Back in May 2016, I entered a competition to become a photographer for the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project. This is a project that I have loved and followed over the last couple of years. A collection of amazing photographers from around the world, taking photos of mothers breastfeeding their babies in public places. The project highlights the stories of different women, and shows the differences between cultures, and the differences from one mother to another. It promotes the beauty of breastfeeding by showing it as it really is - a connection between mother and baby. No fancy frills, no dancing naked in the moonlight, no sexualizing of breasts. Just mother and baby. A relationship that is so fleeting but so powerful. You can read more about the project on the website here: www.publicbreastfeedingawarenessproject.com.
Anyway, I GOT IN! Amazing! What a happy day when I realized that my image was selected as one of the winners of the competition and now I am also a member of the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project!
To celebrate, in the run up to World Breastfeeding Week, I took photos of some local mamas at various places around Frederick MD. This blog should represent the 'summer' portion of my project, because I plan on continuing from now, into the Fall and winter, and on to the Spring, and on as long as they will have me!
Here are some of my favorite images, and the stories of each of the mothers I photographed. Many thanks to all of you for taking part!
And please, go and leave some love for some of the other awesome photographers taking part in this project. Changing minds, changing attitudes and celebrating motherhood, all through the power of digital imagery.
**This post is part of a blog circle! Use this LINK for the next photographer, who links to the next photographer, and you'll find yourself in a maze of beautiful breastfeeding images! Next up: Megan Soto Photography, Florida!**
Margaret & Lathan, 1
"Just minutes old, my baby girl latched on and began to nurse. I was overcome with the surreal experience of holding her, of feeling her tiny body in my arms. And then I was overcome with the sheer pain of the experience. I was sure it would go away and fade into bliss. But after a few days it didn't go away and actually intensified as the sensitive skin of my nipples was subjected to hours upon hours of nursing. My milk hadn't come in yet, and it was stressful and painful. I was in love with my baby, and also in all kinds of pain recovering from an incredibly intense labor and now the agonizing irritation of breastfeeding. I was discouraged that breastfeeding was triggering traumatic memories. Somewhere between day 1 and day 5, I found my feet and got grounded. I held her to my breast and I asked her to help me. And she heard me. I put all my energy into communicating to my baby that I needed us to work together. With my heart open and my body getting grounded, my milk came in! And so began our breastfeeding relationship. Those early days were hard and raw, but soon we blossomed together into a really special space. Breastfeeding for us is communication. It's nature and it's love. She tells me what she needs, and my body replies. I can feed her and also connect with her. It's a language of two bodies - bonded beyond words."
April, Clark and Wayne, 14 months
"After breastfeeding my older two boys for two years, it was important that I offer my twins the same. It's been very hard at times but we are fortunate in our journey. It has never occurred to me to not nurse any of my babies in public. It's one of the most beautiful things in the world.
Seeing other women nursing in public always warms my heart and reminds me of these tender, fleeting moments."
Lindsay & Audrey, 2
"I had my first baby at 20 and we nursed for about 12 weeks and struggled every bit of the way. I felt like i had failed, due to my own personal goals. When i got pregnant with my son 3 years later i prayed so hard to have a better time nursing. Now i have been nursing for a little over 4 years. I nursed my son for 3 years and his sister is now 2. We've nursed through relocating, a full term pregnancy, a miscarriage, and tandem nursed for about 14 months. Nursing is such an important part of my connection with my babies, and of course we nurse in public, without hesitation. It's second nature! I can't imagine refusing them comfort and reassurance because of where we may happen to be. I haven't had any negative experiences while out, and I'm thankful for that. Nursing is a natural, wonderful thing!"
Kris & Johnny, 4 months
"I worked really hard at establishing and maintaining the breastfeeding relationship with my babies. I will not run and hide or be made to feel ashamed when I need to nurse while I am participating in life. My body was designed for a beautiful purpose and I will use it accordingly."
Hannah & Oaklie, 7 months
"Breastfeeding was so important for me to accomplish and stick to for as long as my baby girl needed. I didn't accomplish the birth that my heart desired so I felt like breastfeeding was one of the last things I could hold onto and be in control of. We definitely struggled in the beginning with breastfeeding, but even when someone at this hospital told me that I may need to supplement, or others telling me that I needed to get my baby used to a bottle or to not let her use me as a paci to fall asleep, we just did what felt right and what worked best for us. I am so thankful that I can proudly say we are exclusively breastfeeding 7mo PP! Boobs are a beautiful and NATURAL thing and I'm blessed to have them to feed my baby and future babies!"
Rhiannon & Westley, 4 months
"When I had my first I knew I would breastfeed. That's how babies are fed, I remember my mom nursing my brother. With my second, it has been important to me for the bonding quiet moments. As well as showing my daughter it's normal and natural"
Liesel & Zeke, 11 months
"I never thought I would like breastfeeding after those first rough weeks. Oh I wanted to like it, but it was so hard and painful. Then one day when Zeke was 4 months old it clicked. It was that point I started to enjoy feeding my son. Now, I love the time I get to spend with him while he nurses, even during the night feedings. It helps us reconnect when I get home from work. Recently, I realized that I always watch him while he eats. I want to stare at his little face forever. I know this is a short part of our lives and I have come to enjoy each feeding because I know it will be over too soon. But for now I’ll watch him and wait for his little eyes to meet mine and cherish his sweet nursing grin when they do."
Mary & Clara, 18 months
"I always thought nursing in public was weird, until I had a child who nursed. Thankfully, it came seamlessly to us. It's ironic how your thinking changes with new experiences... I wouldn't change it for the world."
Jule & Emma, 15 months
"I cherish so many little things about breastfeeding. I love the excitement in my daughter's eyes and the little joyful noises she makes right before she latches on. I love how nursing nourishes and comforts her. And most of all I love that it is our special time, just the 2 of us, even when there are lots of people around us."
Gemma & Vittorio, 14 months
"After a tough time at the start of my breastfeeding journey with my oldest son, and then having to wean him when I was pregnant due to having hyperemesis gravidarum, breastfeeding my youngest was extremely important to me. I'm a lactation counselor so I see breastfeeding moms all the time, I know all the benefits, but for me nothing compares to bonding with your child for those few moments every day. My son is now 14 months and I know it will be a sad day when he decides to wean."
Jessica & Cody, 15 months
"Pregnancy was extremely difficult for me, physically and emotionally. I struggled with hyperemesis gravidarum, intense and constant Braxton hicks starting at 20 weeks, then preeclampsia and induction at 37 weeks. Postpartum I was hit immediately after birth with Postpartum Anxiety. Breastfeeding, and connecting with other breastfeeding women, was my calm, my way to connect with and love my baby, and my way to find my own healing and strength as a mother. It has transformed how I see my body and it taught me how to be a mother and a woman. Breastfeeding in public was initially terrifying, but has become a way to empower myself through embracing my body and boldly choosing to love and provide for my child how I want to despite society's pressures. I lead a community support group for families now, and hope to share the strength I've found through community, education, and advocacy."
Lindsey Welch is a family photographer based in Frederick, Maryland. Her passion lies in the early family years, capturing images from pregnancy, through birth, breastfeeding and the newborn period. She loves to watch families as they grow, as the babies get older and as siblings get added to the family unit. So much happiness and love to be found all around! Contact her to book your session today!