The social norms around breastfeeding have been changing rapidly in recent years. More and more nursing parents have become comfortable with feeding their children out in the open, celebrating this very beautiful, natural act. They’ve also found another way to celebrate this physical bond with their babies and toddlers, through professional breastfeeding portraits.
While searching for gorgeous breastfeeding portraits, some of the photographers we encountered specialize in newborn portraits, and breastfeeding just comes with the territory. Others are wedding photographers who occasionally branch out. And some are photographers who want to capture all kinds of beautiful, real things in the world, of which breastfeeding happens to be one.
Still others go much deeper with their relationships to parents, combining doula services, lactation consulting, and birth photography, often culminating with breastfeeding portraits as an end result of all their other work.
“Most of what we do in the days and weeks after birth are checking in on families and seeing how breastfeeding is going,” Jess Thomas of Pittsburgh Born Photography tells SheKnows. “Being a birth photographer and doula is an all-encompassing service.”
It’s not always easy or comfortable for the parent of a newborn or a toddler to sit for a photo shoot, so there’s more than one skill involved in taking these pics.
“For moms who have not utilized my support services [as a doula and lactation consultant], we typically spend the beginning of the session getting to know each other and chatting about their motherhood journey so far, their experiences, their challenges, and their dreams and goals,” Jaimie Laki of Little Bear Photography in New Jersey tells us. “By the time their baby is feeling fussy, they’re usually happy for me to document them doing what they do best: soothing their baby. I am a strong advocate for responsive and instinctive parenting, which is another reason documentary photography is so special — we’re rarely aiming for the ‘picture perfect’ moments. Instead, we’re embracing the real. In doing that, I’m able to capture genuine emotions, connections, and relationships.”
As with any other form of photography, there’s a variety of styles of breastfeeding photography. They might be posed against a beautiful backdrop, looking like the angelic subjects of a 19th century painting. Or they could go for a more documentary style.
“I like to think my images are powerful works of art, and when the mothers look back at their shoot, they can FEEL the moment,” Trina Cary, a photographer based in British Columbia, says. “I don’t focus on perfection or ask moms to wear outfits to hide their postpartum body. I encourage moms to get photos done right away before their bump goes away, before they are fit and ‘photo ready,’ because I think it is important to remember all the stages of your pregnancy and love and give gratitude to your body and the beauty that it is. For me rawness and vulnerability are what makes art.”
While the parents in these photos are eager to capture this too-fleeting moment in time with their children, there are still those in the world who object to breastfeeding photography.
“I do think the more popular these kind of images have become to share, the more I see people learning how to be supportive or keep their opinions to themselves,” Zaki says. “Of course, there is still much work to do in making these images normalized, and there is always someone who is still offended. But they are becoming the minority.”