The Beauty of Breastfeeding

Manhattan, KS Birth & Family Photographer

Breastfeeding IS beautiful. The way that our culture has created a cloud of ugliness and treated breastfeeding like some disgusting bodily function or a sexual act is beyond absurd.

As a mother who is all too familiar with “the look” that nursing moms are given in public (and private places for that matter), and as a mom who struggled with many aspects of breastfeeding with all three of my kids, I’m proud to join the fight to normalize it.

I’m excited to deliver beautiful images of nursing moms that they cannot wait to show off. And it warms my heart when a mom goes from not really wanting nursing pictures to telling me those are some of her very favorite captures. All I have to say is that I have zero good pictures of me nursing my babies and now it’s too late and every mom gives me that chance to show them the beauty.

nursing group picture

World Breastfeeding Awareness week 2015 in Manhattan, KS.

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Each of these beautiful and brave mamas has taken the time to share her story. Several of them are quiet and reserved, so this is a leap outside of their comfort zones to help support the very worthy cause of normalizing breastfeeding.


HOLLY

Breastfeeding encompasses so much for my children and I: love, comfort, pain and sacrifice. There is an overwhelming amount of stolen tender moments and a peace that settles over my body and heart at the end of the day, when I nursed both my babies to sleep.

Breastfeeding has transformed me into the mother I am. Strong, loving, and humble. I could talk about the struggles I faced with my son. The 5, 6, 7 times I have endured horrific mastitis and became delirious from my high fever. How I stood and faced adversity from negative comments and those who told me to quit and did not understand my dedication.

But we persevered my sweet Andrew and I, through tandem nursing during a hard pregnancy. Through countless hours spent nursing a newborn and a 2 year toddler. Or now as I lay awake till the early morning hours nursing my daughter as she cries from the pain caused by her Polyarticular Juvenile Arthritis, offering what comfort I can. These struggles are unseen by society. The strength and love while mothers nourish their children.

When I look at this picture I don’t hear the negative comments or see the sacrifices. I see a beautiful moment that represents the depth of my love, and the strength of a mother to wash away the whole of world and just exist in the love of my children.

Andrew Age 4, Elizabeth Age 1

nursing pose

extended breastfeeding
LIZ

Breastfeeding has been an incredible journey for me with both of my children and something that I had my heart set on from the moment I found out I was pregnant with my first. Alex is almost 11 and my daughter, Lianna, is 21 months. I found out I was pregnant with my son when I was only 15 and he was born when I was 16 year old. It was heartbreaking for myself and my family that I was so young, but regardless I wanted to make the best choices for my son.

However, the breastfeeding journey was not an easy one. My son was born a very healthy baby boy, but would not latch correctly due to my “inverted” nipples. I did not want to give up and struggled countless weeks using a nipple shield in order to feed him. Thankfully my aunt, who is a nurse, had just obtained her lactation certification. She was a tremendous help as she came to stay with me a couple of days when he was a month old and we worked very hard on transitioning him from the shield to the breast. I still remember there were times when she would even spoon feed him my expressed milk while we worked through the process. It was amazing to finally be able to accomplish feeding him at the breast.

My pregnancy with Lianna was very difficult due to a high risk placenta previa. Lianna was born at 33 weeks and due to her being only 4 pounds, they would not allow me to breastfeed her at the NICU. The doctors said the amount of energy that it would require her to breastfeed would be more than the calories that she would take in and they wanted to prevent her loosing more weight. I was heartbroken but I started pumping and they were able to feed her my breastmilk until she gained enough weight for me to attempt breastfeeding. At this point she was also used to the bottle and would not want to latch. I used a nipple shield with Lianna as well until she was 4 months and then worked closely with a lactation consultant to help her wean from that.

I remember sitting at points crying from the pain and not even wanting to continue because I was so frustrated. In the end, we were very successful and I am so thankful for my job because they allowed me to bring my daughter to work with me until she was 6.5 months and that only strengthened our breastfeeding relationship.

I love the comfort, joy, and bond that I have gained from breastfeeding my children and am absolutely thankful for the support in my life from my husband, friends and family. I think all mothers need supportive individuals in their lives not only from individuals, but from the community. With support and encouragement, anything is possible!


MELISSA

I am the mother of Jonah, age 4, and Lilla, age 16 months. Before my son was born, I never knew how meaningful and important breastfeeding would become for me and for my children. I simply thought that it was an excellent way to feed a baby. Over the past four years, I have come to realize that nursing is so much more than good nutrition – and that it is beneficial for children even as they grow past infancy.

Nursing is nourishment, comfort, bonding, security, trust, sleep, closeness, humor, and love. In our family, nursing has also contributed to my children’s love of reading. When Jonah was a toddler, we began “nursing books” (reading while nursing), and the tradition has continued. Now, Lilla will even use sign language to ask for a book when she begins nursing.

I also believe that the strong brother-sister relationship my children have is due in part to tandem nursing. On the day that Lilla was born, Jonah was just a month shy of 3 years old, and he was able to navigate the transition from only child to big brother smoothly, partly because his need to nurse continued to be met. I once asked Jonah why he liked to nurse, and his response was because he could nurse with Lilla. I am grateful that my husband has been so supportive of breastfeeding and enjoyed the journey with me.

Additionally, I have met amazing women who share in this experience of breastfeeding our children. We have encouraged and supported one another, shared ideas and laughter, and listened to and learned from one another. Four years ago, I could not have imagined sharing a photo of me breastfeeding. Today, I realize that nursing is beautiful, and I hope that more people can see its beauty as well.

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nurse your babies
MEGAN

Hi! My name is Meghan and I’m originally from Michigan, but spent the last 3 years in Georgia (husband is military) and have been in Kansas for about a week now. I found out about this photo shoot while still in Georgia, but knew it was something I really wanted to do because breastfeeding wasn’t always easy for me. It has been such a long road and now is something that I am no longer ashamed of and I wanted to celebrate that.

I have a 17mo old little boy named Ezekiel. When I got pregnant with him I knew I wanted to breastfeed because I knew it was the best option for my child. I planned on nursing for a year. When Ezekiel was born, he had a horrible latch for the first couple months; it made breastfeeding painful and I just wanted it to stop. I didn’t get to enjoy our bonding time at all. While we were in the hospital, I didn’t have any help with breastfeeding and I was ashamed to ask for help because it sounded horrible that I didn’t know how to feed my own child. I was afraid they would think I was an unfit mother. I finally got up the courage to go in and get help and I’m so glad we did.

Shortly after that we got thrush and once again breastfeeding was painful but this time for both of us. They tried a few things but it just wouldn’t go away! We went through thrush a few times until it went away for good. Breastfeeding was not easy for us at all and quite frankly during those times I just wanted him to wean so we could be done with it already, but I am so glad we stuck with it! He is now 17mo old and still nursing strong with no signs of stopping anytime soon. It is no longer painful and now we are able to bond and enjoy our time together and it is absolutely beautiful!


HAYLEE

Hi! I’m Haylee Morris and I am from Dallas, Texas. My husband and I have four children, with our youngest two being under two and both still nursing! The first person who ever inspired me to breastfeed was my mom as I have a much younger sister that she nursed in front of me for 3.5 years. My most recent inspiration was a friend, Rebecca, who made this entire document for me about how to breastfeed along with a super awesome shower gift that was all about breastfeeding.

My daughter was born January 2014 and our nursing relationship was amazing after the first two weeks of pain. My husband really supported me with the nipple bleeding and soreness. When she was 8 months old and still exclusively nursing we conceived my son. Several doctors told me we would lose him if I didn’t wean (one even said, “You can’t be superwoman and nurse one while pregnant with another. Wait to try again after you wean if you lose this one),” and then he was officially diagnosed as a miscarriage.

I was heartbroken AND felt like it was my fault for being so selfish to not switch to formula. During my follow ups (tracking my HCG down to zero), it started rising again and they called me back in. 10 days later they found my son’s heartbeat, and that doctor told me that nursing my daughter did not and would not cause me to miscarry. We were able to nurse my entire pregnancy, even during active labor, and hours after birth I nursed them together for the first time. It took a lot of effort to maintain my supply and was painful many times, but so worth it to my daughter and me.

I’m passionate about breastfeeding awareness because as women we take this ability so personal and misinformation can hurt us so deeply! Our bodies are naturally very efficient at giving birth and maintaining the babies we deliver if we just trust it. I still get comments that nursing my toddler takes away from my newborn, and it hurts for others to assume I would ever let any of my children suffer for something in my control. My 13lb 6 week old reminds me that he is well fed and nourished with his 10+ wet diapers a day!

tandem nurse

forced to stop breastfeeding
AMANDA

I am a mother of four. All with different breastfeeding experiences. Before having my first, I knew that breastfeeding was something that I wanted to do. I knew that it was important for mom and baby. I’ve always been holistic minded and knew that if my body was producing this for my child, that it would be best for him.

My first nursed until he was 2.5. He self weaned somewhere into my 2nd pregnancy, with his sister, due to my supply drying up. We tried to nurse again when she was born, but he wasn’t interested. I nursed my daughter until she was 4, when we both decided to be done, due to me being pregnant with my 4th and not really desiring to nurse 3 children. So she nursed throughout my 3rd pregnancy and a bit into my 4th and then we had a ‘Weaning Party’, to say goodbye to nursing and to celebrate her.

My 3rd child, she nursed until she was 3, breastfeeding throughout my 4th pregnancy and she nursed with her brother, until I had to wean them both when he was 13wks, due to a health concern. I have to take a medication, for life, that will not allow me to breastfeed any longer. My heart was broken and my daughter was confused.

It has been a tough journey this past year, but I was determined to give my son the best. He has been solely on donor milk since his last day of nursing from me. We have been so blessed to have had over 30 mothers donate their milk to my son, so that he could not only thrive on breastmilk, but also all of their love.

Breastfeeding has been a passion of mine for nearly 10 years now and as a Lactation Educator and a mother, I know that I will continue to bring awareness to help normalize Breastfeeding and Donor Milk, as great ways to nourish your child. I recognize that there are many ways to feed your baby, whether it be by breast or bottle, wet nursing, SNS or Finger Feeding, breast milk, formula or another alternative milk source. We as mothers and fathers need the support from not only our friends and family, but that of strangers. We should not be made afraid to nurse our child in public for fear of ridicule and eyes of disgust. We should not feel shame in the extended nursing of our older children. We should not feel scared to pull out a bottle of donor milk or formula because a group of mothers near by might sneer at us. We must unite. We must feed our babies however we see fit. Together we can make a difference. A mother has the right to nurse her child whenever and wherever she may be. I will fight for this, for all mothers and babies.


ASHLEIGH

Hi, I’m Ashleigh and I’m from Rochester, New York. I have three little girls five and under and started breastfeeding with my second. With my first daughter, I had family members that tried to force breastfeeding on me in a negative way. I was so distraught that when I did try with her, I ended it quickly.

I met my husband before my second daughter and he has been a huge blessing when it comes to breastfeeding. He supported the fact that I was pro-formula at the time and suggested that I give breastfeeding another try before I call it quits again. I breastfed my second for two beautiful months before I had to return to work and my supply dried up (which was heartbreaking.)

Since having our third, I embrace breastfeeding to its full extent. I never knew the bond between mother and child could be so strong. I’ve been so determined to breastfeed as long as possible this time around. We are six months strong, with hopefully a longer road ahead of us.

family photographer

nursing pictures
SERENA

My name is Serena Funderburke and I’m from Austin, Texas. I’m a first time mom to a beautiful baby girl. The reason I’m passionate about breastfeeding is after struggling with infertility, I realize that I’m lucky to even have this opportunity.

Our journey had a difficult beginning. Latching has been our biggest struggle through our 6 month and counting road. Using a nipple shield had always made me feel like a failure until I realized it really doesn’t matter how you feed your baby as long as they’re healthy and happy.

I wanted and needed this moment captured because six months ago I couldn’t have imagined how amazing it would be. I am so lucky my husband was my biggest supporter; because of his promise to not let me give up, I am still breastfeeding today. I love everything about our journey, I feel it has made me a stronger person and the best mother I could possibly be.


JASMINE

If you were to tell me by the age of 24 I would be married with 3 children I would have laughed right in your face. But here I am and that is my life.

I unexpectedly got pregnant and had my first at 18. Had an ectopic pregnancy a year after causing me to lose one of my fallopian tubes and tried for 4 years for my second and a year and half after her I now have my third “surprise” child.

Breastfeeding wasn’t something that came easy to me. It’s not something I grew up around so when I mentioned I was going to do it *gasp* (me being such a young age) the reaction had a great impact on my decisions. That’s something I do regret. Needless to say that lasted all of a month and a half but I supplemented the whole time when we were in public.

With my second I was more strong minded and didn’t let everyone’s comments affect me. When we got closer to the 1 year milestone, I started getting all of the “she’s too old to nurse” and “you need to get her off of that” comments. While it made me feel uneasy, I didn’t let it stop me. We successfully nursed for 14/15 months before she self-weaned.

Here I am now with my 4 month old and no one could say anything to make me feel any kind of way. A great support system is the greatest thing you can have in this journey and I have to give credit to my husband for being my biggest supporter. I decided to participate in this project because there are mothers out there who feel ashamed to nurse in public even with a cover. This makes it hard especially for young mothers with no support system. I was that mom. So anything I can do to help in the movement to normalize breastfeeding whether it be becoming someone else’s support system or standing in this beautiful scenery with my baby girl for a photo that will viewed by who knows how many people, I will gladly do it!

mommy and me

nursing goddess
DEANNA

Hi, my name is Deanna! We are a military family of 4 living here in Manhattan, KS. I have a 5 soon-to-be 6 year old stepson and our newest addition is 3 1/2 months. We struggled with fertility issues the first 2 years of our marriage, along with going through a 6 month deployment. We lost 2 pregnancies until finally conceiving our youngest son.

After a fairly easy going pregnancy, I had a rough delivery with my LO. I had to be induced and ended up pushing for 4 hours until I was finally able to deliver him via a vacuum-assisted birth. After all that we had been through to bring our sweet son into the world, I was determined to breastfeed him no matter what! Being a first time mom to a newborn, I truly did not know what to expect about breastfeeding my baby. I went to the breastfeeding class offered by the hospital but nothing can really prepare you for the hard work ahead of you. After hearing stories of how hard it would be, I second guessed myself quite a few times in those first few weeks especially when I was recovering from his difficult delivery. But eventually it became easier and easier.

My husband and family have been very supportive of me breastfeeding. We figured out our LO has a dairy allergy and I started attending my local La Leche League group by recommendation of my pediatrician, which has turned out to be a great resource for me to go and voice any concerns I may be having and just listen to other moms’ breastfeeding experiences.

Overall, breastfeeding is what works best for our family. In the La Leche League meetings we have talked about taking what works best for our family and leaving the rest. Not only is breastfeeding FREE! and natural, it has also been a great way to lose weight and nourish my baby into the 16 pound ball of happiness that he is today! I have loved becoming a new mom and developing my breastfeeding relationship with my son and I’m passionate about spreading breastfeeding awareness to others so that they can feel confident when they may second guess their ability to breastfeed just like I did at first!


RACHEAL

We suffered through several years of infertility and finally became pregnant with an IVF cycle. My twin boys were born at 23 weeks three days and one passed away right after birth from extreme prematurity. So with a deceased baby and one in the NICU, emotionally I was not there, but I could produce milk for my baby by pumping every three hours.

I was not able to hold my son for over a month, so when it was time to try breastfeeding I was very overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do. I had to be taught to nurse my son. We had to start really slow, since his sucking was not developed and he would tire very easily. Even when we came home we could only nurse once/twice a day until he became stronger to nurse.

My husband and I decided we were ready to try for another baby, so my nursing came to an end when we went trough a frozen embryo transfer. My second pregnancy was stressful in a way of worrying about losing another baby or having a premature baby. My daughter is now 5 1/2 months and has been a champ at nursing since birth. What a totally different experience this time and a blessing to be able to bond with her right away.

Breastfeeding is the only thing that has come easy with having children and it just feels so natural, especially after the struggles with the NICU and losing a baby.

Racheal mom of two on Earth.

nursing connection

breastfeeding images
TIA

After my first son was born I wasn’t prepared for how difficult breastfeeding could be. I was afraid to feed him and I would bawl my eyes out when I had no choice but to. I reached out to a few places for support, but there just weren’t many options where we were. At 21 I was the first of anyone I knew to have a baby and I felt alone. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t take the pain anymore and we switched to formula.

I always had a strong desire to breastfeed, and a part of me felt like I was missing out. We went through 3 heartbreaking losses before conceiving our second son. My entire pregnancy I was determined to experience motherhood the way I wanted to.

The time came and he was born the way I wanted, and he breastfed like a champ… but I started noticing the same problems I had before. I was determined to make this work. After a few trips to an IBCLC and several Facebook support groups we finally figured out that along with an oversupply my son also had a tongue/lip tie and was allergic to dairy.

We pushed through and I promised myself I wouldn’t quit on a bad day. Things improved drastically and now I enjoy feeding him! I am passionate about breastfeeding because I don’t want anyone to go through what I did with my first son. If we had more resources at that time I am sure we could have overcome our breastfeeding obstacles. After all I’ve been through to bring my second son into the world, I refuse to feel ashamed of feeding him the way nature intended. I hope to see breastfeeding normalized so no one bats an eyelash at seeing a mother feed her child anywhere she pleases.


BRANDY

My name is Brandy McDonald. I have three children, ages 6, 5, and 2 1/2. When I was breastfeeding my first I was not comfortable nursing in public uncovered. I had a cover that I used often, but one time while Christmas shopping at the mall with my then 3 month old son he got hungry and I realized that I had forgotten the cover. By myself with nothing to cover my chest, I retreated to the family bathroom. I distinctly remember feeling so dirty, and like I was contaminating my son as I nursed sitting on the floor of the bathroom. I sobbed because I was mad at myself for not being more bold and mad at all the people who gave me dirty looks in the past even though I used a cover. I hated that something I was so proud of could feel so unwelcome and disgusting to others.

Fast forward 4 years and 2 babies later, I was still a cover user. But one day I sat in a community playroom and witnessed another mother openly nursing her baby, so when my baby got hungry I felt comfortable trying it myself. And it hit me- this is why it is important that we feed our babies in public. That mom I witnessed wasn’t trying to make a statement. She wasn’t trying to be an example. She was just feeding her baby. But her simple act gave me the courage to feed my daughter without fussing with a cover. Never again did I have to feel the terror of realizing I’d forgotten my cover when my child was hungry- I could just simply fulfill their needs. This is what normalizing breastfeeding is all about- making it so that future mothers don’t feel concerned about comments, don’t feel obligated to cover if they don’t want to. They can just focus on feeding and connecting with their child.

breastfeeding beautiful