I never snapped a selfie while breastfeeding, but I'm absolutely positive I looked nothing like Gisele, Gwen, Olivia and the parade of other famous moms who've shared their flawless nursing shots. While these ladies (or their stylists) hid their undereye circles and stretch marks, I was too busy stemming the milk spewing from my unused breast and trying to coax a little more support out of my groaning nursing bra.
But it's in those routine annoyances that Australian photographer Suzie Blake sees real-life art. In fact, she recently launched a photo series project to show the unvarnished, #nofilter side of nursing. The project, titled "What Does Breastfeeding Look Like?", uses candid images of women around the world feeding their babies at home. They're the antithesis of what Blake calls the "sheer fantasy" created by many of the polished feeding pics we're inundated with.
What's most striking to me is how she manages to elevate the normalness of nursing. Instead of Gisele's glam squad and Gwen's gorgeous Swiss backdrop, there are excitable toddlers running around, toys covering every conceivable surface, and the family dog snoozing nearby. Which is exactly Blake's point: "This project is about portraying breastfeeding in all its beautiful messiness," the mom of two and nursing advocate explains on the project's crowdfunding page. "This is about tired eyes and no make up. This is about milk leaks and ratty hair. This is about giving in to all the demands of your 2 year old while you try to feed your newborn. This is about dishes piled up in the kitchen and dirty laundry building in the corner. This is about puke on your shoulder and toys on the floor. This is about let down milk sprays in cafes and engorged breasts at the park."
Blake has a higher purpose in putting this all out in the open: She hopes the project's true-to-life images will offer some encouragement to breastfeeding women around the world, to show them that it's not always the sunshine-and-roses photos we see on Instagram and Facebook, and that it doesn't need to be. "They're going to think 'I don't look like her,' which is unhelpful," she wrote of picture-perfect brelfies. "Women who are trying to breastfeed need to see images and think, 'I can identify with that.' I would like all people to recognise that breastfeeding is the norm."
Here, a few of my favorite photos from the series so far:
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