Mom's Photography Project Is Normalizing Breastfeeding in the Most Stunning Way

Natalie McCain
Natalie McCain

In 2015, photographer Natalie McCain made the rounds on the internet with her Honest Body Project, which showcased what moms' postpartum bodies look like. Although that photo series shed light on important aspects of positive body image, her latest project, Breastfeeding Our Toddlers: A Full Term Nursing Series, is covering an even hotter topic in the mom world: normalizing breastfeeding.

The series, which features moms and their children over 2 who still breastfeed, isn't McCain's first featuring nursing moms. "One of my first series was on this subject, and it still is the most popular series I have, getting many, many views each day!" she told POPSUGAR. "I decided to create a new series on extended nursing so that I could help normalize it even more. The more images that are put out there, the more stories, the more it will become the norm. Normalizing breastfeeding is extremely important, especially for future generations."

McCain nursed both of her children through their toddler years, and as the title of her first breastfeeding series stressed, she wanted people to understand that she wasn't "still" nursing just because her child was over a year old, she was "just nursing."

"Children should grow up knowing that breastfeeding is normal to do in public and to support," she said. As it turns out, there were tons of moms out there who agree with this sentiment completely. "When I put a call out for the breastfeeding series, I had many women contact me wanting to be a part of it. Normalizing breastfeeding is a huge passion of many women in my community. I am lucky to have such amazing women who want to participate!"

Scroll through to see some of the beautiful photos in the series and to read each mama's thoughts about their breastfeeding journey (and preorder McCain's book, The Honest Body Project: Raw, Untouched Portraits of What It Means to Be a Woman ($25), which comes out in August).

"America tends to view breasts as being sexual. This view places a stigma on breastfeeding, and especially on extended nursing. For those who have never nursed a toddler, it is difficult to understand why a mom would choose to continue to nurse beyond infancy. It is common for mothers to wean their children in a way and time that conforms to their societal norms. . . . I would love to see our country as one that supports and encourages breastfeeding and natural, gentle methods of weaning."

"I think people often unfairly judge things they don't understand. Some people will always criticize parenting choices different from the ones they made. Exposure and education are the ways to change minds."

"Since we are close to the end of this road I think the thing I will miss the most is the way she stares up into my eyes while nursing and gently touches my face."

"I began having kids before many of my friends. As they watched my nursing relationship progress, they would say things like, 'It's fine to breastfeed as long as . . . ' As long as he doesn't have a mouth full of teeth. As long as he isn't walking. . . . In hypothetical conversations, before I was at those milestones, their statements seemed logical.

In reality, as my child grew, it seemed ridiculous to end a nursing relationship based on any of these factors. Why was nursing yesterday fine, but today he is too old? . . . People no longer make those sorts of comments to me. Maybe their sense of normal has evolved alongside their own experiences or maybe they have just resigned themselves to the fact that we all parent in our own way, doing what is best for our own family."

"I think the the United States is failing our women by shaming nursing in general. We as a country have been left behind on the knowledge of all the wonderful benefits of nursing. We as a nation need to understand what breasts were made for."

"I'm not tandem nursing yet, but that is the plan. My friends that have done it said it really helped ease the new sibling transition. When we talk about the new baby coming, she tells me the baby can have the left booby, but the right one is hers."

"At birth, a baby's focus is on objects that are eight to 10 inches from their face. The sweetest realization I had was while I was nursing both of my sons was within two hours of birth. My sweet, sweet newborn could only focus on two things during that moment — my face and his brother's face, both of which were between eight and 10 inches from his face. . . . My 5-month-old now lights up every time he sees his brother and their relationship is so special. I don't nurse them together anymore, but I will forever attribute their bond to those moments they shared during those first two months of 'sharing milk.'"

"My mom nursed all three of her children and my aunt nursed both of hers. I have several pictures of my mom and or aunt nursing. It is very important for children to see breastfeeding mothers growing up, it's the only way to normalize breastfeeding."

"You're judging because you don't understand. I'm doing the best I can do for my child, you don't have to 'get it' because it's not your child or your body. It's mine. I will decide what to do with it. I don't tell you how to raise your children, don't tell me how to raise mine."

"I remember being pregnant and saying things like, 'When they can ask for it, they're too old!' or, 'I'd never nurse a baby with teeth.' Then, I learned more about nursing from going to La Leche League meetings and taking childbirth classes. Once my first son was born, it didn't take me long to fall in love with nursing. . . . I wholeheartedly believe that nursing has shaped every aspect of my mothering. Being a mother has changed me from that naive woman to a much more understanding and open minded person."

"I feel like a broken record, constantly responding with, 'We're doing what works for our family.' Mostly I find myself just not talking about it now, or taking us away from a group or social setting to nurse. My daughter is old enough to understand what people are saying, I don't want her to think we are doing anything wrong. We shouldn't be made to feel ashamed to be doing something so normal."

"I know breastfeeding will end for us when it stops working for either one of us. I am teaching my daughter about consent and respect for another's body even now. We both have to 'say yes' to milkies. When one of us is all done, we are both all done."

"My favorite nursing memory is definitely the night that my first son weaned. We were in the middle of our bedtime routine that we follow every night. I was lying in bed with both boys. They were 3 years and 5 months at the time. We had read books, given goodnight kisses, and we were about to lay down to nurse when my oldest said, 'I don't really need na-nas tonight. Baby can have them now.'

He then just cuddled up on my chest and fell asleep watching his little brother nurse. My heart grew bigger than I ever thought it could that night. I was rushed with so many different emotions — I felt sad that our nursing journey was over, proud that he felt secure enough in our relationship that he could make that decision for himself, and so in love with both of my children. He never asked to nurse again after that night, but he still loves to climb in my lap while I'm nursing his brother."