Latched On: The Realities of Breastfeeding
With my 10-month-old son strapped onto my front and camera in hand, I squeezed into Monica’s SUV. I began to document her feeding her 16-month-old daughter following the regular afternoon pickup of her older daughter. Marlin was snug in her lap nursing, while three-year-old Simona climbed to the front of the car to see what other entertainment she could find. Kids songs played on the speakers and the cracked windows let just enough breeze in. They were parked outside the Arnold Arboretum, in Boston, hoping to take advantage of the spring weather.
Breastfeeding is a choice and commitment. With its many rewards, comes challenges and sacrifices. Physical pain, being constantly on call and the unbalanced care-giving between you and your partner – to name a few. Battling outside criticism and judgment is often another hurdle families have to face. Often, mothers feel pressured from their own families to stop breastfeeding once their baby gets to a certain age. Partners have suggested that it’s inappropriate to nurse in certain public settings. One mother had laughing teenage boys photograph her while breastfeeding on public transportation.
According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in the United States, 81.1 per cent of babies are breastfed and 51.8 per cent are done so to the age of six months. Of this 51.8 per cent, roughly one-quarter are exclusively breastfed – meaning no formula was used. Throughout the rest of the world, an average of 43 per cent of babies are exclusively breasted until six months of age.
This past spring, the United States opposed a resolution to encourage breastfeeding in Geneva for the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly – a stark contrast to the Obama administration, which supported the World Health Organization’s long-standing policy of encouraging breastfeeding. A 2013 study in The Lancet found that universal breastfeeding would prevent 800,000 child deaths a year globally, save US $300-billion in health-care costs and improve economic outcomes for those raised on breast milk.
After personally navigating uncomfortable and challenging situations, the need to share the realities of breastfeeding led me to begin this project. Usually worn in a wrap – and often nursing – my son, and later, daughter, and I ventured into over 50 Boston families’ homes and lives to document their typical breastfeeding routines. Hearing from the various caregivers reaffirmed how crucial sharing their experiences are. Knowing the realities of breastfeeding empowers families and normalizes this very natural and beneficial part of life.
A small selection of photographs and quotes, from the larger body of work, are included here: