The Shocking Words That Inspired the Breastfeeding Dads Photo SeriesAlice Gomstyn
Photographer Hector Cruz is the founder of Project: BreastFeeding, the organization made famous by its series of photos depicting fathers, mostly bare-chested, holding infants up to their bodies often next to the slogan, “If I Could, I Would.”
Cruz hopes the photos combat opposition to public breastfeeding, particularly among men.
“If we educate men, we have empowered women, and the whole stigma of public breastfeeding goes out the window, it is no longer an issue! Women needed to see not just hear that we as dads, were supportive of them, we had their backs, and we were just as invested in the breastfeeding relationship as they were!” Cruz wrote to me in an email.
Cruz’s project was born out of three, specific, negative experiences related to breastfeeding. Two of them didn’t surprise me. One was that as a man, Cruz had trouble finding ways to educate himself about breastfeeding. (He couldn’t attend his wife’s breastfeeding support class so he eventually hired a lactation consultant.) The other was seeing his wife worry about breastfeeding in public after hearing “horror stories” about it.
Here’s the one that left my jaw plummeting to the floor: Cruz actually heard a friend say that “he did not allow his wife to breastfeed because her breasts were his alone and not to be shared with anyone even his kids.”
“[T]hat statement left me dumbfounded,” Cruz said. “I could not wrap my head around that.”
Neither could I. A sexist, chauvinistic, controlling attitude like that? In the United States?? In the 21st century??? Frankly, I worry for that man’s wife and hope that Cruz’s project will lead him to have a change of heart.
What you may have missed if you’ve only been checking out Cruz’s photos is that he doesn’t just want to showcase dads who are supportive of breastfeeding — he wants to take an active role in educating fathers AND mothers across the country.
“The biggest push for [Project: BreastFeeding] is the co-ed taught and led breastfeeding support classes that we want to launch next year across the country,” he said. “[F]or the first time there will be classes that are catered for couples! A place where material and information is provided to both parents and not just the mother. This is a huge and vital step in men reclaiming their roles as fathers, husbands, and partners.”
Cruz is also raising funds to travel to Uganda with the African charity Mama Hope to take photos there.
“We want to show the positive things happening in countries like Uganda (and) show how crucial and vital a dad is to the parenting relationship,” Cruz said. “This isn’t just a US or Westerner issue. It is a global issue.”
Of course, Cruz still has plenty on his plate when it comes to the U.S. In addition to raising money for co-ed breastfeeding classes, he plans to purchase billboards featuring the breastfeeding dads during World Breastfeeding Week in early August. He’ll also be traveling the country taking even more photos for Project: BreastFeeding thanks to a sponsorship from Beco Baby Carriers. Next month, he’ll be speaking at MommyCon in San Francisco.
And, oh yes, he does plan on appearing in his own Project: BreastFeeding photos at some point, though he hasn’t yet.
“I will be taking a photo myself for the project,” he said, “the next time I am able to bring my family to a shoot.”
To donate to Project: BreastFeeding, visit this gofundme page.
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Photos via Project: BreastFeeding by Hector Cruz