A series of photographs from popular US maternity photographer Natalie McCain highlights a collection of American women who continued to breastfeed their children past the 12-month-old mark.
As part of McCain’s Honest Body Project and titled “We are not ‘still’ nursing, we’re just nursing”, the series hopes to “open the eyes of many who are wrongfully judgemental towards extended nursing, also known as full term nursing. No mother deserves to be judged for how she chooses to feed her child.”
Each stunning black and white photo of a mother feeding her child (or sometimes children) is also accompanied by a quote, shedding some light on the mum’s breastfeeding journey.
The UK has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world with only one in five women exclusively breastfeeding for six months – which is the amount of time that World Health Organisation recommends. In most countries, nursing a child until he or she is up to five years old is completely normal, it just seems unusual in the UK because it’s such a rarity.
“From the outside breastfeeding a child who isn’t a “baby” anymore may seem strange. But as the mom nursing a child “this long” I can tell you it just feels like another stage of nursing following the one before it. I’ve held this child and nursed her day after day since the day she was born and though over time she has gotten bigger and heavier and nursing has changed she is still my baby girl and it still feels just as right as it did the first time I nursed her.” [Photo: The Honest Body Project]
“The question that bothers me the most with full term nursing is, “When are you going to stop?” Why do I have to stop? Do we have to have a date in mind? My child feels comforted, she is smart, confident, and independent so nursing isn’t holding her back in any way! She loves to nurse, she loves to be close to me. Let’s face it, all these cute little faces are going to be teenagers one day and want nothing to do with their parents.” [Photo: The Honest Body Project]
“I am a full time working mom. It is so hard spending my day away from my babies. I am fortunate that as a teacher, my husband is able to bring my sons to school during my planning/lunch period so I can see them and nurse them. The best part of nursing for me is the reconnection we get when I come home everyday. I spend my evenings snuggling and nursing; daddy makes us dinner so I can spend that time with them. It’s a unique bond that we have and it helps make up for the time spent apart.” [Photo: The Honest Body Project]
“Will they ever stop? Yes, yes they will. As my daughter approaches 5 years old I have even asked myself this question but I know that her breastfeeding journey will end. It will end exactly when it should for us. Every breastfeeding relationship is different and unique. Research and trust your heart, you will find what is right for you and your child and it will be amazing.” [Photo: The Honest Body Project]
“There will be a day when he will no longer choose to nurse and I trust my son enough to tell me when that will be.” [Photo: The Honest Body Project]
“I never in 1 million years imagine my son would be 3 ½ years old and still asking for “milks” daily. There are some mornings he wakes me up in a very loud abrupt manner, and the selfish side of me just wants him to leave me alone. But there are more times when he wakes me up in such a sweet loving way, snuggles up next to me, and in the cutest voice ever, tells me he can smell my milk and asks if he can ‘please pretty pretty pretty pretty please have milks.’ He could be in the worst of moods but as soon as I let him enjoy his milks, all is well in his little world and it sets a much more positive tone to his day.” [Photo: The Honest Body Project]
“When the twins were getting close to 2 years old, I remember baby A nursing with me then all of a sudden he unlatched, babbled something I couldn’t understand to his brother, and then latched back on. Seconds later baby B came over and latched on. I know he must have been telling his brother to come and nurse!” [Photo: The Honest Body Project]
“My initial goal for nursing was to just get over the first two weeks which I’ve heard is the biggest hurdle and to go from there. As our nursing journey has progressed I then set some milestones like six months and one year. Once my son reached a year it dawned on me… why do I have these “goals” for how long I feed and nourish my child? We are almost three years into this breastfeeding journey. I never once had the thought of “I’m going to stop nursing at such and such age”. Self-weaning is what is working for us. When my son feels he is done is when we are done.” [Photo: The Honest Body Project]
“When my son was 16 months old we were going to be flying together. I knew he was going to want to nurse on the flight and I was so nervous of what my seat mate would think when I was nursing my rambunctious toddler. Would they stare? Would they be judging me? I had an older lady sit next to me, notice I was nursing and went on to tell me how wonderful what I was doing was. I immediately felt so much more at ease about my decision. My son soon after self weaned. Now with my daughter, I’m proud to say we full term nurse, we don’t have a time frame we are looking to stop, and I am proud and comfortable with my choice!” [Photo: The Honest Body Project]
“I initially planned to breastfeed for a year because that’s just what everyone said. The AAP, many parenting books, family and friends etc. I had no idea how much my mothering would be entwined with breastfeeding, or how important breastfeeding would be to my child at that point. It seemed only natural to continue once we reached the 12 month mark.” [Photo: The Honest Body Project]
“My oldest son was also the first great grandchild. His Great Gran passed away before his first birthday. The family was at Hospice House in Malabar, just sitting around spending time together. I was by her bed with my son, he was getting fussy and she told me to go ahead and nurse him. She asked me to stay there and she just held my hand and watched. She didn’t nurse her babies, but was glad I was nursing mine, she told me how precious she thought it was. That was our last evening together talking; the bond of nursing connected more than mother and child that night.” [Photo: The Honest Body Project]
“When I notice my daughter starting to get worked up we practice deep breathing and I offer her some mama’s milk. Together they help her feel a sense of confidence that she can tackle the emotions that she is feeling.” [Photo: The Honest Body Project]