I am thrilled to share these photographs with you today! I did a session with my friend Jill and she agreed to let me photograph her while she was breastfeeding her 13 month old son Luca. What a privilege to share in this moment with them. Luca is an awesome kid with a wisdom and a thoughtfulness that I love to watch. I can't wait to see him grow up. He also has an older brother, Declan, who is just as amazing.
I am in awe of mothers who breastfeed their babies and having done it myself I know what a challenge it can sometimes be. I asked Jill to answer a few questions for me, to get some insights into her breastfeeding relationship with her two sons. Here is what she had to say:
What is your favorite part about breastfeeding?
When the baby is young, the sounds that accompany breastfeeding are precious. Getting audio of them is a must because as much as I try to engrain them into memory, they fade! With Luca, my favorite part is the 10 or 15 minutes where I can rest with my feet up and focus on him. Ahhh, quiet! And most of all, and the main reason for wanting to breastfeed my children, is knowing that I can provide them with nature's best. I believe that the nutrition, antibodies, etc. that nature tailors for each little one is unmatched.
Have you had any challenges with breastfeeding?
Really, my biggest challenge with breastfeeding was just second guessing myself the first time around. The best advice someone gave me about motherhood in general was to just trust my gut and "listen" to my baby. That applies to breastfeeding and then some. With Declan, when he was about 4 - 8 weeks old, he would have a tough time latching late afternoon or early evening. He would "baby bird" as I called it, where he'd go to latch and then pull off with his mouth wide and open going from side to side. Looking back at it and with the wisdom of being a second time Mama, I see now that I was just BONE tired by that time of the day and my milk wasn't letting down as quickly. I would stress about it then. Now, I know sitting down with a cup of tea, breathing and just focusing on the love for that little baby would have been incredibly helpful.
This time around of course there have been hiccups here and there - milk production dipping (mostly during monthly hormonal times for me), some sore nipples from bites when my production did dip - but the big difference is that I just go with it. I am able to approach the challenge in a solution-oriented, but relaxed way, because I know "we" will work it out together.
How does your child ask to breastfeed?
He does the hand sign for "milk", opening and closing his hand, and sort of says a two syllable humming word that's difficult to put letters or a word to.
Do you have a favorite time to breastfeed?
Luca's two nap times because I get Declan set up with a quiet activity and it's 10 or 15 minutes for me to retreat to Luca's room, exhale and focus on the little guy.
Do you have a favorite spot to breastfeed?
Hmmm... not really. I'm sort of an anywhere kind of chick. But, I do enjoy a nice sunny spot. So, a comfy spot on the couch where the sun is streaming in through the windows.
Have you breastfed in public?
Many times. The first time around a handy, dandy cape (aka "hooter hider") was very helpful. It made me a lot more comfortable at a time when I was very focused on getting the correct latch, etc. I've been very comfortable with breastfeeding in public. If I'm in a place where I think there may be individuals who are uncomfortable, I try to be as discreet as possible. In restaurants, I'll choose a seat against a wall, etc.
Any funny breastfeeding stories?
In Mexico over the summer, I had some issues with my production dipping when Luca was about 6 months old. I think it was hormones and it just being so HOT. Luca was breastfeeding like a maniac. We were both quite thirsty. He ended up biting me out of frustration. OUCH. I was very lucky and never had to deal with cracked, sore nipples after birth. But, wow, I now have total empathy for new moms who go through it. Anyhow, trying to heal while in a wet bathing suit was not working. I needed to get some air. The glitch was that my parents were visiting and Dad is still uncomfortable with nursing. So, I was wearing sarongs loosely draped over my breasts, trying to be discreet, but in serious pain. I saw stars every time Luca latched. I finally said to my father, "Dad, these are not breasts. Think of them as bottles that feed your grandson". He learned to avert his eyes, have a sense of humor and I took to reading facing the other direction on the beach. And, sometimes Declan will say when I wake up engorged, "Whoa, your 'bee-bahs' are sooo big, Mom!"
How long do you think you will breastfeed for?
No time line. When Luca is ready and/or I am.
Do you have any advice for new Moms who want to breastfeed?
Find a great lactation consultant. When you feel stuck, reach out for help. Don't struggle with it alone. Two hundred years ago, we would not have been new Moms at home alone with our newborns. We would have been surrounded by women and mothers to help us in this process. As natural and amazing as breastfeeding can be, at the beginning, it can also feel far from natural trying to get the latch down, etc. Our hormones are raging and we can't help but second guess ourselves. The lactation consultants at the hospital were great. I found one who I never met with after I got home, but was able to call her with questions. She was GREAT.
Home made saline solution heals cracked nipples. The natural bacteria in baby's saliva can burn and get into the small lacerations. Apply saline after nursing and let it air dry. RELIEF!
Get baby to take a bottle early on so you can get some alone time. I started pumping only a 1/2 of an ounce at three weeks old. At the "last" before bedtime feeding, Daddy would give baby the bottle with only a 1/2 ounce and then baby would go right onto the breast. They are old enough for it not to cause nipple confusion and with so little milk in the bottle, they are not satiated and will still be eager to breastfeed. We did this nightly for weeks and then every couple of days consistently. Baby gets used to a bottle and we got to go on dates! Pumping after the 1st morning feeding is easiest when fullest.
What have you learned from breastfeeding?
I am a woman. I am a mother. I am a nurturer.
What fantastic advice and insights. Many thanks to Jill for allowing me to capture and share this beautiful moment with her son! For more breastfeeding advice and resources, please visit KellyMom.com for the best and most current research. If you are struggling with breastfeeding, please review these resources to find a board certified lactation consultant in your area or contact your local La Leche League.
If you are in the New York area and would like me to take your portrait (for ANY reason!) and be featured on this site, please contact me for more information.
Disclaimer: Breastfeeding at the breast is not always the best way to feed a child. There are many situations that require pumped breast milk or formula for medical reasons or preference. However, breastfeeding at the breast is the most natural way to feed your child, and I would love to see more mothers breastfeeding for the AAP recommended one year or more. I would also like to normalize breastfeeding by showing more mothers doing it. In an era when breastfeeding pictures are removed from Facebook for indecency, and women are asked to move at Target while breastfeeding, I hope that this goes a small way toward showing that breastfeeding is a normal, natural practise that mothers should not be ashamed of, hide or be discriminated against for doing.