Project lauds how women feed their ba­bies

Area woman’s project lauds moms and how they nour­ish their ba­bies

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By M. English For Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

“At the end of the day, most moms have one goal in mind — to love and nour­ish their child. We all want our chil­dren to be healthy, strong and in­tel­li­gent, and we are all work­ing hard — day-in and day-out — to en­sure that our lit­tle ones re­ceive the best care.”

— Caitlin Do­man­ico

When a re­cent Cos­mopoli­tan mag­a­zine blog fea­tured pic­tures of moth­ers bot­tle-feed­ing their ba­bies from her United We Feed photo se­ries, Caitlin Do­man­ico was thrilled. The Up­per Gwynedd woman had cre­ated United We Feed “to cel­e­brate all moth­ers and the way they feed their ba­bies as a way to bridge the gap and stop the ‘mommy wars’” — specif­i­cally, the seem­ingly end­less de­bate over choices re­lated to so-called “nat­u­ral” ver­sus med­i­cated birthing, breast ver­sus bot­tle-feed­ing, cloth ver­sus dis­pos­able di­a­per­ing, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

“I have to ad­mit I al­most fell off my chair when I saw I had an email from Cosmo telling me they had found my project and were won­der­ing if I had bot­tle images I could con­trib­ute to their ar­ti­cle,” says Do­man­ico, who spe­cial­izes in fam­ily pho­tos. “The au­thor did men­tion that she was hav­ing dif­fi­culty find­ing pho­tog­ra­phers who specif­i­cally take pho­tos of moms us­ing a bot­tle to feed. I feel like breast­feed­ing is be­com­ing more and more ac­cepted, and this helps start the con­ver­sa­tion that will end the mommy wards. Ku­dos to Cosmo for think­ing about the other side.”

Ac­cord­ing to Do­man­ico, her United We Feed pho­tos “sup­port the ‘rad­i­cal’ no­tion that ba­bies and their ma­mas can be just as in love, just as bonded and just as well-nour­ished no mat­ter the de­liv­ery of milk.”

The re­sul­tant images — por­traits of women in a va­ri­ety of child-feed­ing modes — are cur­rently posted on her web­site, but Do­man­ico an­tic­i­pates stag­ing “a gallery event” at her North Wales stu­dio and pon­ders the pos­si­bil­ity of ex­pand­ing her con­cept into book form. In “the

very long term,” she hopes to pho­to­graph sub­jects in­ter­na­tion­ally.

“When I was a baby, my mom nursed, but many women were us­ing for­mula,” says the 32-year-old mother of Ava, 6, and Genevieve, nearly 2. “As I came closer to be­com­ing a mom, I knew I also wanted to nurse. I sought out sup­port from other nurs­ing moms so that when Ava was born, I felt some­what con­fi­dent about breast­feed­ing.

“At the same time, many of my friends and my sis­ter were hav­ing ba­bies, (and) I started to no­tice we all did things a lit­tle dif­fer­ently. Be­tween all of us, we gave birth at home, in a birthing cen­ter, in a hos­pi­tal with­out meds, in a hos­pi­tal with meds, via C-sec­tion af­ter hours of push­ing and via sched­uled C-sec­tion.”

That was just the be­gin­ning.

“We cloth di­a­pered, and we used dis­pos­able di­a­pers,” adds Do­man­ico, also a spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion teacher and in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tor for birth through three­year-old ser­vices via Ea­gleville’s Arc Al­liance. “We went back to work, we stayed home, or we worked from home. Some ba­bies took a bot­tle of for­mula right away, some mom­mies pumped their milk, some nursed, and many did a com­bi­na­tion.”

She ob­served the same vari­ables among her photography clients. Re­gard- less, all were “just fine, we could say with cer­tainty our ba­bies were loved, we could say with cer­tainty we had a beau­ti­ful, ever­last­ing bond with our lit­tle ones.” Still, as Do­man­ico saw it, “there was al­ways a lit­tle pang of guilt, of com­par­i­son, of de­fense” among the var­i­ous camps. Which op­tions made for smarter, bet­ter-ad­justed, more-bonded kids? Turns out, they all did. “At the end of the day, most moms have one goal in mind — to love and nour­ish their child,” she main­tains. “We all want our chil­dren to be healthy, strong and in­tel­li­gent, and we are all work­ing hard — day-in and day-out — to en­sure that our lit­tle ones re­ceive the best care.”

A lon g t he wa y, Do­man­ico came across the per­sonal jour­nal en­try that trig­gered her United We Feed photo se­ries: “One goal, same goal, moms unite, bridge the gap, ev­ery mother, ev­ery baby, baby’s gotta eat, all moms unity.”

“As I was read­ing (this) to my stu­dio mates, I yelled ‘United We Feed,’” she re­mem­bers. “Yes! The project was born.”

And con­tin­ues to evolve as Do­man­ico ex­pands her sub­jects be­yond the tra­di­tional.

For ex­am­ple, “learn­ing about tube-feed­ing sched­ules and all kinds of other awe­some ways that fam­i­lies work to­gether to nour­ish their lit­tle ones,” she con­tin­ues.

“Com­ing up on my cal­en­dar is a beau­ti­ful fam- ily of three — two ma­mas and their new lit­tle one — and I am cur­rently sched­ul­ing two more mom­mies and their baby girl. I also hope to set­tle on a photo date with (a fam­ily) that has a lit­tle boy who is tube-fed and ... has Down syn­drome. As I meet more fam­i­lies and talk about the project, I hope some­one will be able to connect me with two dads and their baby as well as other fam­ily (and) feed­ing struc­tures. For ex­am­ple, ba­bies with cleft lips.”

For now, Do­man­ico prefers to let things “de­velop or­gan­i­cally at the same time, chas­ing the snow­ball as it races down the hill gain­ing more and more mo­men­tum.”

“Some­times, you re­ceive a call­ing in life, and this seems to be one of mine,” she muses. “It com­bines all of my pas­sions, and, as an aside bonus, I get to ed­u­cate my lit­tle ones about the beau­ti­ful ways f am­i­lies work — tra­di­tional mar­riage, same-sex mar­riage and fam­i­lies with spe­cial needs.”

To date, out­side re­sponse has been “amaz­ing.”

“So many women have been email­ing me and writ­ing me on Instagram, Twit­ter and Face­book to thank me for in­clud­ing the bot­tle moms,” Do­man­ico says. “One mom even told me she cried and got a sense of heal­ing from it. That is so mag­i­cal to me — the power of a photo as well as com­mu­nity sup­port.”

PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF CAITLIN DO­MAN­ICO

Caitlin Do­man­ico with hus­band J.P. and their daugh­ters, Ava, left, and Genevieve.

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