Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project- PBAP2018 | New Jersey-Jersey Shore-South Jersey Breastfeeding Photographer

This year, 2018, marks the 26th year of World Breastfeeding Week and my 3rd rad year with Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project. In these last 3 years, I’ve had the honor of meeting some really incredible people and learning so much about what others go through in their breastfeeding journey. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns but in the end, we are just doing our best and doing what works for our own journey!

Before we jump into some images and the stories that go with them, I want to give a special shout to Brick Farmers’ Market at Windward Beach Park, Brick, Target of Stafford, Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center, Howell for being super supportive of breastfeeding in public and being so welcoming! Most of all, Thank you to those who participated in this project and continue to keep kicking ass! I truly have so much respect and love for you all.

In this post below, I’ll share some of the images I documented of these awesome mamas and the stories they shared with me about their own unique journey, as well as some images I captured of myself and my own journey. The amount of love and dedication to their children is incredible to see and to hear their stories, some happy and some very tough, is such an honor.

"Extended breastfeeding is such a joy. As my sweet, brave, independent and kind girl is nearing 2 years old in just 2 months I am filled with thanksgiving for this special time we have had together, however long it continues from here. Breastfeeding is such a connector for her and I in this hectic, busy life. She’s in full toddler mode - exploring the world around her. She doesn’t need me in quite the same ways she did a year ago. But I am her safe space. I am her comfort. I am her calm. I am her rest. She asks to nurse when she falls down, when a toy got taken by a friend, when she is tired and when she is sad. It isn’t always easy but it is a beautiful and magical time that I will always hold close to my heart as time goes on and she continues to be my sweet, brave, independent and kind girl." -Amanda

This year was Alicia’s 2nd year in a row participating in a session for PBAP, as well as having participated in a breastfeeding session with our friend Tammy (who’s images are right below this). I’m so honored to have had the chance to photograph two of her three babies and her for the project, and all three babies having been photographed by me. On this day, I met up with her and Tammy for their own personal PBAP session at Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center and it was the perfect location for these two amazing friends and their little ones to get together!

This was Tammy’s first time being documented nursing her oldest son for the project but her second time being photographed by me. I had a really great time working with her and her extended nurser, who was totally hamming it up for me! Such an awesome mama/son pair!

“Breastfeeding wasn’t always easy for me. I wasn’t expecting to struggle so much in the beginning. I thought I had to be doing something wrong, I kept thinking, “It can’t be this hard”. I’m so fortunate to have so much love and support from my husband, friends, and family. They have encouraged and helped me to be able to nurse dairy free for a year with no end in sight! My mother-in-law has even modified recipes to be dairy free so I don’t feel left out! I’m so lucky and feel honored I’ve been able to nourish my son with my body.” -Stacey, mom of Leo (13 months)

“This is my third nursling. You would think by now it would be easy, yet new challenges pop up everyday. From tongue ties to lip ties, over supply, over active letdown, mastitis and food protein allergies...with 3 babies I have nursed through it all. I remind myself to take it one day at a time and that no journey is perfect, nor easy. It makes it all worth it to see that tiny human smiling in their sleep after a full belly of breastmilk. I'm not sure how long this nursing journey will last, but I'm going to treasure every second.” -Bridget, mom of 3

“I’ve been breastfeeding for over 3 years- 2 with my daughter and now just past the one year mark with my son. We’ve nursed through tongue and lip ties with both babies, more rounds of mastitis than I’d like to remember, and so many developmental stages. It’s not always easy and can be a lot of effort, especially as a working mom, but every minute has been worth it. For me, breastfeeding has been one of the greatest joys of being a woman. It’s a gift only I can give to my children, and it’s perfect init’s completeness and in its simplicity. I don’t know how long the journey will take us, but I know this is a time I will always treasure and will miss when it passes. There’s nothing like feeding your child—that nutrition, love, and comfort flowing from your body to theirs, seeing their satisfied milky smiles and full tummies, and experiencing that incredible bond between mother and child. I’m grateful to have had an amazingly supportive husband along the way. He’s just as proud as I am when we nurse in public and takes a picture almost every time to capture how special it is. I think this project is just awesome in the way it celebrates and encourages nursing families and in the way it showcases the beauty of breastfeeding. I’m thankful to have been even a small part of such a powerful movement.” -Sarah


“My breastfeeding journey is embedded in loss and wanting to have that very special connection with my babies. The first time I was pregnant, I found out after going to the hospital for cellulitis on my birthday. I was just newly pregnant and had no idea until the nurse did a test so as to make sure I was on a safe antibiotic. I ended up miscarrying exactly at 12 weeks and ended up in the hospital because I was hemorrhaging. I got pregnant again 2 months later but soon miscarried a few weeks later but just 2 weeks after that got pregnant with my oldest living daughter. After a complicated pregnancy, two failed inductions at 36 weeks, I had a c-section at 37 weeks. I don’t remember when or how I came to the decision to breastfeed but it seems to just have happened. She nursed well from the left side but she had some issues latching to the right breast. Having been diagnosed with both mild lip and tongue ties, this didn’t make things easier. After having a wonderful lactation consultant from the hospital visit me on our 2nd day, I had some relief from engorgement. On our 4th and supposed to final day, she became jaundice and had to stay an extra 24 hours to be under the bili light, which the hospital so kindly brought into my room so that she could be close by to me and so I’d be able to nurse her every 2 hours. She nursed like a champ and it was pretty rad! It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, like I had imagined, though. A couple of months in, I was very worried I wasn’t making enough milk and we had given her one bottle of formula but after speaking to a wonderful LC from the hospital, who I had become friends with through a local mom’s group, I realized that I definitely was making enough. I realized that I shouldn’t go by what I was getting from with the pump and that I just don’t respond very well to a pump. I also had a bout of thrush when she was about 1.5 years or so. It was awful and so very painful! She was still nursing at nearly 2.5 years old when I found out I was pregnant again. I was told it was possibly twins, because the doctor thought he saw two! WHAAAAAAT?! So he sent me to a perinatologist to get a better look. I went to my perinatologist appointment at around 10 weeks and left in tears and having to make a very difficult decision. At that appointment, I found out that the fetus, who we later named Quinn, had a severe neural tube defect that isn’t compatible with life called Anencephaly. We were devastated and I made the very difficult decision to a medical abortion. To add insult to injury, my daughter seemed to begin weaning at that time (though she really didn’t nurse more than a few times a day and to sleep at that point) and actually only went down to nursing once a day for nearly a month. Then, shortly after my uncle (who was like my best friend) died and when I thought this was it for our breastfeeding relationship, she started nursing about 3 times a day again. That was short lived, when just two months later, at 2 years 8 months old, she self weaned completely. We had a great run though and I nursed her anywhere, any time she wanted to nurse! She was who made me unafraid to give her that comfort and not give a damn what anyone else thought.

Then, 7 months after our loss, I found out I was pregnant again! This time I was watched closely, had to be on a high prescription dosage of folic acid and had many scans and tests. We found out I was having a boy! I had a repeat csection at 39 weeks and he was so big and healthy. like his big sister, he was diagnosed with both mild lip and ties, as well as a high palate but he nursed so well! It was discovered at discharge that he was also jaundice but they allowed him to go home with instructions to keep nursing him every 2 hours and make sure he got lots of sunlight. His levels got pretty high once home and he endured heel pricks for nearly a month but he continued to nurse very well and got better. He seems to love boobie milk more than his big sister did! Fast forward to 18 months and we had to switch pediatricians, his new pediatrician detected a heart murmur that she sent us to have checked out. We found out he had a congenital heart defect called Coarctation of Aorta, meaning he was born with his aorta narrow after the aortic arch. As he grew, that narrow section got more narrow and he now required surgery. He had surgery a month after finding this all out and nursing him while in the hospital was so very crucial in helping him recover. The first time I nursed him after his surgery, it was the day after and he was still pretty sedated because of pain (in an effort to keep him from thrashing, ripping out tubes and keeping his blood pressure stable, they had to sedate him), and because of the chest tube, IVs, wires, leads and tubes, I had to lean over his crib and nurse him as he laid in bed. I would do anything to help my little guy out! He is now a thriving 21 month old toddler who is super active and getting better each day and still nursing everywhere and anywhere whenever he wants, just like his big sister! He still nurses a few times throughout the night and nurses at least a few times throughout the day with no signs of stopping! I’ve also been VERY lucky to have a husband and family who are beyond supportive of nursing my littles for as long as we mutually want to. They are my biggest support and my biggest cheerleaders in this journey and I’m so grateful to have such an amazing support system. I just wish that everyone could have that same awesome support that I’ve been fortunate to have.

My breastfeeding journey, with both of my living children, has been something nothing short of amazing and special despite the not so pretty things we’ve been through together. What makes it so much more special and worth the tough times is because of loss. I cherish it so much more and it makes me more determined to make things work for as long as the children want to continue. My breastfeeding relationships with them have been healing. They are the reason I got into documenting breastfeeding and why I was so set and determined to be a part of the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project team. I didn’t give up when others told me that breastfeeding past a year or that when they get teeth/bite/start talking that I should stop. Because of my breastfeeding relationships with my kids, it has made me a stronger person and has given me the confidence to ignore any dirty looks or ridiculous comments that we may receive in public. Our breastfeeding relationships have helped me stand up for others who are afraid to nurse in public out of fear of nasty looks or remarks. I want others to know that they shouldn’t be afraid to feed their baby or soothe their toddler or older child out in public. You are amazing and awesome and doing a kick ass job at this parenting thing! You are loved and I will ALWAYS stand up for you and sit with you if it means you won’t be scared into hiding in a bathroom or your car because of someone else’s in ability to not look or keep their mouth shut or mind their own damn business. Whether you use a cover, are like me and just “whip it out” or you pump or use a SNS or supplement, you are doing great!” -Caitlin, mama of Fionnuala (5.5 years old), Tadhg (21 months) and three babies in our hearts

Rachael’s PBAP session was a year in the making, as we had originally planned to meet up last year but our lives had gotten a bit busy. We finally had a chance to meet up for a sessions with her middle little, as she was just a couple months away from giving birth to her new baby! I was so happy to meet up with her and do this session with her. We had a great time, great conversation and lots of laughs and her daughter was so fully of energy! Rachael had quite a story to tell about her journey through motherhood and breastfeeding!

Michelle’s session came after having to reschedule a few times due to weather but when this session date came, we had some pretty nice weather! We chose to meet up at one of the local parks with such a beautiful view of the Bay and Barnegat Lighthouse. We had some great conversation and caught up on what was going on in our lives. Her and her sweet little babe was so lovely and it was so beautiful to document their sweet bond!

Are you or someone you know interested in more information about one of these sessions, or interested in documenting that beautiful breastfeeding bond in the privacy of your own home? Please reach out! I’d be more than happy to give you all the info and help you set something up! But right now, please click here to check out some more incredible stories and stunning images shared by the always amazing Northern Virginia photographer, Blaire, at Second Ave Photography. You will not be disappointed!