When I saw the full collection on your website today, I was so moved. The image of Ewan looking up at me while nursing completely melted my heart–I’m blown away at how perfectly it captures his beautiful blue eyed gaze that I am lucky enough to see at each snuggly feeding. What a wonderful opportunity to reflect on such a quiet, but huge part of of my mothering experience. Thank you! -Jamie

  • Megan Soto - LOOOVE the black and white!

  • Lily - These are wonderful <3

  • Kelly M - What a fun location, which resulted in a beautiful set.

  • Blaire - That pumping mama – love her story! I had pre-e with my first too.

  • paige wilks - Wow, the light in your images is stunning. #3 is my fave 🙂

  • Sophia Costa - I absolutely love your BW processing! This is such a creative public location and you really got some gorgeous shots.

  • Paul - Amazing!! Absolutely love the images:-)

Happy World Doula Week! I could not let this week pass without honoring a profession I esteem so highly. Doulas are wonderful. Amazing. Necessary. And I think that there should be a doula at EVERY birth, but most especially at every FIRST birth. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Who needs a doula?

If you are planning a home birth, hire a doula.

Medicated hospital birth? Get a doula.

Birth center birth? You want a doula.

Planned Cesarean section? Doula!

Unmedicated hospital birth? Oh yes, doula.

Notice a trend here? “But Jessica, we’ve had babies before. We know what we are doing. We don’t need a doula.” To that I say, really? You know exactly how this birth is going to play out? That’s pretty cool how you can see the future and all. Can you teach me? (I’m sensing a bit of snark has slipped in, probably due to lack of sleep last night. Let me try and reign that in. A bit.)

What do doulas do that is so valuable? Oh, so many things! I’ll bet after I make this big long list you all will still know lots more things that doulas do, too. But here’s a start in no particular order:

They KNOW stuff. They know lots of ways to relieve pain and help optimally position baby and get labor going and help you cope. They know BIRTH and what is normal and what comes next and what to say to make you believe in yourself. They know birth PEOPLE and how to help you ask questions and advocate for yourself. They know birth PLACES and can run and get ice from the nourishment room in the hospital or where to park your car or find extra blankets or those throw-up bag thingies.

They DO stuff. Hello, hip compression! (Lots of mamas find this very helpful in labor.) Cold wash cloth? On it. Dad-to-be needs a snack so he doesn’t keel over? Your doula can find or make him one and take over his labor duties while he eats or takes a shower so you aren’t smelling two-day-old hubby during transition. Many doulas can help you establish breastfeeding and help you avoid bad latches and battered nipples. Doulas can hold a leg while you push (especially helpful for dads who want to stay by mama’s head), hold you up while you sink into a contraction, hold your toddler so she can see baby, hold your water bottle so you can get a sip as soon as the contraction is over, hold your birth space sacred so it is just the way you want it to be. Doulas are STRONG.

They help you prepare and debrief. Most doulas will meet with you prenatally at least once to get to know you and your birth plan and help get your mind into the place it needs to be to give birth. They will talk with you about previous birth experiences and hopes and worries and be a resource for you to ask “is this normal” or “who do you know who…” kinds of questions. And after your birth, they will come back and listen to you as you process your birth, and maybe fill in some details that you may have missed about the experience, or answer baby-feeding questions, or even throw a load of laundry in for you.

What DON’T doulas do? They don’t take the place of dad. In fact, they allow dad to really fully enter into the experience and support you and enjoy the birth of his child. We didn’t hire a doula with my first baby (BIG regret) because my husband and I wanted it to be a special experience that just the two of us shared. You know what happened? He didn’t eat or drink or even use the bathroom (that I can remember) and shortly after baby came he got a migraine and went to sleep. If we had had a doula, she would have made sure he was taking care of himself so he could be really present in those hours after his daughter was born. We did have a doula with our second baby, and even though it was a super quick birth, my husband came away saying it was the best decision EVER to have her there. He enjoyed that birth so much more because our doula took care of all the things he would have been thinking about if she hadn’t been there.

Doulas also DON’T have their own objective for birth. Their main goal is for you to have the birth YOU want and to support your vision/hopes for this birth. Doulas are there to support you and your choices so that you feel satisfied with your birth experience.

There is a doula for every birthing person out there. Maybe you want a motherly, nurturing doula, or a hard-core suck-it-up-buttercup doula, or someone in between. The perfect doula for you is out there. And there is a doula for every budget out there. That is an important point. Don’t let money stop you from the immense benefits of having a doula at your birth.

I haven’t even talked about how valuable doulas are when things don’t go as planned! But that is huge! There is not a lot we can really control about birth. Things happen, plans get set aside, medications don’t always work, there are so many things you just can’t plan for. We all know how unpredictable birth can be (though we never think it can happen to US). But an experienced doula can help you navigate the new course your birth takes and make it as positive as possible.

I am not a doula, and though I have been to quite a few births and picked up a lot of knowledge along the way, I still have so much respect for what they bring to each birth they attend. When you are having your first baby and this whole world of pregnancy and birth and newborn is so NEW to you, it is amazing to have someone there who is specifically trained to support you through the transition to parenthood. And it makes me sad when I see soon-to-be parents alone (with their birth photographer) in a birthing place and feeling lost or overwhelmed or scared. I know there are statistics out there that quantify how much a doula improves birth outcomes and birth satisfaction. (I’m just too tired to google them right now.) It’s true. And your birth experience matters. Your feelings about your birth experience matter. Women who have negative feelings about their birth experience are more likely to have postpartum depression. That is a hard, hard way to begin parenthood. So why not set yourself up for the best experience possible, no matter how you choose to give birth or how your birth unfolds?

Here are some of the beautiful doulas I’ve had the honor of working with. See all that support? It’s a beautiful thing.

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