Two years ago, Abbie Fox, mom of three and owner of Foxy Photography, started a revolution with a photo series called “Fed is Best.” The stunning images portrayed moms of every size, shape, color, and walk of life doing what moms do: feeding their babies.
Some of the images showed mothers breastfeeding their infants; others, their toddlers. Some were tandem feeding, some were formula feeding, and one was using donor breast milk. While all of the mothers were feeding their babies in different ways for different reasons, they all had one thing in common — they were beautiful.
This year, Fox has released the third installment of her “Fed is Best” series, once again encouraging mothers to celebrate all different types of feeding choices.
While Fox tells Babble that her original “Fed is Best” photo series was a way for her to heal after she struggled with breastfeeding, the movement soon became representative of the challenges and triumphs of motherhood. The women who have participated in the photo series this year have stories ranging from infertility to special needs to diminished milk production, and they felt compelled to share their own journeys for all very different reasons.
For instance, Zetryana Rivera felt it was important to be a part of the shoot to represent women of color who nurse.
“Throughout my nursing experience, I didn’t come across a lot of pictures of women of color breastfeeding,” she explains. “I wanted to be part of something that would start to change that and help to normalize breastfeeding.”
Tonnie Jackson participated after going through the long and arduous process of trying to supply her 3-month-old daughter, Averie, with breast milk after she was born with both a heart defect and a soft cleft palate. Although Jackson notes that Averie looks “beautiful and healthy” on the outside, her insides tell a different story, and the infant will need at least two surgeries before her first birthday to fix her heart and soft cleft palate.
“I hope this picture shows people that while these babies look healthy and fed on the outside, we have no idea the amount of emotions, work, and love it takes to get them fed in a way each baby needs,” Jackson says.
First-time mom Emily Wilson Reeves did what a lot of new moms do and prepared extensively during her pregnancy to do the “right” thing and breastfeed exclusively. Her body and baby, on the other hand, had different ideas. Now two months into motherhood, Reeves made the switch to formula after having issues with latch, production, and weight gain with her little one.
“This journey has been so hard for me because all my baby prep had taught me that ‘breast is best,’” Reeves says. “I felt like such a failure for it not being easy and natural … While we may be able to return to breastfeeding in the future, I wanted to do this shoot because I feel it is so important that mommies-to-be to know that no matter in what way, shape, or form, the most important thing is that your baby is fed.”
Whitney Rae Hoskin is also a first-time mom who started off her journey into parenting by planning on breastfeeding only. It wasn’t until her daughter stopped gaining weight that Hoskin learned that her milk did not contain the full fat her daughter needed. Her pediatrician recommended a switch to formula. Initially, Hoskin felt like she had failed in providing for her daughter until she realized that giving her formula was providing for her.
“By giving her formula I was doing the best thing for her, because she was now gaining weight and was a happy and healthy baby,” she explains.
With the amount of shaming that she feels happens between mothers, Michelle Tavarez decided to take part because she believes that it’s important to think twice before judging another mom. Tavarez offered up her own experience having four easy pregnancies without so much as morning sickness, only to face enormous challenges trying to breastfeed.
“I just don’t produce much milk,” she says. “With my first child, I would cry and cry because I wasn’t producing … I felt like a complete failure as a mom. Here I am with my fourth kid, and I’ve realized no matter how long I breastfed, all of my kids are happy and well-adjusted.”
All of the mothers who participated in the shoot share the sentiment that mothers need to support each other more, not less, and recognize that there is so much that goes on “behind the scenes” when it comes to how a baby is fed. No one can tell the whole story through a moment of seeing a mom pull out a bottle at the store or nurse her child in a restaurant; and in this case, a photo may not be able to tell 1,000 words about the journey each mom has been on to feed her baby.
“Let’s stop shaming each other for how our children are fed,” says Reeves. “Let’s support each other on this journey of motherhood that is so freaking hard already. Everyone has their own circumstances and no two babies are the same. So why should we think that one way of feeding is the best for all?”