Most breastfeeding moms will tell you that while the mechanics of breastfeeding can be difficult (hello, sore, bleeding nipples, and screaming, non-latching newborns) it gets worse even after a mom has found her stride with breastfeeding, because she has to endure the judgment and totally unwanted opinions from the whole rest of the planet.
Can we just come out and say it right now? Whatever a woman does or does not do with her breasts — especially when it comes to the simple and natural act of feeding her child — is none of anyone’s damn business. And it would behoove us all to keep our lips tightly sealed when it comes to offering advice or opinions on the matter.
Sounds nice in theory, at least. But we know that in reality, women still face harassment for their feeding choices on a daily basis.
Recently, Nicki Kaylor, a photographer and mom from Tennessee, decided to tackle this issue head-on by gathering some local moms together to call out the issues that breastfeeding moms face — and also to celebrate the lovely, intoxicating beauty that a breastfeeding mom emanates.
Kaylor is calling her series “Latched With Love,” and posted the stunning photos on her Facebook page on July 17th:
Unsurprisingly, the series is going viral, with over 2K likes and 3K shares to date. Clearly, so many of us have been in the position of feeling judged for our choice to breastfeed out in the open, and so Kaylor’s message about feeling proud of our choices has resonated deeply with so many of us.
Kaylor photographed nine different mothers for the series, and asked the mothers to write down insensitive things people have said to them while they nursed their babies. As the women posed, proudly and gorgeously nursing their babies, the answers they came up with were included as captions for the photos, or displayed on dry-erase boards as part of the photos themselves.
These mothers’ answers are so relatable. Sadly, almost any mother who has breastfed has come across these sorts of comments at one time or another.
One mother holds up a sign saying, “Can you go to the bathroom?” which was something that I have personally been asked while discreetly breastfeeding my own baby in public. Sorry, but breastfeeding a baby in the bathroom is just about the most unsanitary, uncomfortable place to nurse a baby, am I right?
SIGH. And yet, these sorts of things happen more often than we realize.
Another mom, who appears to be nursing a young toddler, holds up a sign that reads, “Isn’t he too BIG?” We all know that breastfeeding past the 12-month mark is a sin, right? And that if we do so, we are surely setting our toddlers up for lifelong dependency issues. And not only that, there is absolutely no way our toddler will wean. They will basically be breastfeeding till we send them off to college, correct?
Insert another big sigh.
The truth is, these sorts of comments aren’t just categorically false, based on a lack of knowledge about how breastfeeding works and what it entails when you are out and about, but they also send mothers the message that what they are doing is something to be ashamed of, that needs to be hidden.
But that is exactly why Kaylor, the photographer who put the project together, wanted to get the word out that these sort of things are totally unacceptable, and that we as a culture have a lot of work to do to normalize breastfeeding.
“I put this series together because there’s so much judgment against mothers nursing their babies in public,” Kaylor tells Babble. “Absolutely no mother should be in public, feeling ashamed because her baby is hungry and she has to feed it.”
Kaylor, who is the mother of three daughters, shares with Babble that she personally encountered the stigma of nursing her baby in public, and that is part of the reason she wanted to shed light on this issue.
Kaylor bottlefed her oldest daughter — so when her second daughter was born and she breastfed her, she did so as a novice. Navigating breastfeeding in public was a whole new world for Kaylor.
“I felt really uncomfortable nursing in public,” Kaylor says. “I remember being in Walmart one night in the middle of winter and my daughter Aarianna started crying, so instead of going and finding a bench to sit on to nurse my baby, I walked out to my car, while my child was still crying (due to wanting to wanting to nurse then and there) and sat in the car to nurse.”
This was a lightbulb moment for Kaylor. She realized then that women should not have to feel that way about breastfeeding.
“To me, that’s not okay,” says Kaylor. “A mother shouldn’t have to go out of her way to feed her child in private because she’s scared of the inappropriate comments or judgmental stares in public.”
Amen to that!
I think it’s fantastic that Kaylor took her rage about this problem and turned it into something educational, thought-provoking, and simply beautiful. Her series doesn’t just highlight the ways that mothers can be shamed for feeding their babies, but it also shows that breastfeeding, in its essence, comes down to the exchange of love between a mother and a child — and that this love is something to be proud of, to support, and to celebrate.
And I think it’s something all of us can get behind.