Moms in North Carolina got together to mark World Breastfeeding Week with this stunning photo shoot, captured by photographers Leandra Perez and Samantha Snipes.

By Maressa Brown

Every year, August 1-7 is recognized as World Breastfeeding Week, which compelled moms everywhere to celebrate. And a group of nursing mamas from North Carolina, lead by mom of two Tara Corres, chose to mark the occasion with a stunning, empowering photo series. Shot by Samantha Snipes and Leandra Perez, the images initially appeared on Love What Matters, alongside a first person narrative by Corres, in which she details how she came to doing extended, tandem breastfeeding with her L.O.s. 

"My plan was to nurse my children full term until they chose to wean on their own," she wrote. "I ended up tandem nursing for two and a half years until my oldest was 4 and a half and she weaned. My youngest is 3 and a half and is still happily nursing a couple of times a day. She will wean when she is good and ready."

Speaking to Parents.com, Corres, 28, elaborated on what breastfeeding her girls means to her. "I am so happy to have been able to provide breast milk to both of my children," she says. "For me, it has been one of the best parts of being a mother. The closeness and bond that we have shared has been incredible. When I first started out with my eldest daughter, I never expected that I would nurse her as an older kid. Everything just happened so naturally."

She also hopes that by sharing her story through this photo series, she'll raise awareness about full-term breastfeeding. "Many people do it, but it is not talked about, because of negative comments from people who don’t understand it," Corres notes. "I believe that if it is seen and talked about more, it won’t be seen as such a negative thing by mainstream views."

Another mom featured in the photo shoot, Autumn Hicks, 25, sings the praises of full-term breastfeeding. She began nursing her daughter when she was a teen mom and college student. "I was lucky to have the support of my husband and family, because breastfeeding rates for this population—teen parents—are dismal because of lack of education, support, and the necessity to go back to work or school quickly," Hicks tells Parents.com. 

When her little girl turned one, she was still nursing throughout the day. "I didn't feel that it was right to stop our breastfeeding relationship," Hicks notes. "I decided to do research on the subject and found studies and evidence-based recommendations from international health authorities such as the WHO (World Health Organization) that recommended breastfeeding to age two at a minimum! I continued nursing her until 3-and-a-half years old when she naturally weaned."

Hicks' eldest is now 6, and she also has a 2.5-year-old and 6-month-old. "I nursed my second child and while pregnant with his brother, my midwives encouraged me to nurse through my low-risk pregnancy," she says. "When my third child was born, my middle child was under 2 years old and still nursing at nap and bedtime, so I redirected him for a few days while establishing a breastfeeding relationship with my new baby, and then resumed tandem breastfeeding them both." In the midst of this, Hicks earned her Bachelor's degree, which she received this past spring. 

The photographers couldn't have been more thrilled to capture these strong, inspiring moms in their element with their L.O.s—and out in a beautiful, natural setting. "Autumn messaged me and asked me if I would like to photograph her and her friends breastfeeding," Snipes tells Parents.com. "I was so excited and bounced some ideas off of Leandra."

In a statement to Parents.com, Perez elaborated, "Sam and I threw out ideas and locations. Sam was set on getting the girls in the water without a top while they nursed their little ones, because she wanted natural in nature." Meanwhile, Perez suggested the moms wear eye-catching dresses to feel glamorous. To complement that, Snipes proposed minimal makeup. 

The duo landed on the local waterfalls as the setting, which the moms adored. After choosing their wardrobe, which included the floral headpieces for the moms and babies, they were ready to turn their vision into a reality.

Snipes notes that while they were in the midst of the shoot, onlookers didn't "seem bothered. The strangers were smiling and saying how beautiful it was and then went back to playing with their kids. That's how it should be all the time."

The final result is not only breathtaking but certainly achieved Hicks' goal: "We all came together to commemorate our breastfeeding journeys and to do our part to normalize breastfeeding," she explains. "We come from all walks of life and have different experiences and breastfeeding journeys, but we all worked hard to feed our babies and want to encourage others to ignore the social stigmas and breastfeed wherever, whenever, and for however long they choose. I specifically want to encourage young mothers, student mothers, and working mothers and show them that breastfeeding is possible through many, many obstacles if that is what they choose to do. I would also like to encourage research and to always question the mainstream opinion."

Perez and Snipes' beautiful photo series is sure to inspire moms everywhere.

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