The more you see something, the more normal it becomes. That is the reason the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project started. Local photographer Leanda Cochrane tells FOCUS readers about this project …
I love that I get to regularly travel across the New England area photographing newborns in the comfort of their own homes, and families in the great outdoors! Being able to meet so many lovely people each week, be invited into their homes, and have the opportunity to cuddle their little ones is an amazing job! I have always been drawn to photographing mums breastfeeding during their newborn sessions and have always promoted the local Breastfeeding Association and the Midwife Clinic as wonderful resources for new mums facing the challenging first few weeks of breastfeeding their babies. So when I heard about the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project (PBAP), it felt like a natural fit, and I applied straight away.
The PBAP was created by Leilani Rogers (a US photographer) as a way to bring together professional photographers from around the world, in the hopes of raising more awareness for breastfeeding in public and, in turn, empowering more mums to feel comfortable doing it. The project has grown, and now we have over 60 international photographers contributing images to be shared during World Breastfeeding Week (1 – 7 August) each year.
Since joining the PBAP several years ago, I have photographed more than 55 mums breastfeeding in everyday places across the New England area. Photographing in cafés, libraries, and shops has really pushed me creatively and helped me to learn more about documentary style photography. As a result, I have been privileged to have my images shared internationally on websites such as HuffPost, The Daily Mail, Baby Centre Espanol, & Breastfeeding Without Fear, just to name a few.
Although the old saying “breast is best” is well known, many now prefer to say “fed is best,” because like most things in life, breastfeeding isn’t a “one size fits all” kind of thing. I believe it’s important that all mums feel supported, regardless of how long they choose to (or are able to) breastfeed for. Whether they decide to supplement with formula or donor milk, if they stop when their baby reaches six months, or continue until they are two years old or more, it’s important that all mums receive the support they need to nourish their baby the best way they can.
Local businesses have been incredibly accommodating and supportive of the PBAP. They have made sure the heaters have been on to keep us warm on wintery mornings, and some have even offered to provide free cuppas for the mums during their photo session. I can’t thank them enough for their support, especially since some of the mums have initially been quite nervous about the experience of breastfeeding in public.
One particular mum confided in me after her session that she had never breastfed in public before. She had struggled with breastfeeding right from the start and many well-meaning friends had encouraged her to give up early on, but she chose to persist. She gave herself small goals to reach and as she reached them she set new ones, and now she is proud to have been able to continue breastfeeding her child for 12 months.
But, up until her PBAP session she had chosen to bring expressed milk in a bottle with her, or stop shopping and go home to feed her child, rather than breastfeed in public. She was nervous about participating in the PBAP, but was so excited to have the support of others at her session, helping her do something so normal, yet so far out of her comfort zone. After her session she was so proud of herself for achieving another breastfeeding goal. It makes me so happy to know that I’ve played a small part in helping boost another mum’s confidence in herself and her body’s ability to nourish her child, wherever and whenever.
As the PBAP moves forward, we are hoping to have the opportunity to include mums from more cultures and communities, to ensure that we can photograph many different perspectives, challenges and celebrations that impact a woman’s journey through breastfeeding and motherhood.
Although I absolutely love the families and newborns that I photograph on a regular basis, the mums I meet through the PBAP sessions have a special place in my heart. Each year I learn so much from hearing their breastfeeding experiences and seeing them encourage and support each other during the sessions. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.
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