The Honest Body Project is back—this time with photos highlighting the emotional bonding power of extended breastfeeding. Here are some of the most powerful.
Our fave photographer who gets right to the heart—and the honesty—of motherhood is back at it again with another inspiring series. Adding on to her already inspiring collection of powerful images depicting the stories and bodies of moms of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds, Natalie McCain, the Viera, Fla.-based photographer wanted to shed light the usually controversial topic, extending breastfeeding.
"I nursed both my of my children as toddlers and felt lots of pressure to wean because of how society views it," she said in an exclusive interview with Fit Pregnancy. "I hope that the portraits, paired along with the quotes, will help people see extended nursing for what it is: a continuation of a beautiful, natural thing."
In this series, McCain shares women who have decided to nurse their children past the age of 1, and she hopes that when mothers see and read about their choices, they'll remember that above all else, nursing is meant to provide nutrition for children, regardless of the child's age. "No mother should be ashamed that they nursed their child past infancy, as so many mothers are afraid to say this," she said. "There are so many benefits of nursing past 1—breastmilk doesn't suddenly become useless at a certain age!"
And yes, the benefits of extended breastfeeding are numerous, from boosting Baby's immune system to reducing mom's risk of breast cancer.
So let some of our favorite portraits and stories from the series empower you to realize you're not "still nursing" after your baby turns 1, you're just nursing.
"It bothers me to hear people say, 'When they can ask for it, they don't need it anymore.' Children ask for nourishment from the second they enter this world. A newborn asks by crying, sucking their lips, and putting their hands in their mouth. An older baby might ask by tapping your chest or signing. And now my toddler asks by yelling, 'MILKIES,' and pulling at my shirt! They ask from day one. They've just learned different and more evolved ways as they get older."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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!"
"Initially I didn't know I was supposed to have any goal other than to succeed. It wasn't until I moved back to the states that everyone was concerned about 'making it to...' whatever length of time. I feel very fortunate to have been in a culture that embraced breastfeeding as simply 'just the way it is.' My goal was to take care of my baby and it still is. I have learned over the years that breastfeeding offers so much more than nourishment, so I have embraced the breastfeeding journey longer and longer simply out of necessity and ease."
"Full-term nursing is linked to reduced rates of breast and ovarian cancer, is a source of emotional support, fosters independence, is an immune booster, and is the perfect make up of calories for your growing toddler. It is typical and the norm in most countries and I'm hoping that with time and education, like this segment of The Honest Body Project, the citizens of the United States will see that extended breastfeeding is 'normal' and should be accepted instead of frowned upon."