Whether it’s through breastfeeding, pumped breast milk, or formula, Justine Temke and Staci Caspers don’t judge: They are just happy to see babies being fed.
To celebrate “the bond built by feeding,” the two mothers, who are founders of the Minnesota-based doula service, Midwest Doulas, teamed with photographer Ashley Rick from St. Paul Photo Co. to put together a calendar called “Judge Less: Fed Is Best.” The 2016 calendar is made up of compelling photos of women feeding their infants in different ways, including women nursing without covers and women bottle feeding their babies. (Temke noted that they would have been happy to include other milk or formula feeding methods as well — such as syringe-feeding — but didn’t have any luck securing such photos.)
In an email to me, Temke, who is a lactation counselor in addition to being a doula, explained that she has fed her children with breast milk and formula but has, unfortunately, been shamed for her choices. A native of France, she couldn’t help but notice how differently France approaches breastfeeding as opposed to the United States. In France, which has the lowest rate of breastfeeding in Europe, there’s “peer pressure” not to feed longer than three months, and yet when women do breastfeed, they rarely use covers.
“This is the exact opposite of the environment I was introduced to in the United States,” she said. “I was surrounded by breastfeeders, extremely judgmental and opinionated about the “f” word (formula). However, most of them would breastfeed in another room or, when space was scarce, the corner of a room, covered and facing the wall.”
With the calendar, Temke isn’t just standing up for herself — she and Caspers are standing up for mothers everywhere, no matter how they choose to feed their children. She said:
“We have seen shaming of uncovered breastfeeding mothers, we have roared against it. We have stood for that mother and pushed for her to feel free to do what she wants. We have jumped onto the #normalizebreastfeeding bandwagon because it is important to remind everyone of the essential and normal food that breastmilk is. But Staci and I felt that we were being unfair and unsupportive to the mother who is being shamed because she is mixing a bottle for her babe. We felt the need to tell that mother to own her choice and feel strong and empowered by it, shush the guilt, stand strong against the nasty looks, and feel fantastic about herself!”
Midwest Doulas plan to continue the “Judge Less” movement beyond 2016 with new calendars illustrating a different message each year.
“The topic will change but always be geared toward breaking a lingering heaviness of guilt and shaming,” she said.
In addition to sending a powerful message to mothers, a portion of the proceeds from the calendar sales will also go to charity. The “Judge Less: Fed is Best” calendar proceeds are being donates to Babies Need Boxes, a non-profit organization that shares the Finnish baby box tradition with vulnerable mothers in Minnesota, by providing them with boxes of important baby care items.