Amber Marlow will never be a landscape photographer. She believes in love and friendship and her whole life's work focuses on capturing the joy in relationships. Amber specializes in portraits, elopements, and intimate weddings.Read More
Nothing makes me happier than taking pictures of people who are often unhappy with pictures of themselves, and having them love what I have captured. Ladies, I hope that you see what I see: Beautiful, amazing, energetic women who shine.
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.
One of my biggest lessons (of which there are many!) from attending ALT Summit last week was that when I relax and let things FLOW, my world is a much better place. Things happen, chance meetings occur and all of a sudden I am getting photographed by Karen of Chookooloonks. It was probably the most thrilling thing that happened to me while I was there, and it happened completely by chance, when I was supposed to be somewhere else.
I first discovered Karen's work after the 2010 Mighty Summit. I saw that she attended and began reading her blog. Her fantastic mix of photography and inspiration was exactly what I needed. Her story inspired me to re-focus myself on my photography and to work on building that part of my creative life. Last fall, she offered an online course called Pathfinder, and I signed up right away looking for some guidance out of the intensive, early years of parenting and into a potential career in photography and writing. The course was awesome and I threw myself into it, fully engaged in all the projects and interacting heavily with the other people taking the course. It was just what I needed. I also attended Camp Mighty, which continued me on the path of self-discovery and inspiration and now all of the ideas that began emerging last year have begun to grow with the knowledge and experience that I gained at ALT Summit.
ALT Summit. A place I had been dreaming of going for a year. It was the morning of the round-table discussions and while there was plenty of information to gather from all kinds of talented people, nothing was jumping out at me. I wandered around and finally sat down at a table where I was comfortable, but where I already knew everything the speaker had to say. I listened for a bit, but finally drifted off and chatted with Melanie Biehle of Inward Facing Girl and Catherine Connors of Her Bad Mother. Both are fantastic ladies and I loved chatting with them, but something was still pulling me out of that room, so I left.
It was strange. I knew all the action was there in that conference room, but I wandered into the break room. Immediately, before I even looked around the room, Karen said "Hi Leslie!" and asked if she could take my picture for her 1000 Faces project. We had officially met two days before and had chatted the day before, again in the break room after I had escaped from an intense panel, so we had already established a face to face rapport. I said that it would be awesome if she took my picture and tried to remain calm but inside I was doing cartwheels and giggles and feeling like a stupid school girl when the boy she really likes asks her out for ice cream. Seriously. On the outside I thought I was being totally cool, until I saw my picture.
Have you ever seen anyone look happier? Just look at me. Every single molecule on my face is smiling. ALL OF ME. I was so thrilled in that moment and it just totally shows. You guys, you can't hide enthusiasm, nor should you. It's contagious and people love to see it.
You see, I didn't know this was going to happen and I don't think I could have planned it. Maybe Karen did, but more than likely she was just letting things flow too, and seeing who might appear. These kind of chance encounters is what thrills me about life. When things seem to line up and just happen, when it seems like the universe is talking to you. There is a lot of work you can do to cultivate these kind of moments, but they can't be forced, they just have to be. I had built a relationship with Karen through her course, I had decided to attend ALT, I wore lipstick that day. All these things add up to an environment in which great things can happen, but then it's the randomness of deciding to leave a lecture or turning a different corner or trading a gift box for another one that can make all the difference in the magical things that happen in our lives.
So, in addition to creating the most thrilling moment of the conference for me, Karen also gave me a reality check. While we were chatting I mentioned, with a little thrill, that I showed my business cards to Amy Butler (who is tall, lovely, kind and generous) and she told me that I was a talented photographer. Karen immediately said, "Well, you don't need Amy Butler to tell you THAT! Just look at your pictures!" It sort of surprised me, the conviction with which Karen declared this, but of course she is absolutely right. The truth is that I might not really NEED Amy Butler to tell me that I am a good photographer, but it certainly feels super good to hear it and it's something that I kind of WANT. Especially at this beginning stage of things. Obviously Karen is right, we really shouldn't look for outside validation of what we do, but I also reminded her that this was literally my first blogging conference and stepping into the water with all these super talented people can leave a new participant like myself full of doubt. Unless Amy Butler tells us that we rock, and then we feel awesome.
Maggie, from Camp Mighty, said a similar thing to me. First of all, I had entered one of the mini-parties alone on Friday night to take some pictures and I saw her on the other side of the room. She did this cute little wave in my direction, through the sea of people, and I literally had to look around to see who she was waving at before I realised it was me. Me! Of course I went over to talk and she told me that she had read my post about being nervous before ALT and was like "Wha...?" all exasperated with me. She didn't understand how I could be nervous, presumably based on my behavior at Camp Mighty where I was doing my best to put it all out there, all the time.
I thought it was just so interesting that these two people whom I really respect, and who are well established in this community, were surprised to learn that I was nervous and had some self doubts. Apparently I am very good at checking that stuff at the door, which is a good thing, because really the last thing people want to see is a lack of confidence. Still, everyone is human and it's normal to feel these things, but it's just so important to breathe and work through the fears so that you can put yourself in fantastic situations.
I suppose it will come, with more conferences, with more experience. I do know that I have found a place where I THRIVE. I love going to these kinds of events and I... gulp... want to be a part of them in a bigger way. I have TERRIBLE stage fright, but something is telling me I need to start leading more. I think I would like to be on a panel or teach a class someday and even though the thought of it almost terrifies me to the point of paralysis, there it is.
Before I left to head home, I walked over to say thank-you to Gabrielle Blair and Sara Urquhart, the sisters who plan and run and make ALT Summit happen. I blurted out that I was thinking of submitting an application to speak at next year's conference. My ambitious fearless side said that. After I left, my self doubting, nervous side was screaming at me: You're not ready! You'll be too nervous! You won't be able to speak! You don't know anything! and for a moment I regretted saying that I wanted to do it. But I took deep breath and I reminded myself that I might not be ready right this second, but I have a year or two to figure it out. This fear I have, I can overcome it. The first step is saying these things out loud.
So there. I said it. I can go put it on my life list now and start planning out how to make it happen. Because when it happens, I am quite sure that I will be full of nerves and self doubt, but the important things is that IT DOESN'T MATTER, you can't let those things lead your life. You have to set aside all the things you think you should do and all the things you think you can't do because otherwise, how will fabulous unexpected things happen? How will you be great and do great things if you don't leave those things that aren't working for you and walk into the unknown?
We finally got our family portraits done and I love them. LOVE THEM. We had so much fun and everything just worked out perfectly. Deciding what to wear just happened naturally and easily, the weather was beautiful, the kids were awesome and our photographer, Eric Ferrar, was perfect. He guided us a little bit but let the moments happen without trying to pose us too much. He got some amazing shots and captured beautiful, fun moments. When we watched the slideshow (set to music) that he made for us, I was in tears. It was so wonderful to see our family through someone else's eyes. It's that weird thing of stepping outside yourself and looking in and thinking, Hey! We look pretty good together! It's hard to explain, but if you are at all considering having a family portrait session done, you should really do it. It doesn't matter how old everyone is, I've seen extended families with grandparents and babies have portraits done too. It's so awesome to freeze a moment in time so thoroughly and beautifully. A huge thank you to Eric for a wonderful job capturing us. Checking this item off my life list!
Visit the gallery to see all the photos from our session. Eric works on referral only, so let me know if you are in the Warwick, New York area and you would like to hire him. Visit his website to see more of his work.