I threw out a request on Facebook last week: needed, a mom who is currently breastfeeding to pose for photos for a national project to spread awareness.
I didn’t know what sort of response I’d find. Breastfeeding isn’t something we see much of in our rural area, at least not in public. New York is one of the 49 states in America that provide protections for women to nurse their babies outside the home, but it seems more common in cities, in places where women don’t feel the pressure of pleasing their neighbors.
I offered the shoot for free to sweeten the pot, but when offers came in – fast and furious – I knew it had to be more than the chance at something that didn’t cost them money that made women sign up.
If breastfeeding in public is hard, imagine doing it in front of a camera … and knowing that the photographer was going to share the photo on the Internet.
Still, the offers came. More than I could entertain before World Breastfeeding Week was over.
I was surprised. But encouraged.
From the moment a little pink plus appeared on a pregnancy test, I planned to breastfeed my child. But the desire wasn’t enough. The wanting wasn’t enough. The knowing that breastfeeding is good for your child wasn’t enough.
I struggled and struggled and then struggled some more before finally throwing in the towel. I fed my child formula because, it turned out, that was what I had to do to give my child a healthy mother. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it worked for my family. Still, nine years later, I nurse the pain of not having been able to do what I thought best for my child.
But where many formula feeding moms will square off against breastfeeding moms, I look at a nursing mother, and see the mom I wanted to be nine years ago. I want to help her because no one helped me.
But how to help? It’s not like I have much in the way of experience to pass along, one mother to another.
But when the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project, a photography campaign to normalize nursing in public created by Leilani Rogers, a photographer in Texas, showed up in my Facebook feed recently, I found a way.
Rogers’ idea was to take photos of mothers breastfeeding in public places, to both remind the world at large that just because a woman is feeding her child beyond the walls of her home does not mean that they are being obtrusive or inappropriate and to show moms that it’s OK to nurse in public, that they do not have to quarantine themselves in their houses simply because their kids are still breastfeeding.
I ended up working with two moms. As anything involving kids can, the first shoot ended in quasi-disaster when the little boy decided he didn’t want to cooperate. I appreciated the mom’s offer and her time, but the photo for the project wasn’t to be.
The second mom agreed to meet me in a Sullivan County park with her infant and two older children. She settled on a picnic bench and offered her daughter dinner.
Cars drove by. Her older kids played with my daughter.
The world did not explode. No one was harmed or horrified. In fact, things went rather well.
The photos – posted on the wall of my Facebook page for my blog – show a mother and her baby. There’s no exposed breast. No one flashing the camera, no one trying to shove anything in anyone’s face. There’s nothing “gross,” nothing disgusting.
There’s a mother staring lovingly at her baby who just so happens to be eating dinner.
And nothing could be more beautiful.
What’s your first thought when you see a mom nursing in public?
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