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Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project ~ World Breastfeeding Week ~ New Jersey Breastfeeding Photography

Monday, August 3, 2015

NJ breastfeeding photographer
I have to start by thanking everyone who came out for this event, a group photo of New Jersey area mamas for public breastfeeding awareness. I know MANY of you came from far away, in some cases over an hour, with a small person (or two, or three) in tow on a GORGEOUS Saturday morning.

The mission was to gather a critical mass of breast-milk-feeding women to take a photo in support of  the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project and World Breastfeeding Week. I've participated in the project during its first two years of its existence (for last year's photo project, click HERE). This year 33 mamas attended with one or two nurslings in tow ranging in age from a few days old (seriously!) to three-and-some-change.

Afterwards, I asked for thoughts from everyone who took part in the project, and particularly for thoughts on why they made it a priority to come participate in this event. The response, I have to say, has truly humbled me. I feel grateful to belong to a community of such wonderfully devoted, passionate, supportive, empowered women. The opportunity to capture them all in such a photo, as well as share a part of their stories here, is a genuine honor.

I hope that you will take the opportunity to read below some of the moving, powerful thoughts shared by these women, many of whom have experienced transformations as mothers and women by way of their breastfeeding experience. I must say, when art and activism meet, beautiful things happen. On the strength of these women's words and testimonies, I believe that has happened here.

NJ breastfeeding photographer

"I felt solidarity at the event. I'm sometimes self-conscious about breastfeeding in public because I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable, which makes me uncomfortable. So to be in a place where it was totally okay felt like a relief, like I was in the company of sisters even though I hadn't met half of the women before.

"Also, I felt assured of and at peace with my body. As a teenager I was always quite self-conscious, especially around other girls, about being small chested, and I internalized it more than I realized. I had a secret fear the whole time I was pregnant that I wouldn't be able to breastfeed, that I didn't have enough (and therefore maybe that I wasn't enough). But my milk has been more than sufficient and my baby has been growing well. She was back to her birth weight in five days. So the whole experience of breastfeeding has been empowering, and being able to be connected to other women just as we are, in the beautiful diversity of ways God made our bodies, is a gift that pregnancy and motherhood have helped me embrace. The event felt counter-cultural -- whatever bombardment of images women get from media, images that often lead us to compare ourselves, here we all were coming together to celebrate that our bodies sustain these new little lives of our children." -Alison

"At last year's PBAP shoot, I was amazed that my daughter was breastfeeding so well after having heart surgery at 4 days old and being told that our breastfeeding journey could be a difficult path. This year, I knew we'd drop whatever was planned to join Kristy again, as my little one is 13 months & still nursing strong! During the shoot, I was overcome with so much pride in the strength and persistence that my little girl has demonstrated in her short 13 months and that she continues to value our shared nursing experience. Looking around me, I was so honored to be sharing space and an experience with moms who share my belief in being able to feed our babies whenever & however we see best for our little ones." -Nicole

"For me, I wanted to participate in this project because I spent my pre-mother years being rather uncomfortable with my breasts and them being a noticeable part of my figure. When I had my first daughter and began breastfeeding, my perception of my body began to change for the positive. The empowering experience of natural birth and then being able to nourish my child kind of made me fall in love with my body and what it can do. Now almost 7 years later and with 3 daughters it is so important to me that they see their mother proud of her body. I no longer feel self-conscious of my breasts and am not shy about nursing my baby wherever we need to. Participating in this photo is a celebration of how far I've come and how I feel about nursing my baby. Being able to share that experience with other nursing mothers was amazing and my hope is that other women who are self-conscious about breastfeeding in public will see this image of all of us and feel a little less intimidated about something that is so natural and wonderful." -Sonya

"My mom was a breastfeeding extraordinaire. She was a La Leche league leader, breastfed her babies well into toddlerhood, and could probably quote The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding without opening the cover. When my daughter was born last year I expected that I would join this mysterious and wonderful club -- the group of smart, strong, nurturing, womanly mothers and their healthy and happy children.

"But instead, the first week of my daughter's life included an extremely poor latch and oral structural issues that led to excruciating breastfeeding playing on repeat, day and night, with the same tenacity and pluck as the 40 unmedicated hours of contractions from the days before. My breasts were bruised and bleeding and the size of cantaloupes. With the help of my husband, my mom and my doula (Kristy), Jack Newman's nipple cream, many trips to my lactation consultant and a nipple shield, we did it. Last summer World Breastfeeding week caught us there and, oh, how happy we were to be there.

"Just days after the photo shoot last year, my daughter nursed without the help of a nipple shield for the first time. Finally! Breastfeeding was the natural, effortless, enjoyable part of motherhood that I expected to share with my daughter in her first golden hour of life.

"So this year as we joined with over thirty mama-baby duos (and trios!) to encourage one another and connect with other mothers across the world, I sat staring at all of the other mothers feeding their hungry babes. What were their stories? Were the newest mothers clinging to nipple cream and breast pads? Were the mothers of preschoolers worried that each nursing session would be their last or were they excited to throw away the well-worn nursing bras and reclaim her breasts? Was anyone embarrassed to nurse in public? Did each woman have support? Did anyone have the effortless experience that I incorrectly anticipated?

"We are happy to be a part of World Breastfeeding Week. We are happy to be one of the stories." -Brigid

"Breastfeeding in public is something I missed doing with my daughter. Now that I have my son, I didn't want to miss the opportunity to document how much I've personally grown. I came to the event to celebrate the amazing changes that have occurred in me. Becoming a mother, breastfeeding, specifically nursing in public, all have transformed me into a stronger, more intuitive, more confident woman. When I nurse in public I feel like a brave pioneer and I have to remind myself that I'm just feeding my baby the way women have done throughout the ages." -Melissa

"I came to the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project because there is a community and bond that grows when you are with other women who all also care about breastfeeding. We might have different perspectives or philosophies on other issues, but multiple times a day we are on the same page, doing the same thing: nursing our babies. I know from personal experience how very difficult breastfeeding can be. If it weren't for all of the support I had, I don't know that I would have made it past the first few weeks. So if my being there, nursing my almost 2-year-old in public after all the struggle, is an encouragement to others, then what better way to spend a lovely summer morning? Thank you to Kristy for planning the event, for the mamas and babies who came to participate, and for women and men around the world who have educated, supported, and defended breastfeeding, which I think is not only a gift for babies, but a gift for women." - Valerie

"This was my second year sitting with my little one and a bunch of mamas and babes for this awareness project. It was important to me to be a part of the effort to normalize breastfeeding, as well as to connect with other moms that feel similarly. I'm not exactly a lactivist, by any means, but I believe in the freedom to nurture my child without the fear of judgement or sweaty nursing covers. My nursling is just about done with me, and I am already mourning the end of this special connection we shared these past 17 months." - Talia

"When I read about the photo shoot happening I was instantly drawn to the idea. I didn't know anyone that was going and I tried to get other moms I know to go so I wouldn't be alone. Little did I know that even though I didn't know anyone I felt like I knew them all. I felt like super mom that morning taking those photos. A field full of super moms! [...] I am so thankful that I could be a part of it!" - Katie

"I came to this event to represent the normalization of nursing in public. We're all just moms trying to feed our babies. No matter where or when, it needs to happen." - Ashley

"Coming to this event brought me both freedom and peace... freedom to nurse in public (uncovered!) and peace because my nursing relationship with my first child didn't pan out. It brought me great joy to be able to experience this part of motherhood and to have it immortalized in print so that I'll always have a tangible memory of such a special time in my life." - Astin

"I chose to participate in the public breastfeeding photo to stand with other Milky Mommas in showing one of the greatest God-designed moments of motherhood, breastfeeding. We live in a society that sexualizes women's bodies on the regular. How powerful is it to see a group of women proudly 'exposed' for the care of their child as opposed to a marketing gimmick!" - Tamara

"I came to this event because I was there last year with my infant! I have been so encouraged through my connection with other breastfeeding mom's to nurse as long as child and mother both want to. I am SO EXCITED that I get to show people through this photo what a joy it is to have a nursing toddler. Although it looks quite different than breastfeeding an infant, it is just as sweet. To have the freedom to breastfeed my toddler in public and to feel comfortable doing so is a blessing beyond words. Nursing is a place to calm. A place to cuddle. A place to love. To participate in this project made me feel proud of myself for getting this far, but also so proud of all the women next to me. Breastfeeding can be hard. But with each other, we can do this." - Amanda

"I joined these ladies because I never thought I'd still be nursing my daughter at 20 months, never mind ever nursing in public. I love that I have the ability and confidence to do so." - Janice

"For me, joining this group photo was important because it showed an amazing group of women coming together in solidarity and support of normalizing breastfeeding. We were a group of women from many different backgrounds and I'm sure we all had many differences of opinion regarding other social/political/religious issues. But we were all able to recognize the importance of what we were doing and simply support one another as fellow nursing moms. It was truly a beautiful thing!" - Kerry

"I came to this event for a number of reasons: Because my daughter is weaning and I wanted to have some type of documentation of how long our nursing relationship lasted. Because the majority of people think that women who breastfeed past a certain age are weird, crazy, selfish, etc. Because breastfeeding needs to be more widely accepted anywhere, anytime, any age. Having the freedom to breastfeed in public means I can comfortably feed or comfort my child without fear of being harassed, embarrassed, or judged. Seeing projects like this and participating in them makes me feel empowered and like I am participating in something that could eventually change the way breastfeeding is viewed by the masses. You always hear of and see all the nurse-ins and the discrimination and harassment of nursing mothers but we always stand united and together." - Limor

"I came to the breastfeeding photoshoot because I think it is important to normalize breastfeeding. I have 4 children and I want my daughters and my son's future wife to feel confident and comfortable feeding their children however they see fit. I want them to choose breastfeeding because it's so normal to them that they wouldn't assume anything else. It's important to me to be able to feed my child when my child is hungry regardless of where I am. Sitting in a group of other breastfeeding mamas, all proudly feeding their babes, is empowering. It's something I wish I, and every breastfeeder, could feel each time we breastfeed our babies." - Jenn

"I had a hard birth experience. After hoping and preparing for a natural birth, I had a long and unsuccessful labor, ending in an unplanned c-section. On top of that, extended latch issues meant that my early weeks of 'breastfeeding' were filled with round-the-clock pumping, feeding syringes, and much tearful and unfulfilling time at the breast. I have never been more determined to do anything in my life than I was to breastfeed my baby, and there is no accomplishment I am more proud of. My daughter and I fit together so perfectly now, and our perfect fit heals me from the hard parts of her birth. To be able to go anywhere and be in any place and be whole and sufficient to supply my baby's needs is a wonderful thing. I enjoy it every day! Thanks for giving me the chance to participate in the group photo -- I loved getting to be a part of it." - Alexandra

"I came to this event because I always admired seeing photos of women breastfeeding and I was excited to finally be able to participate. Having the freedom to breastfeed in public means a lot to me. But it mostly means normalizing the best way to feed your baby after years of having it be a controversy. I felt empowered being surrounded by so many beautiful breastfeeding mamas and their babies." -Samm

"Breastfeeding for me has been 'easy' in most senses of the word and the overall experience; however, it has still been a little victory for my psyche each day. I work full time, my job requires travel and long hours. I am apart from my baby far more than I care to admit. I often feel as though I am missing out and not able to connect and relate with some of my mom friends. The guilt that I feel is difficult but I manage it by knowing that I am feeding him even when I'm not with him.

"I am currently breastfeeding my second child. I made it to 15 months with my first and that is still my goal with my second. We are 9 months in and going strong. Pumping sucks and I often have to remind myself why I am doing this! Travelling with coolers and pump stuff is not fun. I am all but nasty and rude to TSA agents at this point!!! :( While my son probably won't treasure a breastfeeding photo as much as I will, nor will he ever know the struggle that I feel, I am honored to have given him this gift and had the opportunity to document this part of our lives. I will always fondly remember this time and the way breastfeeding has allowed me to connect with both of my children.

"My friend and I both felt moved by the opportunity to come from over an hour away to take this photo as it was time we could spend together and feel the camaraderie between all of us as mothers. I thank you dearly for this opportunity and I hope that I will be able to participate someday again! :)" - Corey

"I came to the breastfeeding group shoot with my daughter, almost 2.5 years old, because I wanted to be able to be in a breastfeeding photo that wasn't one I had taken myself and because I may never get to experience being involved in something like this again with her. With her starting to somewhat self-wean, it makes for a beautiful memory to have with her! Plus, I got to meet some other awesome, breastfeeding mothers! It made me feel very connected to such an amazing community!" - Caitlin

"Why...Because I believe breast is best and normalizing breastfeeding (along with birth) is one way to empower women. What does the freedom to nurse in public mean to me... That I do not have to feel ashamed of my body, of providing for my child( family) and that I can embrace the choices I am making to care for,nurture, and make a difference in the next generation. I felt at peace and welcomed. what a great opportunity!!" - Anne

Want to see more work from other PBAP photographers? Follow our blog circle! Up next is Vanessa Huey - to see her work CLICK HERE

6 Responses to “Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project ~ World Breastfeeding Week ~ New Jersey Breastfeeding Photography”

  1. Love these so much! So many gorgeous mamas + babies!

  2. I just LOVE how many mamas you got out. So awesome.

  3. Incredible turn out! That's pretty amazing! Great job!

  4. Love that idea of including a thought from all of the mom's who participated!