Beautiful photos of women breastfeeding their babies have crept quietly into the spotlight over the last few years. From TIME to The Huffington Post, images of nursing mothers have been getting a lot of press, both positive and negative. Here are three reasons we love breastfeeding photography.
You can revisit those fleeting moments for a lifetime.
Babies don’t nurse forever. One day, the tiny, eight pound newborn you cradle so gently in your arms will be running off to school, going on dates, and building a life of their own. The breastfeeding relationship is so tender and unique, it evolves and changes over time, and then one day, it’s over entirely. It’s beautiful, difficult, frustrating, incomparable—so many things at once. Suddenly your nights pass uninterrupted, and though you may finally be less tired, let me tell you mamas, you will miss those moments so much. You’ll find yourself years from now yearning to feel the weight of a limp, milk-drunk nursling in your lap at 3 am. You’ll start to forget the rapid, open mouthed movements of rooting, and the sounds your baby makes when they hungrily drink from your breast. Document these things. Document them at every stage, professionally or otherwise. You will never regret having those photos to look back on long after your little one has outgrown their need for you as sustenance.
It creates community.
Here’s something a lot of people don’t tell you about breastfeeding: it is so hard. It can be riddled with obstacles, isolating, and sometimes even painful (yes, EVEN if you’re doing it right!). Mothers may struggle in a myriad of ways… improper latches, tongue or lip ties, thrush, tender, painful, cracked, or bleeding nipples, low milk supply, engorgement, mastitis, the list goes on! Mothers need support from other women who have been there, who can offer an empathetic ear and plenty of words of encouragement. By sharing breastfeeding images, it’s easy for like-minded mothers at all stages in their journey to make connections. Many of us lack female family members who have breastfed babies, and the community we build, either locally or online, is sometimes all we have to lean on in a society where even care providers are not as well equipped to support mothers as they should be.
It promotes awareness and acceptance of breastfeeding
Speaking of isolating, we’re mothering our babies in a culture where the vast majority of people believe that breasts are for men, and have a hard time acknowledging the multifunctional abilities of the female body. Campaigns to educate people about the plethora of benefits that breastfeeding provides both mother and baby are fairly new still, and while many of us have breastfed, tried to breastfeed, or know someone who has breastfed a child, there are still many, many people who do not have experience with this at all. It has been said that people fear that which they do not understand, so show them! Breastfeeding images aren’t about exhibitionism; they’re about celebrating your body, your baby, your motherhood. They’re about empowering other women. Share your photos, share your stories, the more people see, the more they hear—the more they understand. We’re working towards a world where breastfeeding is nothing more than commonplace, and every nursing mother can take part in facilitating that change.
How To Document Your Breastfeeding Journey
One of the best ways to document your journey beautifully, of course, is to hire a professional. There are many photographers that are now specializing in capturing the bond between mother and nursling, but you can even incorporate a few images into other sessions too. Fresh 48, newborn, & family sessions all present perfect opportunities to ask your photographer to get a few of these photos for you. Be sure to let them know both before and during your session that you want some of these moments captured, otherwise they may stop shooting during nursing breaks to respect your privacy.
Even if you do not hire a professional photographer, you can still chronicle your journey. Most smartphones are capable of taking pictures of amazing quality, and often have forward facing cameras that make this even easier. Try for at least one photo each month throughout your journey, if not more. The breastfeeding relationship can change in both frustrating and hilarious ways, so document it! You can also hand your phone or camera over to your spouse, a friend, or a family member occasionally. Have them capture the various places you feed your baby: Restaurants? Stores? Church? The airport? You may find that capturing the various places you stop to nurse helps to give you more confidence when it comes to feeding your baby in public places.
Tips for Building Your Community
Share your photos! You can share them anywhere, of course, but I particularly love Instagram for its ability to connect people through the use of hashtags. Here are some of the most popular ones:
#brelfie (that’s a breastfeeding selfie!)
I also love the all inclusive hashtag #fedisbest to connect all the mothers (and fathers!) who have mutual respect for one another’s choices in infant love, care and feeding. If you choose to share on Facebook, be aware of their policy regarding nursing photos. It is not uncommon to have breastfeeding images reported, but it is rare to have them removed. The official policy, found under the Facebook Community Standards states: “We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring.” If your photos don’t violate this policy, don’t let anybody bully you into believing what you share is inappropriate. It’s these very people that remind us how important it is to show the beauty and innocence of the nursing relationship! So the next time you’re cradling your newborn, infant, toddler or even preschooler at the breast, grab a picture, if for no one other than yourself. Ten years from now you’ll be thankful you froze these moments in time.
This post was written by Kayla Gonzales. Kayla is a birth photographer based in Austin, TX.