Before I had children of my own, I didn’t see many women breastfeeding — or taking pictures of themselves on the rare occasions I did notice a mother nursing her child. And if I had seen it, I probably would have wondered why someone would take a picture of something so . . . normal. So mundane. I mean, it is just a baby. Feeding. At a breast.
When I had my first child, I fully intended to breastfeed him . . . when he wanted, where he wanted, for as long as we both wanted it to continue. I didn’t think about making it a lasting memory. There was no way I was ever going to forget breastfeeding him, right?
I’ll never forget the first time he latched on, barely an hour after he was born, while I was still in recovery following my C-section. Or when we finally mastered side-lying nursing (not until 3 months! and what a game changer that was!). I kind of wish I could forget the first time he bit me. Or the look in his eyes the first time I said “no milk.”
I think because he was my first child, and what I knew about breastfeeding was so utilitarian, I thought nursing was about the food. I didn’t realize how it is so much more than that. Two more nurslings later, I know better.
The milk our bodies produce and our offspring thrive on is magic. It fills a hungry belly. It soothes real and imaginary hurts. It’s comfort and bonding. Breast milk is more than food. It is love, liquefied.
When my second child was born, a daughter, I started snapping pictures of her as she nursed — breastfeeding selfies, or Brelfies I’ve heard them called. I took hundreds, possibly thousands of pictures in the 11 months and 3 weeks she fed at my breast. I even had professional pictures taken of her nursing around 3 months old.
Receiving nourishment, comfort, love.
The day after I realized she was finished nursing for good, I uploaded all the pictures I had saved and made a “book” on Photobucket. I remember holding back tears, I didn’t expect our journey to end so soon. I don’t go back and look at it often, but I know it’s there. Kind of like my wedding album. All those memories, captured. Frozen in time, waiting to be re-visited and lingered over.
She weaned so much earlier than I hoped, due to an unexpected pregnancy. Although I knew my breastfeeding journey with her was complete, I had a new adventure to look forward to . . . and I knew it would be my last.
When my final son arrived, the pictures began at once. My doula captured his first latch, and I used my smart phone to capture hundreds more over the course of the 27 months he received liquid love from my breasts. I took full advantage of professional photography too, and lost track of how many pictures I have saved of him nursing.
I have photos of him, brow furrowed in concentration, tiny fists balled up, focused entirely on the task at hand. I have images of him gazing up at me in love, grinning, with milk dribbling out of his sweet mouth. I have hundreds of pictures of him nursing to sleep — because the better part of the last year he nursed, that was the only time he did. And you know what? My only regret is that I do not have more pictures.
Looking back, I wish I had photos of my first son nursing at my breast. He’s five now, going on six. It comforts me to know that he remembers, or at least says he does, the times when he “drank milk from mommy’s boobies,” and how happy it made him. I hope he remembers forever.
But memories fade, and that’s why pictures are important. Take them yourself. Don’t be shy about letting your friends and family snap them either. Ask one of the many wonderful local family photographers about a nursing session. They are often more affordable that you might think!
Some of my pictures you can barely tell I’m nursing, others show a whole lot more. Both are important in the grand scheme of things, because they are all part of the movement towards normalizing breastfeeding. I hope by the time my kids have children of their own, breastfeeding won’t be seen as the best option, or as a super power only some women possess, but just one of the normal ways you feed babies. I want my sons to be advocates and supporters of breastfeeding mothers, and I hope my daughter chooses to breastfeed her babies if she has them. And I think having pictures in their virtual baby book of their own days as a nursling will go a long way towards that goal.
My daughter still remembers. And I’m fairly sure my baby boy won’t forget anytime soon — it’s only been a month since he nursed for the last time. I hope I never forget. But just in case, I have the pictures, that will spark a memory. And they are all happy ones.