I’ve been breastfeeding my daughter for 13 months - and it’s honestly one of my proudest achievements - says columnist Nicola Brear.
Like many new mums, I had a rocky start; enduring weeks of marathon round-the-clock feeding sessions, painful engorged skin and raw, cracked nipples.
I only made it through due to amazing support from my local breast support team - whose number I had on speed dial - and my fiance Adam, who held my hand as I sobbed with the pain, fed me cups of tea through a straw and made sure the TV remote was always within reach. I’m so grateful to them all. And since we got into the swing of it, at about five weeks, though it’s been a commitment, it’s also been absolutely brilliant - it costs nothing, is always available and requires no preparation. I’ve found it’s been a particular comfort since I started back at work last month and, after spending the day apart, Imogen and I are really enjoying the closeness and cuddles of her bedtime feed.
Which is why when an opportunity came up for me to give something a try, I jumped at it. It’s something that’s been poking its nose up in the press, and on social media, a lot lately, We’ve seen photos of supermodels doing it in the make-up chair and Tweets of actresses doing it on set. I’m of course talking about latest evolution in photography - the Breastfeeding Shoot.
Now we have photographs of Imogen sleeping, eating, bathing and doing just about everything else she’s ever done in the past 12 months. We’ve documented her every move as only ‘crazy in love’ new parents can, but it occurred to me recently that there is not a single photograph of me feeding my daughter. Surely that’s not so unusual, you’re probably thinking. Well...I don’t know. After all, I’ve fed her, literally, thousands of times in this past year - at home, in the homes of friends and family members, in restaurants, shopping centre - even the car! It’s been a huge part of our life together and as we draw close to the end of our breastfeeding experience, is it that difficult to imagine I might want a photograph to remember it by? According to Adele Haywood, of Blue Lights Photography in Barnsley, not only is it understandable, it’s becoming more common place.
The 31-year-old photographer explained: “People hire me to photograph their weddings, their baby’s birth, their first birthday - breastfeeding photography was the next natural progession. It’s a wonderful, intimate time and it doesn’t last forever, so it’s lovely for mums to be able to immortalise it.
“It’s very discreet and I do the photography in my studio, or even in the comfort of a mum’s own home, so it really is a very natural setting.”
Adele has been working as a professional photographer since 2007 and says that, in that time, she’s watched as a number of trends have made their way over from America.
“Birth photography, engagement photography, prom photography - it all started life in America and is now big business over here,” she said.
“I believe breastfeeding photography is the next big one we’re going to see.
And Barnsley mum Amy Lewis said that could only be a good thing: “I know you’ll always have your memories, but I loved the idea of having something physical I could look back on,” said the 27-year-old mum, who booked in for her own Breastfeeding Shoot with Adele this week.
“Plus it’s yet another thing to get breastfeeding out there, which I think can only be a good thing.”
Amy breastfed her son Alfie, now four, for the first six months of his life and is still going strong feeding his nine-month-old sister Lola.
“I absolutely love the experience and I think it’s strange that breastfeeding is still something of a taboo topic in our society,” she said.
“I think anything that puts positive images, of a gorgeous moment between a mother and her child, out there in the media, rather than celebrities with their breasts hanging out of revealing outfits, can only be a good thing.”
And that was enough to sell me - I booked Imogen and myself in for our very own Breastfeeding Shoot and, after seeing the final pictures, I definitely understand the appeal. The photoshoot itself, in Adele’s studio in Barnsley, lasted just five minutes and the beautiful photographs perfectly capture my little girl and I, frozen in a precious moment in time together.
I know I’ll treasure them for years to come.
If you’re a breastfeeding mum and you’re interested in finding out more, call Adele on 01226 872491.