Magical, powerful, peaceful, frustrating, toe-curling – when it comes to breastfeeding, Jillayna Adamson has heard, seen and experienced it all.
Like many mums breastfeeding for the first time, the photographer found it agonising at the beginning. “I’d look up at the ceiling of our living room and try to just breathe while he ate, tears running down my face as I begged for it to end,” she writes in a post on SheByShe.
But with help from her mum, sister and eventually a support group, the US mum and her son learned how to nurse properly, and continued for a year. “I joke that I have breastfed this baby everywhere in the city; that if you live in St Louis, there is a good chance you have seen my boobs,” she writes.
Her experience inspired her to start her Breastfeeding is Beautiful project, capturing “the breastfeeding experience in modern America”. On online parenting boards, she found scores of women eager to be photographed and talk about their experiences.
“I tried to get a variety of infant ages,” she tells Babyology. “I also looked for a variety of different mothers – you’ll notice one mother is in a business suit as she is a business mum who works full time, other mums chose park locations, nursed lying, sitting on the floor or chair, etcetera. Essentially, I asked mothers what type of setting felt most natural or representative of their breastfeeding experience and went from there.”
She’s had a huge response worldwide, with many “appreciating and relating to it”. “It’s truly been great and inspiring,” she says. “I have also received some personal notes about people who were inspired to breastfeed with less embarrassment in the public sphere.”
Jillayna says breastfeeding in the US suffered a steep decline in the 1950s, because of free formula programs, lack of support and awareness, and the perception it was only for poorer families who couldn’t afford formula. In Australia, just 39.2 per cent of babies are breastfed exclusively by four months of age.
“And here we are today; so many years have gone by since shame was first stamped on a breastfeeding mother,” she writes in her SheByShe post. “The country stopped seeing breastfeeding as a regular part of motherhood, simply allowing it to become less normalised.”
(images via Jillayna Adamson)