I've been involved in the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project since its inception in 2013. I've photographed amazing, brave, beautiful mamas in Arizona, Oregon and now Columbia, Missouri! I was so pleased by the number of mamas who volunteered for the project even though I'm rather new to the area and had to schedule sessions a bit last minute.
Here are the beautiful mamas, their babies and their stories!
"When I had my first daughter three years ago, I had every intention of breastfeeding her. Not knowing what it was going to be like, I got very overwhelmed at the beginning and found myself literally nursing for hours at a time. My little one wasn't gaining her birth weight back and I couldn't understand why since she was nursing all the time. I felt disappointed and sad and really didn't want to do formula, so I decided to pump exclusively. I knew when I had my second daughter 9 months ago, I was determined to make breastfeeding work. I was a much calmer person the second time around which also probably helped my new little one take to nursing like a champ. I knew that I had to get over the fear of feeling embarrassed to nurse her in public. Every opportunity I get, I nurse my baby. I have to admit, restaurants are still overwhelming, but I vowed to myself that this is normal. When people stare, I just smile at them."
"I was going to school and teaching at the University when I had my first baby. I had no idea how nursing was going to become such a big part of my life. Fortunately, my husband and I were able to work things out so that I wouldn't have to pump. This meant that I did a lot of nursing on campus. I worked in a lovely, family supportive, department but it was still difficult juggling classes, meetings, and being a professional with meeting the needs of my baby. Also, I had to become comfortable with nursing on a busy campus full of young adults who weren't used to seeing someone nursing every day. After nursing my son for 30 months, I gave birth to my second nursling. We can and do nurse anywhere!"
From Renee -
"When my first son was born, I was definitely nervous to breast feed in public. But I also knew that I didn't actually buy into the shame that those negative stories try to sell us. So I sat down in the food court at the mall and hoped nothing mean spirited would happen as I attempted to get that floppy newborn latched. Of course, we were approached right away by a young gentleman - who wanted to know if I could take a survey for him. He had no idea that we were "having lunch", apologized, and walked away. Clearly, I underestimated our covert nursing skills. Now with baby number two it's been a lot more enjoyable to just do the business of parenting and breastfeeding no matter where we are. Although I'm not personally ready to #freethenipple, I have found my favorite way to make sense of the crazy, mixed up messages mamas get about breastfeeding in public. While boobs and nipples can certainly be sexual in nature, our hands are often equally involved in sexual experiences. And I'll start worrying about feeding my baby in public when everyone starts wearing mittens any time they leave the house. Context matters! And the best cure for a little public feeding shyness is to have a laugh thinking about everyone wearing mittens everywhere they go ;)"
"When my daughter was born 6 and a half years ago I struggled with breastfeeding. My lack of education on the topic and poor support from healthcare professionals led me to supplement early on which in turn led to early weaning at 6 months. The disappointment I felt in myself drove me to educate and prepare myself to make it work and reach my goals in nursing my son. Nursing in public has not been especially difficult for me this time around. I have nursed everywhere from the grocery store to a college football stadium and have yet to hear a negative comment. If I have received any strange looks, I have yet to notice because I have been too busy feeding my baby."
From Kayla -
"As a first time mom, I was a total newb when it came to breastfeeding. When my son was born I jumped into this new adventure with high hopes that breastfeeding would come to us naturally and everything would be smooth sailing from there on out. I quickly learned that it's not so easy, or at least not in my case. The first 3 months were rough to say the least. Now at 8 months we're going strong with no end in sight, and I am forever grateful for every second of it! I still had trouble with breastfeeding in public though. Until recently, I wouldn't do it unless I had a cover or a place to sneak away out of sight. It was mostly because I didn't want to offend anyone. Being a part of this project has helped me tremendously with the confidence I need to keep my son fed and happy, no matter where we are. I can no longer hide inside, avoiding public places like I did during the first 3 months. The way I look at it is that people in the grocery store, library or wherever I might be, would rather see me breastfeeding than listen to my hungry, screaming child :) "
Thank you so much to all the beautiful mamas who shared their time and their stories with us and thank you for nursing your babies! <3
And please don't miss the PBAP blog of Leilani Rogers, Austin, TX breastfeeding photographer and founder of the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project!!