Real Talk: Breastfeeding

Back in October, a photo of a mother and her child in the ocean began to make its rounds online. Some thought it was a beautiful representation of a relationship between a mother and child. Others thought it was inappropriate and began to give unprovoked parenting advice to the woman in the photograph, who they had never met. But why the controversy? The mother in the photo is breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding and motherhood isn’t a topic I would normally cover on my blog. I am not a mom myself. But I have to admit, I have been more than a little curious to hear from someone who is a mother and is currently breastfeeding to get an understanding of what motherhood and breastfeeding means to someone who isn’t just blindly listening to debates about it on T.V.

Paulina Splechta is a mother and photographer. Her work focuses on motherhood, with an emphasis on breastfeeding. That photo of the mother and child in the ocean? Paulina’s work. She is also breastfeeding herself.

Here she explains her choices and her own struggles with breastfeeding, her photography, and gives advice to moms and the future generation of moms alike.

What about a mother/child relationship speaks to you on an artistic level?

Although I have been a photographer for much longer, it wasn’t until I became a mom that I realized why I love photography so much and what I wanted to do/achieve with it.  I realized I wanted to capture how I felt about my child on camera, it was so important to me to capture those sweet moments when we are hugging, looking at each other, when I am nursing her. And I realized I wanted to capture that for other moms.p3

What made you want to showcase breastfeeding in your photography?

I became incredibly passionate about breastfeeding photography through various stages of the first two years of having my daughter in my life. But the passion to photograph breastfeeding slowly started developing through my experiences of hearing other mamas talking about it. Suddenly the stories my mom had shared with me throughout my life growing up of how her overbearing relatives preventing her from breastfeeding her first born child 47 years ago became so very emotional to me now that I was a mother. I couldn’t imagine ever allowing anyone to take my child from my bosom and not allow me to provide her with that nourishment. But it was during one particular family shoot in the earlier part of last year when a mama took a break from her family shoot to nurse her child over on the other side of the location we were photographing at. I stopped and asked the mama, “would you like some photographs breastfeeding your daughter… so they can be a beautiful memory for you for this amazing relationship you share with her?” She had never considered it. Breastfeeding photography was just not part of the plan during her family photos. She did agree and the love I saw in her eyes and the contentment and calmness in her daughter just made my heart overflow with happiness. I realized I wanted to capture this moment for every mother I photograph on that day.

Breastfeeding is often in the media and there seems to be a strong divide of opinions. What do you want the public to know about breastfeeding?

As I started sharing breastfeeding photography earlier last year, I lost a lot of Facebook followers I had gained over the years as a photographer. But gained an entirely new following consisting of moms who have some kind of backstory about their experiences breastfeeding. I have read a lot of what people who aren’t really sure about seeing these kind of photos online think. I think based on how comfortable our society has gotten to not seeing breastfeeding mothers, it is kind of normal to read about and hear some of these reactions. Even the really harsh ones. I’m not really shocked because there are a lot of very vocal people out there who think photos of breastfeeding moms are wrong, and even people who are just against breastfeeding in general. I want to continue providing my service for moms who have this incredible bond with their child and want to remember this moment forever.

What emotions do you hope you instill in anyone who views your work?

I want people to continue seeing my work, but not just mine. I want moms to not be afraid to share even iPhone photos. Getting pictures of moms breastfeeding onto social media is the best way to get the word spread all over the world that it is an incredibly common and totally normal thing, not only to breastfeed, but that extended breastfeeding of older toddlers is very common and very normal too! A lot of people don’t know that maybe half of their Facebook mommy friends are breastfeeding. The more people get used to seeing it, whether they are annoyed or not, the more normal part of society it will become. I think it’s more important to look to the future too, instead of necessarily having a main goal to change society’s views now. If our kids growing up see kids their age nursing at playgrounds, parks, the mall, the grocery store, it will become so normal to them, that when they are older and become parents themselves, it really won’t be such a far-fetched idea for them to breastfeed their babies and toddlers.

What would you say to new or expecting mothers if they are hesitant to breastfeed because of backlash in the media?

Some mamas have had a rough journey physically breastfeeding such as painful or poor latch, undiagnosed tongue & lip tie problems, mastitis, glandular issues, and more. Other mamas have lacked support in their home and community and even some mamas have had a difficult journey breastfeeding in public places due to strangers saying something negative or making negative glares.

But even for the moms who have been blessed with an easier path in their breastfeeding relationship… there is so much to celebrate!

My own journey with my daughter was very difficult so I can very easily relate to moms who don’t want to breastfeed for numerous reasons or who are breastfeeding and don’t want to breastfeed in public. In the beginning on my breastfeeding relationship, when we would go anywhere, it didn’t matter how much I tried avoiding breastfeeding in public, my then infant would become totally upset and there was no way to calm her down other than to nurse her. It was just not practical to leave every single time she became upset. So ultimately I bought a nursing cover for public outings. Back then I was so concerned with what everyone would think. I wondered if it was okay to breastfeed in public, if it was legal even. So I always nervously nursed with a breastfeeding cover, until my infant got to the age where she kicked or pulled it off, and it got to the point where the cover became an unbearable annoyance. So I always nervously nursed with a breastfeeding cover, until my infant got to the age where she kicked or pulled it off, and it got to the point where the cover became an unbearable annoyance. Ultimately mamas who persevere will get to that point where they realize, breastfeeding, just like every other aspect of parenting, is no one else’s business/decision but your own. And that breastfeeding your child, whether at home or in a public place, whether with a cover or without one, is as normal as it is to give them a bottle or a pacifier.

To you, what makes breastfeeding beautiful?

There is such a short amount of time during which our children will be 100% dependent on us. The time during which we can provide them with this nourishment and comfort. Everything is beautiful about breastfeeding, when you look at a child’s face when they are nursing. They are in their happiest, safest, most comfortable place on earth. And for mothers who have had to overcome the most difficult of obstacles to make this possible, and even for moms who this has come a bit easier to, these moments when we can provide to our babies and toddlers at 100% are fleeting and precious. It is what we as women were created for.

You can follow Paulina on Facebook, Instagram, and her website.

 SOURCE: Kristin Piazza