What does breastfeeding look like?
It certainly doesn't look like this...
In a bid to promote a more realistic image of breastfeeding, one Australian-based photographer is taking candid pictures of mothers giving milk to their babies at home, on-the-go and in any other natural circumstance.
"Women are faced with ridiculous stereotypes of other women breastfeeding so it's no wonder most women just give up all together," says Suzie Blake.
With a mother who worked as a midwife and was a strong advocate for breastfeeding, Blake knew all about the natural process when it came to feeding her two sons Maximiliano and Xavier. But she knows not all women are exposed to that kind of information.
"Most women will experience breastfeeding for the first time in a hospital with midwives and nurses and medical professionals grabbing at their breasts. Most women, in fact, have never even seen another woman breastfeeding."
When she was feeding her second son Xavier, she decided to take a self portrait (above) and post it on Facebook to see if other women would be interested in being photographed in the same way.
"I’m tired of images that fail to show the realities of breastfeeding for most women," she writes. "This project is about portraying breastfeeding in all its beautiful messiness. This is about tired eyes and no make up. This is about milk leaks and ratty hair."
"This is about giving in to all the demands of your 2 year old while you try to feed your newborn. This is about dishes pilled up in the kitchen and dirty laundry building in the corner. This is about puke on your shoulder and toys on the floor."
Her request was inundated with responses from women in Australia and so her photo-diary on breastfeeding began.
"The project has received so much support - it’s been absolutely incredible," she tells Stylist.co.uk. "Many mothers have expressed relief; I think just seeing another woman breastfeeding in a scenario similar to their own is reassuring. Also, many of the mothers I’ve shot have experienced difficulties in their breastfeeding journeys, so I think they are proud to have managed to keep going."
"I’m all for celebrities and the media advocating breastfeeding," continues Blake, "but an airbrushed photoshopped image of a woman breastfeeding is not realistic and it presents just another challenge for women who may be trying to breastfeed. They’re going to think ‘I don’t look like her’, which is unhelpful. Women who are trying to breastfeed need to see images and think 'I can identify with that’."
In Britain alone, a third of women do not feed their newborns naturally and the country has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Western Europe.
"Breastfeeding is a massive global health issue and one we need to tackle," says Blake. "In order to help women we need to empower them. Breastfeeding is hard. This is about the amazing thing that we, the women humans of this Earth, can do and that is sustain another human's life with our own."
Blake is hoping to raise enough money on her indiegogo page to photograph women breastfeeding around the world and will be in the UK from 20th November to capture British mums.
She also aims to launch an exhibition and a book of her work to further raise awareness for her cause.
See a few highlights from her photo series below and check out more of her work at whatdoesbreastfeedinglooklike.tumblr.com.