Loss Of A Village
Today, in urban cities, we all lead busy, stressful and almost isolated lives. I am a firm believer in the age-old adage – ‘It takes a village to raise a baby!’ It means that this village is necessary in supporting a mother and parents in educating and empowering them towards parenting choices and journey. As new-age urbanized parents, we felt this loss of village when we became parents. As a new mom, I was confused, misinformed and overwhelmed with the diverse opinions and advises on breastfeeding my baby. However, as my resolve to breastfeed my child was firm, I started looking for peers and people who gave support and information that I needed.
The handholding of the virtual support groups, guidance from our lactation consultant and tuning into my body and baby’s cues helped me in breastfeeding my baby for a little over 5 years. I faced different kinds of problems, myths and stigmas during the very many phases of my breastfeeding journey.
As a birth photographer, I capture the moment when a woman becomes a mother - the moment of birth! I witness the start of their breastfeeding journeys as well. Capturing birth and breastfeeding, is about the moment of truth, a moment that is irreplaceable. A moment that is unique to each mother. A story that is, their own!
As a storyteller, I observed that on one hand in our village and rural areas, where breastfeeding is normalized, where baby being on the boob is something that comes naturally to women, the penetration of formula market is deepening in the name of supplementing nutrition, creating aspirational need thereby adding an unnecessary cost. On the other hand, in our cities and metros, women and their breastfeeding relationship is being cut short by over medicalization, misinformation and pushing them to accept formula as a convenient and holistic nutrition. Our homes, offices and public spaces, do not support a breastfeeding mother and her needs, whereas our media, pop-culture and medical fraternity also seem to be okay with a bottle and baby imagery. No wonder, we hear more breastfeeding struggles than breastfeeding stories!
This leads many women to give up breastfeeding or chose not to breastfeed at all, and then they are shamed for the choices they make. We don’t look at the society that first
misinforms them, cheats them and then shames them.
Lack Of Indian Representation
For years, the fact that we don’t have any visuals of Indian moms breastfeeding has irked me. I have been following the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project (PBAP) on Facebook for over 3 years; their work in normalizing public breastfeeding is phenomenal. So, spontaneously, I sent out an Instagram post asking mothers if they want to come forward for a complimentary breastfeeding photo-shoot. Friends came forward and with much trepidation we shot our first two models in June-July 2018 and submitted our images to the PBAP yearly contest of worldwide photographers. To our surprise, we made it to the finals and won. Our company was the first photography company from India to be represented on their forum. They then encouraged us to take more images during the World Breastfeeding Week 2018 (1st to 7th August).
We scheduled shoots during the week as a way of celebrating the WBW 2018. It was an enriching experience, so many mothers opened up to us and many even gave us more perspectives on various aspects of breastfeeding. On the last day of the breastfeeding week, we attended a talk by a renowned lactation consultant Dr. Effath Yasmin. The knowledge and the insights that she brought to light were eye opening. It is then we knew that we couldn’t end here. We need to keep doing more shoots and bring more visuals to life, thereby bring to light the various aspects of breastfeeding.
So, we came up with the hashtag #breastfeedingindiaphotostories which will be a yearlong initiative by our company. The aim is to turn the one-week of World Breastfeeding Week festivities, into a yearlong celebration.
Is It Just About Breastfeeding In Public?
The stories photographed during the month of August were created keeping breastfeeding in public and full-term breastfeeding in mind. These stories are being created to give our society more exposure and a sense of community to our mothers. We hope, over time, society will be more accepting, that feeding a baby, in any form, anytime, and anyplace is normal. Through this initiative, we wish to interact with mothers, listen to their stories, photograph their breastfeeding moments, and seek various aspects and perspectives of feeding– of nourishing and nurturing our babies.
The initiative aims to be inclusive and document diversity of breastfeeding, across lifestyle of mothers, ages of children, backgrounds, delivery methods of breast milk
and the politics & culture of breastfeeding.
Is It Free?
We started by offering it as a complimentary photo-shoot during the month of June - July 2018. However, photography is time consuming and labor intensive, not to mention as an entrepreneur, we have to think about our overheads and costs. During the World Breastfeeding Week, we offered it as a pay-what-you-wish (PWYW) model. Trusting our mothers to pay from their heart. Some paid, some didn’t, some paid us by hiring us for other projects. As of now, we plan to carry on with our pay- what-you-wish (PWYW) model. We might talk sponsorship or collaborations if we find brands that are WHO code complaint. As we go forward, the photo-stories will range from stylized to realistic, artistic to documentary style photography. We wish to explore many themes and issues surrounding breastfeeding.
Normalizing breastfeeding in all its diversity and inclusivity is the end goal! ‘Out of Focus Pictures’ is now ‘Storiously’. The photographer in spite the name change and rebranding maintains the Copyright.
Disclaimer: All photographs in this article are original and belong to the author. Reproducing them in any form without the permission of the author will not be allowed.