Nevada Photographer Celebrates All Mothers For National Breastfeeding Month

Felicia Saunders, a Nevada-based photographer, announced on her Facebook page that in honor of National Breastfeeding Month, she wanted to honor all mothers regardless of how they feed their child. The accompanying images featured three mothers in flowing gowns, holding their babies and feeding them either by breast, bottle, or feeding tube.

Saunders says she was inspired by her own experience with breastfeeding. "I had ideals from social stigmas that I was to only breastfeed, or else I would be considered a failure," she told CafeMom. "My baby had a condition which prevented him from latching properly.”

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Unable to breastfeed, she was "overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and shame." Despite reaching out to a lactation consultant, using breast shields and a supplemental nursing system (SNS), she was unsuccessful in her efforts to get her baby to feed from her breast.

She ultimately turned to bottle-feeding with formula, and the results were astounding. Her son enthusiastically took to the bottle and began gaining weight. She realized that "what is best for my child and I is not always what may be best for the next family."

The experience opened her eyes to the struggle that many women face and the shame they are forced to feel. "When I let go of the stigmas, I realized I was not a failure and I was able to enjoy my child and motherhood," she said. She also realized that the bond between a mother and child that develops during feeding is not limited to mothers who breastfeed.

The result of her newfound understanding was an incredible photo series that celebrates motherhood. One of the subjects of the series, Mykel Cooper has 10-month-old daughter, Marlee, who was born a month premature. Her first few days of life were spent in the NICU, where Mykel breastfed her. Yet soon after, she had to switch to pumping, which continued for seven months. Despite watching her daughter blossom, she was still overwhelmed by the "breast is best" message that is prevalent in society and which made her feel like a failure.

Mykel then decided to do her own research on the subject and was pleasantly surprised by what she found. "It really gave me a positive outlook on the fact that we are all mother's and we all have times where we feel like we're not doing our best," she said. "As a community we should supporting one another and giving encouraging words in times of struggle. No one besides another mother will ever feel the emotions you do towards your child and it's something we can all stand together on."

Courtney Espejo, who is pictured with her 3-month-old son, Isaac, was able to breastfeed her children but empathizes with women who are unable to do so. "If you can breastfeed, great!" she said. "It's such a special bond and so good for baby, but a baby will have a special bond with their mother even if you aren't able to breastfeed. Just nurture your baby the best way you are able!"

The third woman in the photo, who chose to remain anonymous, has to feed her baby boy through a G-tube. "My son was born extremely premature," she said. "His tube allows him to get all the nutrition he needs since he still is not able to take anything by mouth."

She added that she hopes the photo series will encourage people to be supportive of all mothers, regardless of feeding style. "I hope they understand not all moms have the opportunity to feed their babies the 'traditional' way and they shouldn't have to feel guilty," she said.

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Saunders chose to post her photo series during National Breastfeeding Month because she knew that women would be bombarded with posts and articles that encourage breastfeeding. "There would be a lot of mothers who would be feeling like failures or experiencing 'mom guilt.'" She wanted to let those mothers know that “they should be proud about how they feed their children and that they are equally as impressive and strong."

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