Breastfeeding in Real Life: What it REALLY Looks like

Photography: Gina Marie Brocker

By Hannah Schenker

Often depicted in beautiful lighting, with radiant mamas and babes gazing lovingly into one another’s eyes, breastfeeding easily becomes lifted from its day-to-day realities and into a kind of holy experience. That not what everyone experiences. Sure, there are times when it feels easy and joyous and sacred, but more often than not it is just a part of daily life with all of its challenges, happening anytime, anywhere. Photographer Gina Marie Brocker wanted to show what breastfeeding is really like – exploring this through her series entitled Latched On: The Realities of Breastfeeding.

“Breastfeeding is a choice and commitment,” Brocker says. “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.”

By sharing photographs of mothers breastfeeding children in their daily lives, with all of life’s struggles and challenges, with children of various ages, in all kinds of different locations, Brocker hopes this will give mothers the strength to continue. That they will see that they are not alone, that other mothers out there are going through the same things.

Here is a small selection of her photographs and accompanying stories from the women being photographed. You can find more at Gina Marie Brocker’s website, and be sure to follow her work on Facebook and Instagram.

“As I sit here multi tasking, emailing and breastfeeding at afternoon pick up in the parking lot with the older sister occupied in the back and Marlin happily suckling in my lap, I realize that breastfeeding isn’t always “beautiful” in the aesthetic sense. What I love about it is the raw immediacy. A procrastinator and unplanner by nature, breastfeeding fits my lifestyle perfectly. Nothing to remember, nothing to clean, just my ladies and my baby.”
“Dear Sam, I never thought we would “do mimi” (nurse) for 3.5 years!!! But it is fading away, and I know it will soon come to an end… Since you nursed so long, you might later still remember mimi, perhaps a little, and I hope it is a good memory.”
“Before I had my daughter I had three miscarriages. I felt broken… It is wild how differently I look at my body now. The lack of trust I had in it years ago has been transformed. I now can’t help but view my body as a powerful life source.
“Nursing has, impossibly, gifted us more time… I wish her little body would fit, soft and heavy, in my arms for always. Still, in the shade of her deepest sleeps, I can see her rosy mouth, eyes closed and head bobbing, as she anxiously searches for my breast. And time feels, for just a moment, a little more manageable.”
“I pump because I am a working mother and I want to feed my baby with the most organic nutrients… I am on a strict schedule to pump at certain times to ensure I produce just enough milk to leave for my son while I am away from him. It’s a lot of work, and while nobody said motherhood would be a cake walk, pumping really is tough! Some days I feel like a cow hooked up to my milking machine – my nipples are sore, they bleed and are cracked.”
“It’s really not until you decide to venture outside of your home, that you realize the complexity of bottle feeding your child. You pre-fill a bottle and in addition take a frozen bag of breastmilk that your wife has carefully extracted, bagged and labeled days before, with the date, and volume, just in case you’re gone for longer than expected.”
“Thankfully, every breastfeeding journey is different. My first girl was a disaster, but my second daughter latched beautifully right off the bat and is very low-maintenance – perfect for allowing me to balance a very needy toddler at the same time! Our house can get pretty hectic, as invariably the baby needs to eat when the toddler needs the potty, or when we ALL need a bath, so we all just dive in together and get it done. Hungry babies have to eat! Motherhood comes with six hands right?”
See next page for more photographs…

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