HELLO friends, clients, potential clients, visitors, and fellow photographers!
Please allow me to borrow this space usually reserved for my blog of clients’ photo sessions and utilize it to participate in a project whose core message is in support of a cause I am very passionate about. Breastfeeding! And not just breastfeeding but breastfeeding in public. August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week. A week dedicated to the amazing and beautiful act of feeding our offspring with what nature gave us. I am participating in The Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project (PBAP) hosted by Leilani Rogers, Photographer. She has called upon any and all photographers wishing to help increase awareness of just how normal it is to breastfeed and to help nursing mothers and the rest of our communities become more comfortable with it taking place in public spaces. I, as well as many other professional photographers, have coordinated photo shoots of mothers breastfeeding in public and created a blog post with some favorite images. The goal is to flood Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter with buzz about breastfeeding in order to normalize it.
With a desire to let the photos do most of the talking and be the main focus of this project, I will spare the rants about why breastfeeding in public should be completely accepted and viewed as totally normal. It just is. It’s normal. It’s beautiful. It’s a part of life. It’s nothing to hide. It’s caring for your child. For anyone who still questions the need for mothers to breastfeed in public please refer to this amazing blog post from Motherhood and More as well as her follow up post. Click here for another great article to read if you feel like breastfeeding in public is something to complain about.
MY BRIEF HISTORY
I will say that my views of breastfeeding have changed some over the course of my breastfeeding era. When I breastfed my first child at the young age of 22, I was pretty nervous and hesitant to do so in public spaces, especially at first. I still used a blanket to cover (because that’s the polite thing to do and because other people’s comfort is important than my child’s or my own, right?) even though he was born in April and the months he nursed the most were the hot summer months and even though he was (and still is) a very curious child not wanting to be restricted from checking out everything around us. If at the mall, I would speed walk my stroller to the closest women’s lounge or designated family restroom to breastfeed, hungry baby screaming the whole way. I think I even pumped a couple times a brought a bottle to a restaurant just so I wouldn’t have to breastfeed there. Now, 10 years later and nursing my third child, the most important thing to me is that my child is happy and healthy and if that means they need/want to nurse at that moment then that’s what we do. Anytime, anywhere. My job is to be a good parent, not to make everyone around me as comfortable as possible. Maybe time and age have allowed me this perspective but I think it would have been really helpful to my 22 year old, new mother self if I had seen more moms breastfeeding in public and feeding their babies whenever and wherever they needed to be fed. I also used to think breastfeeding a full year was a little extreme. Two years… crazy people stuff. But here I am with a 24 month old and still breastfeeding. It’s another instance of seeing, knowing, learning, and doing. I’m now in those “crazy” shoes, and you know what? It’s not crazy at all. It’s makes all the sense in the world to me now. There are so many parts of motherhood that you can’t decide on or determine ahead of time. You just have to live and learn and do what’s best for you. And seeing others do the same is such a huge encouragement and reassurance that you’re doing things right.
THE REASON WHY
Because I know how much it would have helped me to see more moms in my community breastfeeding their children in public, I knew I had to participate in this project when I saw Leilani Rogers post it on Facebook a couple months ago. Breastfeeding is a subject I love to talk about, a subject near and dear to me, a subject that fascinates me, and a subject I’m quite passionate about. So, to be able to utilize my passion of photography to help make a positive difference in the future of breastfeeding in our society, I just couldn’t let the opportunity escape. I am so excited to be a part of a project like this!
A HUGE THANK YOU!
I am also so incredibly grateful to all of the moms who responded to the casting call for the PBAP. The number of mom’s interested just blew me away! And even with just a week’s notice we had a pretty great turn out for a variety of locations in the Cedar Rapids area. I got to meet and photograph several amazing breastfeeding moms and their children from the Cedar Rapids Leaky Mamas group on Facebook. We shot over the course of two days in public places including two coffee shops, a hair salon, a library, a city park, a restaurant, a bookstore, and a city market. I have to give a huge thank you to the businesses that all were so quick to jump aboard to support the project. Businesses are also named above the corresponding photos but they include The Early Bird, Warehouse Salon, Cedar Rapids Downtown Public Library, Bata’s Restaurant, Brewhemia, NewBo Books, and NewBo City Market. Special thanks for Brian Kipp owner/stylist at Warehouse Salon for jumping in during his busy day to stage doing the moms’ hair while they nursed their babies.
HELP SPREAD THE WORD!
Please pin, like, share, comment, tweet, and give the world of breastfeeding and these amazing moms some love! Please, no negative comments. Also, use any or all of these hash tags (for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) if you really want to help spread the message: #PBAP2014 #supportpublicbreastfeeding #thisisnormal #breastfeedinginreallife #normalizebreastfeeding #nursinginreallife #breastfeedingisbeautiful #nursinginpublic #nip
A GUEST POST FROM CHRISTINE MARCOTTE WITH FEEDBACK FROM A FEW OF THE MOMS
I (Christine Marcotte) never thought I would breast feed in public. In fact, I don’t recall ever seeing anyone breastfeeding in public (BFIP) prior to this project. When I first had my son, who is now seven months old, I thought, I would go home between errands or appointments to feed him. Oh how much work and unnecessary time and gas that was. For the first four months of my son’s life, he was not latching, so I had to pump and bottle feed. I hardly got to leave the house. When Noah saw another baby breastfeeding at a class I attended, he seemed to have a renewed interest. Once he got the hang of it, I wanted to be done with pumping and cleaning bottles just to leave the house, and Noah wanted to eat constantly—practically every hour. In fact, he stopped taking bottles from his dad when I was anywhere nearby. I tried a nursing cover and Noah hated it. I mean, who likes their head covered when they are eating? Then I went to the bathroom or dressing room option. After a restroom feeding session, Noah got sick. As adults, that’s why we don’t eat in the bathroom right?
Finally at just short of six months, when I went to dinner with a friend who I had not seen much since having my son, I fed him right before we went out and put him in a highchair with some solids at the restaurant. I thought it was a good plan until he started screaming and pulling at my shirt in the restaurant in the middle of a conversation I really wanted to hear. Even though I was pretty sure he wanted to nurse, I checked his diaper first and tried some more solids. He screamed louder. Again I tried the cover. His scream got even louder. So I finally did it. I bared some skin. Surprisingly, no one seemed to notice, though I’m pretty sure a couple tables were whispering about me. I have to admit, I was uncomfortable. But the world didn’t shatter, and Noah was happy and laughing by the time he was done nursing.
Even after BFIP several times since then, I was nervous about participating in this photo shoot and worried about how much to show would be too much and who all would see the photos. I even debated backing out in case a future employer would see the photos on my Facebook page. But then I showed up at the photo shoots and met the most amazing, brave women and have photos to show the bond I have with my baby. When Amanda asked me to sit by the window at Bata’s Restaurant, it felt kind of scandalous. But looking at the amazing photos, all I can see is a happy mother and baby. And talking with the women at Brewhemia was even more encouraging, as they helped me learn that people do breastfeed in public without shame even when some family members aren’t supportive. Common themes from the other ladies were the need for support from friends, as well as some frustration over family members requesting moms to cover up or use the restroom. Yet a determination to do what is best for baby rather than appease naysayers prevailed. A snapshot of some of the feedback from these amazing women follows.
Alyssa Vincent, who participated in the breastfeeding project at Newbo City Market, is a mother who has always breastfed her baby in public, the first time while walking through Target with a fussy newborn. Since then, she has ditched the nursing cover She says her struggle now is when people make comments that her little one is too old to breastfeed. However, she finds courage to overcome their comments by enjoying her time to snuggle and stare into her son’s big brown eyes. She urges other mothers to “not let a person make you feel like what you are doing is wrong. The only wrong thing would be to not feed your baby when he or she is hungry.”
Jes Swiser also participated in the PBAP at Newbo City Market and New Bo Books. She said that she frequently nurses in public “whether or not others are performing this act of awesomeness or not.” However, she too started out using a nursing cover until her oldest was four months old in her backyard. “We loved the experience. I felt like it helped us both get back to nature. He was able to nurse and take in all of the sights, smells, and sounds of our surroundings. He happily breastfed while the trees swayed overhead as the winds danced with them, we took in the clean smell of an incoming spring shower, and the sound of the passing cars competed with distant thunder. You miss out on so much when you are hid under a nursing cover or blanket every hour to three hours while you eat for twenty to forty minutes at a time.” Like many mothers, Jes finds breastfeeding on demand to be something that she can do to bond and “hardwires happiness” in her children, as well as providing nutrition that helps protect them from obesity and disease.
Jes has a very supportive family in the area of breastfeeding her children when they are hungry wherever they are. She said she participated in this project so that BFIP would become normalized. “Community support is also important. Women need to know that breastfeeding in public IS acceptable and welcomed. Businesses can help out by posting signs to inform breastfeeding mothers and other patrons that nursing in public is welcomed and supported at their venue.”
At Brewhemia, Susan Petersmith said she would be housebound if she did not BFIP. “My daughter is nine weeks and my first baby. She insists on nursing every place we go, and we are on the go a lot. We nurse in public at a about two different places every day.” For Ile Mae’s first four weeks of life, Susan pumped and bottle fed. She felt like pumping in public was even less accepted, but she encourages mom’s to “Find your comfort level and bring on the boobies.” Susan does say that she practices in her outfit in the morning to make sure it is conducive to BFIP and advises moms to practice with a supportive friend. Ultimately, she loves breastfeeding and states, “People would rather see you take care of your babe than listen to them scream because they are hungry.” She was pleased to participate in the photo shoot, which is evident by the joy on her face in the photos.
At Greene Square Park, Bethany Steichen felt comfortable BFIP after finding tremendous support from local Breastfeeding USA meetings and peers. She said the first time she nursed in public was at a “whip it out club dinner” where a group of nursing mom’s gathered to feel less self-conscious and to have conversations with to distract from nasty looks and comments. Luckily, she has had others stand up for her in those situations and to the topic of BFIP, she said, “If you feel comfortable I say go for it. Screw what everyone else thinks. You do it for your baby and for yourself. What everyone else thinks is invalid in this situation.”
Hopefully, Cedar Rapids will be just one area of the country that has more mothers comfortable with feeding their babies without shame as a result of this project and continued support for other nursing mothers, family, and friends.
The Early Bird Coffee Café
The Downtown Cedar Rapids Public Library
Greene Square Park
New Bo Books
NewBo City Market
Me and my nursling
You can check out the next photographer in the PBAP blog circle: Saint Augustine, Florida Photographer Megan Soto Photography.