“What do you do when you have a close group of friends who all have little nurslings and it’s World Breastfeeding Week? You take empowering pictures to capture this beautiful time in our lives, of course! In sharing these photos, we hope to encourage, empower, and support other breastfeeding mamas, as well as eliminate the stigma around breastfeeding our children in public.
This idea came to me after seeing many photos and memes in support of World Breastfeeding Week on my Facebook feed. Immediately, I thought, ‘Hey, I have a close group of friends who are all currently nursing their babies. We have to get a picture of all of us in celebration of this week.’ Everyone was thrilled and said YES! We got in touch with two amazing photographers, Samantha Snipes and Leandra Perez, who were both completely on board with the idea, and two days later we were in the river with our children, having the best time together.
My breastfeeding journey started six years ago when I was pregnant with my first child. After doing an immense amount of research on the best nutrition for babies, I knew breastfeeding was right for myself and my future children. While pregnant, my husband and I took one breastfeeding class. I felt prepared and excited to start this new chapter of my life but also a bit nervous. My daughter took to my breast beautifully right after being born and we had a wonderful nursing relationship. Shortly after she was born, I began to notice the stigma that surrounded breastfeeding, especially when it came down to breastfeeding in public. From then on, I knew I had to be more outspoken about normalizing breastfeeding. No woman should ever feel ashamed or judged for choosing to feed her child from her breast.
When my first daughter was 16 months old, I became pregnant with my second daughter. My first was still nursing and I had no plans to stop just because I was pregnant. My plan was to nurse my children full term until they chose to wean on their own. I ended up tandem nursing for two and a half years until my oldest was 4 and a half and she weaned. My youngest is 3 and a half and is still happily nursing a couple of times a day. She will wean when she is good and ready.
Sometimes when people hear that my children nurse for much longer than what is seen as normal, they get weird and disgusted. This is exactly why my friends and myself are so passionate about these photos and normalizing breastfeeding. From a newborn to a big kid, every mother and child duo should feel love and support for choosing this way of nurturement. One of the special things about breastfeeding is that everyone’s experience is unique. We all start out and end up a little bit differently from each other, but we all do it out of the love we have for our children.”
The other moms who participated in the empowering photo shoot told Love What Matters what compelled them to bare their breasts as well:
Jaleesa (@lifewithdoorsteps) – “My breastfeeding journey has been one of determination. When Tara stated that we should take a picture for World Breastfeeding week, I was all in. Just six years ago this wasn’t my reality when I had my first. Trying everything that was suggested I came to the realization my milk wasn’t coming in. We’re told as women that ALL women get milk and can breastfeed, this most certainly isn’t the case. I never gave up on hope that at least one of my children would be given this wonderful gift. With each child I tried and failed until I got to my fourth. Researching each time and trying new things, my determination grew stronger even if it meant I had to get over the taste of beer if that meant my milk would come. Here I am nursing my fifth, who happens to be my fourth boy but the first of my boys breastfeed. My best friend Emerald supported me in that, coming from her job of educating breastfeeding mothers all day she came straight to my hospital room to make sure my baby boy was latched in that first hour of life. Every day I hear comments such as, ‘You should cover in public’ or, ‘It’s time for him to drink whole milk.’ These pictures are more than just a moment captured in time for me. It’s friends united through breastfeeding but more importantly it’s my promise to our black women that I will take the backlash so that the ones to come after me don’t have to.”
Autumn (@earthmamaautumn) – “My breastfeeding journey started as a young mom and college student who had no idea what I was doing. I trusted my body and my instincts and breastfed my baby girl and continued until she was 3.5 years old through working, going to school, and a very busy schedule! I didn’t know any other moms who breastfed past 1, so I turned to research and found evidence-based recommendations from health organizations such as the WHO that recommended breastfeeding to a minimum of two years. My husband was my biggest support and he could tell that my daughter and I had such a wonderful bond and she was not only getting milk as a toddler, but comfort and love. I went on to breastfeed my next two children through pregnancy and now tandem nursing them both! I couldn’t have continued through the obstacles without my husband by my side supporting me in any way he could.
I was so excited to get together with some of my closest friends to capture breastfeeding in a beautiful photo shoot. I hope they inspire others and normalize breastfeeding for mothers in every walk of life. If you set your mind to it, you can do it!”
Emerald (@emmyrice) – “I exclusively pumped for my first child for one year after receiving no help post-delivery. I soon realized that breastfeeding support in the African American community was scarce and I made it my mission to assist mothers like me. My thesis highlighted breastfeeding disparities in the African American community and I began initiatives to increase the success rates for Black moms. I went on to exclusively nurse my children for 3 years each and am currently nursing my 4th child. As a lactation consultant, I feel that pictures like this are needed because not only do Black women breastfeed, but they also become lactation consultants. Diversity is important and these pictures depict women with varying backgrounds, but common goals.”
Angela (@wahlangela) – “When Tara asked me if I wanted to take breastfeeding photos, I was instantly thrilled about the idea. I love how these photos capture the love we as mothers have for our children, as well as the support we have for one another. Support from my family and friends has been a significant factor in my breastfeeding success with my four daughters. My husband has been there from the beginning, loving and understanding my desire to be successful with breastfeeding. I also have a group of amazing friends who have nursed my baby when I was away and she wouldn’t take a bottle. My first daughter had a difficult time latching properly and I was told I would need to supplement with formula. I was determined to give her my milk exclusively, so I ended up pumping for her for a year. My next three daughters took to my breast right away and I nursed each of them for over a year. Being a busy homeschooling mama, I know the struggle of ‘keeping up with everything.’ I love that I c
an feed, comfort, and connect with my baby through nursing while tending to my other children. Breastfeeding can definitely have its challenges, but with the love and support from family and friends, it can end up being a beautiful gift.”
Tara – “We all come from different backgrounds and have so many different views on life, but we all share a passion for normalizing breastfeeding. The bond and support we have for each other makes our journey through motherhood all the more special.”