Photographer and mum challenges extended breastfeeding stigma with photo series of real women

Photographer and mother Natalie McCain has released a series of photos as part of her project to normalise extended breastfeeding.

In 2015, photographer Natalie created a series called ‘We are not still nursing, we are just nursing’ as part of her collection of work aimed to help women love their bodies called The Honest Body Project.

This series focused on removing the stigma from extended breastfeeding by capturing images of mothers breastfeeding their children, all of which were over the age of two.

Now, Natalie – who is a mum of two herself – has released a new series that once again challenges negative perceptions around extended breastfeeding, this time entitled ‘Breastfeeding Our Toddlers: A Full Term Nursing Series‘.

Extended breastfeeding – that’s past 12 months – is something many mothers choose to do. There are all sorts of theories as to when to stop breastfeeding; some stop after about a year, whereas some may continue until their child is a toddler and some even longer.

For some mothers, the concept of breastfeeding a child who isn’t a baby any more may seem a little strange, but Natalie believes it’s important to normalise both breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding.

‘Normalising breastfeeding, especially extended breastfeeding, isn’t going to happen over night. The more it is talked about and the more it is seen, the more it will become the norm’ she told us.

The mum, who breastfed her own children throughout their toddler years, has chosen to share her raw and beautiful imagery. alongside each mum’s story about their breastfeeding journey, with hopes that ‘more eyes will be opened to see just how natural and beautiful it is to nurse beyond infancy.’

‘While not everyone is able to, or wants to breastfeed, the more that we work to normalize it for future generations, the better. Women are still told to go sit in a bathroom and feed their baby. It is 2017. That is unacceptable.’

‘A few months ago when I was sick, I was feeling so awful and I just couldn’t nurse her right then. My daughter just curled into my chest and was so sweet and understanding. She stroked my hair and kept asking if I was okay. After a few minutes, I finally felt well enough for her to nurse. When I offered it to her, her eyes lit up and she said ‘Mmm, Mommy, thank you!’ Then she licked her lips and latched right on.’

‘I think people often unfairly judge things they don’t understand. Some people will always criticize parenting choices different from the ones they made. Exposure and education are the ways to change minds.’

‘Oh, nursing two has been so sweet. At birth, babies’ focus is on objects that are 8 – 10 inches from their face. The sweetest realization I had was while I was nursing both of my sons within two hours of birth. My sweet, sweet newborn could only focus on two things during that moment – my face and his brother’s face, both of which were between 8 – 10 inches from his face. Those were the only two objects he could clearly focus on and the two images he saw the most of. My 5 month now lights up every time he sees his brother and their relationship is so special. I don’t nurse them together any more, but I will forever attribute their bond to those moments they shared during those first two months of ‘sharing milk.’

‘You’re judging because you don’t understand. I’m doing the best I can do for my child, you don’t have to ‘get it’ because it’s not your child or your body. It’s mine. I will decide what to do with it. I don’t tell you how to raise your children, don’t tell me how to raise mine.’

Natalie’s previous series featured 36 black and white photos of American women feeding their children, some as old as five, and sharing the stories of their breastfeeding journey.

‘I am a full time working mom. I spend my evenings snuggling and nursing. It’s a unique bond that we have and it helps make up for the time spent apart.’

‘I’m proud to say we full term nurse, we don’t have a time frame we are looking to stop, and I am proud and comfortable with my choice!’

‘When the twins were getting close to 2 years old, I remember baby A nursing with me then all of a sudden he unlatched, babbled something I couldn’t understand to his brother, and then latched back on. Seconds later baby B came over and latched on. I know he must have been telling his brother to come and nurse!’

In 2015, Natalie commented on the project saying,’No mother deserves to be judged for how she chooses to feed her child. I personally nursed my children while they were toddlers and I can speak from experience when I say it is a very natural, beautiful thing.’

‘It’s time we support one another. What works for one family, may not work for yours, but that does not mean it is wrong.’

Most of the women pictured state that they will only stop breastfeeding when their child is ready, or asks to stop, no matter what age that might be.

Natalie will be releasing a book featuring all of her images in August 2017 which is available to pre-order now.

When did you choose to stop breastfeeding? Let us know by leaving a comment below!