Abbie Fox of Foxy Photography is at it again.
Last year, the talented photographer and mom of two from Las Vegas, Nevada went viral with her photo series, “Fed Is Best,” which highlighted the importance of recognizing that all the ways babies are fed are beautiful — from formula to breastfeeding to pumped milk. And now, just one year later, she’s celebrating once again with another gorgeous photo shoot.
Fox was originally inspired by her own difficult feeding journey, which began shortly after her first son Maverick was born. Despite her desire to breastfeed, nothing Fox tried could make breastfeeding work, including meeting with specialists. So she made the decision to switch to formula, and instead of letting herself feel like a failure about it, the new mom focused on remembering one thing, and one thing only: As long as her son was fed and healthy, nothing else mattered. That journey is what ultimately led to her viral photo series, which resonated with moms everywhere who applauded her message that fed — in all its forms — really is always best.
“Last year so many people reached out to me and said how much it touched them,” says Fox. “They [said they] were also in the same boat as I was in and they were happy that someone else shared the struggle. I thought since last year reached so many people this year I could reach even more.”
With World Breastfeeding Awareness Week approaching (running from August 1-7), Fox was aware that many of us will soon be surrounded by beautiful images of nursing mothers. But for mothers who bottle-feed, this can often be somewhat triggering or even isolating. Fox says she wanted to present a new type of image to the world, when simply “fed” is the most beautiful sight of all to behold.
This year, Fox focused on highlighting some of the mothers’ stories who signed up to be a part of her shoot. Since every mother has a different journey to feeding her little one, Fox wanted to bring awareness to the reality that there are many factors that go into a mother’s decision about how and what she feeds her baby.
Take Kristin Zimmerman Muraco, for example, who found out very early on that her baby was actually allergic to her breast milk, which made breastfeeding literally impossible.
For other mothers, like Alexess Cristiani, being part of this project shows that you can never truly know what goes on behind the scenes when it comes to feeding a baby. Breastfeeding her son was a hard-fought journey, one with a lot of “dedication, tears, and frustration”; but even dedication and tears couldn’t help Cristiani when her daughter was born with extreme jaundice, putting her at risk for brain damage.
“We had no choice but to supplement with formula to give her the volume she needed to eliminate the toxins,” Cristiani explains. “I hate when people impose and judge … you never know what factors are involved. We just want what is best for our babies.”
Many of the mothers in Fox’s shoot also shared stories of overcoming bottle-feeding shame — despite the fact that bottle feeding literally saved their babies’ lives.
Mariana Alvarado Garcia faced plenty of it herself, even though she struggled to feed her now 2½-year-old son, who suffered for months with silent reflux and eventually wound up in the ER because of it. She’s now cherishing any time spent nursing her 3-week-old daughter, while realizing that nothing is more important than making sure her baby is healthy.
“[My daughter is] showing signs of reflux as well, but I’m taking all the precautions so this wont happen again to us,” Garcia explains. “I don’t know how long I will be able to breastfeed her and that is why this was so important for me. Breastfeeding hasn’t been easy, but for me it’s worth the try.”
For mom of three Michelle Ghazinour, breastfeeding is a wonderful choice — even if the breast milk doesn’t come from her body. After struggling to produce enough milk with her first two children, and feeling like a “failure,” Ghazinour says she changed tactics with her third. She vowed to stop stressing and pumping every single spare second that she had, and instead chose to enjoy her kids rather than struggle for a mere ounce of milk. In the end, she used donor milk from a trusted friend and the whole family thrived as a result.
“My little man had breast milk until 8 months, then he was switched to formula,” she explains. “He’s about to be a year old and he’s doing great! I was also much less stressed not worrying about if I made enough milk. That made for a happier mommy for everyone! It doesn’t matter if it’s your breast milk, someone else’s breastmilk, or formula. As long as baby is fed!”
As a mother to biracial children, Annette Arevalos has certainly dealt with her fair share of judgment whenever she’s out with her little ones. After welcoming her first son, she heard many “opinions” about what was best for her son, but after her second arrived, the been-there-done-that mom had a whole new outlook on feeding.
“That was when I decided that I would not listen to what anyone had to say about how my children are fed,” she says.
Yet despite how beautiful breastfeeding photos may appear online — when everything is perfectly styled and edited and airbrushed — breastfeeding a baby out in the real world is a different story. And sadly, for far too many moms, feeding their babies in public continues to be a struggle.
“I did the pictures because [for] all the same shaming that goes on [of] moms that choose to formula feed instead of breastfeed, there is the same controversy about breastfeeding in public as well,” explains Michelle Pineda. “We are all allowed to feed our babies wherever we need to … fed is best. However we choose to do so.”