Photographer shoots down breastfeeding myths

A Melbourne-based photographer and breastfeeding advocate will take her project, What Does Breastfeeding Look Like, to London following a successful crowdfunding campaign which raised $4300.

Suzie Blake became increasingly frustrated with the way breastfeeding is being portrayed in the media, and in reaction launched the project to show the realities of breastfeeding for women.

Are these realistic examples of what breastfeeding looks like?

Are these realistic examples of what breastfeeding looks like?

‘I feel there is a distinct lack of authenticity in images of women breastfeeding,’ she said. ‘In the media most photos are highly stylised or unrealistic; many are sheer fantasy. Whether it be the angelic mother in her clinical white perfection or some model on the front of a fashion magazine. I’m tired of images that fail to show the realities of breastfeeding.’

The project is fairly simple – Suzie is looking for mothers who are willing to have their portrait taken while breastfeeding their child ‘in all it’s beautiful messiness’.

Since Suzie began the project with a self-portrait of herself breastfeeding her son and posted it to the project’s Tumblr site in early August, she has captured over 40 photos of other mothers breastfeeding in a realistic setting.

'The first photo I took was this one, it's a self-portrait of me breastfeeding my son Xavier. This is pretty much what I look like when I'm breastfeeding most of the time. I then put out a call out to see if other women might be interest in being photographed in the same way. The response has been incredible – so many women have offered their time and told me how relieved they are to see realistic images of women breastfeeding.' Source: Suzie Blake/What Does Breast Feeding Look Like

‘The first photo I took was this one, it’s a self-portrait of me breastfeeding my son Xavier. This is pretty much what I look like when I’m breastfeeding most of the time. I then put out a call out to see if other women might be interest in being photographed in the same way. The response has been incredible – so many women have offered their time and told me how relieved they are to see realistic images of women breastfeeding.’ Source: Suzie Blake/What Does Breastfeeding Look Like

‘This is about tired eyes and no makeup,’ Suzie told the Huffington Post. ‘This is about milk leaks and ratty hair. This is about giving in to all the demands of your 2-year-old while you try to feed your newborn. This is about dishes piled up in the kitchen and dirty laundry building in the corner. This is about puke on your shoulder and toys on the floor.’

Some of the photos include lengthy captions explaining the mother’s experience with breastfeeding – the good, bad, struggles and moments of joy.

‘Most women will experience breastfeeding for the first time in a hospital with midwives, nurses and medical professionals grabbing at their breasts,’ she said. ‘Most women, in fact, have never even seen another woman breastfeeding. In addition to this women are faced with ridiculous stereotypes of other women breastfeeding, so its no wonder that many women just give up altogether.’

Suzie added that the project is about empowering women to help tackle a ‘massive global health issue’. It’s not about criticising those models who feature in glamorous breastfeeding shoots, but rather provide an alternative which mothers will better relate to.

Lauren, one of the Melbourne mothers who has participated in the project. Source: Suzie Blake/What Does Breastfeeding Look Like?

Lauren, one of the Melbourne mothers who has participated in the project. Source: Suzie Blake/What Does Breastfeeding Look Like?

First stop on Suzie’s itinerary is the UK and continental Europe. Europe has the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. She has begun looking for mothers in London interested in participating in the project.

While the $4300 will be enough for Suzie to board a plane to London later this month and photograph breastfeeding women there, she has bigger plans for the project down the track.

If she manages to raise $50,000 through other avenues she said it’ll be enough to fund an exhibition which will tour the world. And eventually, with $100,000, she will publish a book. Anything less – ideally in the tens of thousands region – will help fund trips to different corners of the globe to photograph women breastfeeding in those places.

Oh yes – and the story has gained a bit of traction in the media, which helped Suzie fulfill her campaigns goals. Not quite viral, but it has landed headlines in the Huffington Post, various publications directed to mothers, Fairfax publications, Daily Mail UK, and elsewhere. (Surely a shoe-in for a Mumma Mia feature, but not yet!)

Click here to visit the Tumblr page Suzie has set up.


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