Meet Vanessa Simmons, photographer and mom, here with her son and third child. For her, breastfeeding was a “long road.” She’s sharing her images and her story in order to make the world a more welcoming, supportive place for all moms. She’s created a media campaign to help the world see the beauty — and the normalcy — of nursing moms.
Vanessa shares her own story as well as those of other mothers as a way to normalize breastfeeding so more of us become used to seeing it as the wonderful, healthy, normal part of motherhood it is.
The campaign got started when she had a quiet photo session with this friend. Posted on Facebook, her images stirred up a lot of discussion, and things took off from there. Now she says her own photos have taken a backseat because of the many “amazing” photos and stories shared by breastfeeding women.
Diversity is a key part of her campaign to get people used to seeing all kinds of women breastfeeding and in all kinds of places. Rates of breastfeeding are climbing, but the
CDC reports much lower rates among black women. (2008 data show about 59% of black mothers begin breastfeeding their babies, compared with 75% of whites and about 80% of Hispanics.)
Anyone who says breastfeeding is easy probably hasn’t done it. It may be the most natural activity there is, but breastfeeding is sensitive to everything, from the amount of skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby in the baby’s first hour to the shape of a baby’s mouth to the level of support from a partner to sleeping needs of the mother to what kind of work a mother does. Each situation is unique, and as Vanessa says, it’s a journey that benefits from being shared.
The goal of the campaign is “friendly lactivism,” helping mothers help themselves by sharing information and also informing the rest of the world what breastfeeding looks like.
Simmons has plans to tour places where fewer women breastfeed, taking photographs and encouraging more women, as well as people in the communities they live in, to feel comfortable seeing breastfeeding, and doing it, even in public spaces.
Vanessa Simmons wants everyone to know that breastfeeding is challenging, incredibly rewarding for babies and mothers, and, above all, normal.