I began photographing breastfeeding mamas in honor of World Breastfeeding Week in 2012 and was so delighted with how many were willing and eager to participate that I launched a project to normalize breastfeeding in public in 2013 called The Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project. I also capture some very natural and beautiful breastfeeding moments during my lifestyle newborn sessions, but the public breastfeeding images are captured from a truly documentary standpoint, and have had the most impact on my audience. I am inspired by the women I have photographed, both in the comfort of their homes and out in public. It is both an honor to help normalize breastfeeding via my art and help break down misconceptions about breastfeeding in public through PBAP.
I breastfed 4 babies and had a difficult start with each one of them. So for me, breastfeeding was a journey paved with anxiety. I avoided public breastfeeding at all costs. Not only was I self conscious about my body, but I was afraid of what people would think about me baring my chest in public. My last baby was breastfed until she was 18 months old and I can count on 2 hands the number of times I breastfed her in public. While I am incredibly proud of how long she nursed for, I am very disappointed that it was not something others really felt like celebrating with me. I really wish I could go back in time and tell myself to not be ashamed. I wish I had taken more pictures of us nursing, because I miss that bond tremendously.
The more you see something, the more normal it becomes.
Morgan, pictured here, says ‘I breastfeed in public for the mom who is still struggling at home trying to nurse her 3 or 5 month old – lacking support and questioning each latch; I’ve been there. When I breastfeed openly I believe I’m helping pave the way for her to sit in public after me.’
It's not often we get to have images of this most beautiful of relationship between mother and child, and Leilani has truly given me a gift that I will always treasure.