GO WITH THE FLOW
Photographs to celebrate the art of breast and bottle feeding
Nearly 20 years ago, a friend of mine, a young mum, was accosted by an elderly couple in a café for breastfeeding her baby. I did not witness it, but several hours later she was still quite shaken. We talked about it and concluded that, sadly, there was probably nothing we could do. Fast forward to the age of social media. The latest story doing the rounds (December 2017) is of a young, West Auckland mum who was kicked off a bus in Te Atatu because another passenger – and the driver, it seems – was offended because she was breastfeeding her newborn baby. Has so little changed in the last two decades? There have regularly been stories in the media about mothers being shamed, intimidated or humiliated for breastfeeding their babies in public. Every report I read I was reminded of my friend Jenny. A year ago I discussed it with a few mums I knew. Some had experienced shaming while breastfeeding in public, some had not. We wondered if, with the aid of social media, there was something – even a very small something – we could do. We created a Facebook page to promote the simple idea that mums – and dads – should be able to feed their babies anywhere, any time, and anyhow they choose, in
“Putting politics and prejudice aside, what is most important is that babies are fed, and that ultimately it is the parents’ choice how it’s done”
accordance with the Human Rights Act, and New Zealand law. About the same time, Facebook was wrangling with its own “community standards”, deciding whether or not breastfeeding photos violated said standards. As a photographer, pushing those boundaries appealed to my sense of mischief. The aim of the page, however, was to promote tolerance towards breastfeeding in public places simply by doing it, and posting photos online. Normalising it. We settled on ‘Fed Is Best’ as a name for the page before we realised it was already an international movement. The phrase, which was in common use, seemed to encompass our idea that, politics and prejudice aside, what is most important is that babies are fed, and that ultimately it is the parents’ choice how it’s done. It should be noted, therefore, that our page is in no way affiliated with the FIB movement. We’ve received a lot of positive feedback. Generally, it seems New Zealanders are quite tolerant to mums who breastfeed in public places, despite some pretty harsh criticisms online. Perhaps most people who object to it limit their objection and abuse to venting via their keyboard. Unfortunately, however, there are still too many who think it is their right to intimidate and shame mums for doing what is perfectly normal, and perfectly legal, to do anywhere, any time.
What is the Fed is Best movement?
Outside of New Zealand, The Fed is Best Foundation is a non-profit, volunteer organisation set up by health professionals in the US to help parents navigate the difficult situation they face when breastfeeding doesn’t work out. Through extensive research, they discovered that mothers often felt immense pressure by society and current breastfeeding protocols to exclusively breastfeed their infants, even when they didn’t have enough milk. While mothers and health professionals are taught that it is rare to have insufficient milk supply, in fact it affects up to one in five women in the early days of a baby’s life. In rare cases, when milk supply issues are not resolved, this can lead to infant health complications such as dehydration and starvation. Instead of staying mum on alternative feeding methods, the Fed is Best Foundation provides parents with up-to-date research and education in breastfeeding, supplementing, combined feeding, formula-feeding, pumped-milk-feeding and tube-feeding. Free resources for parents can be found on the Foundation’s website fedisbest.org. If your infant is failing to thrive, or you have serious concerns about weight loss or feeding habits, we recommend you consult a health professional.
Below, L to R: Rochelle, Steve, and partner, Hazel; and Right, clockwise from top: Anthea, Alice, Maria, Aimee, Charli, Casley and Emma, from Ashburton