21 breastfeeding portraits that show the strength and vulnerability of new motherhood

The complexity of breastfeeding is what photographer Sophie Harris-Taylor set out to explore in her now-viral portrait series, Milk.

21 breastfeeding portraits that show the strength and vulnerability of new motherhood

Breastfeeding is beautiful, but it can also be really lonely and difficult. The complexity of breastfeeding is what photographer Sophie Harris-Taylor set out to explore in her now-viral portrait series, Milk.

"The response since the work came out last month has been really positive, and has had quite a bit of coverage—including [British] Vogue earlier this week," Harris-Taylor tells Motherly, adding that "it's been lovely" to hear from mothers who see their own experiences reflected in her art.

"This isn't a guide to breastfeeding in any way, but I hope that women who have breastfed, or in particular are currently breastfeeding, can realize they aren't alone and it is a minefield that for many brings up lots of emotions both positive and negative. And for anyone seeing the series, really I'd hope its gives people a slightly more rounded understanding of the ins and outs of it all. For some people, they find it kind of gross… I guess women's breasts have become so sexualised, that actually what they were originally for has almost been forgotten. So maybe it's just about showing something that's so natural in a bit more detail than what we might be used to seeing."

Here are the images Harris-Taylor captured for Milk, along with statements from the women photographed:


Chaneen

Sophie Harris-Taylor

"The most challenging part of breastfeeding has been gaining confidence to breastfeed in public or to breastfeed around people who are not supportive of breastfeeding." - Chaneen

Hannah

Sophie Harris-Taylor

"There were times early on where I couldn't wait to stop, and now it simultaneously breaks my heart and fills it with joy as I'm watching her gain independence and come to me less and less for that closeness and comfort." - Hannah

Elizabeth​

Sophie Harris-Taylor

"The most challenging thing would be staying consistent and carrying on even when I'm ill or just have a a bit of a low day because it can drain you out and it's difficult to have a balanced diet while looking after a baby, as I have to make sure I'm eating right to keep my supply up." - Elizabeth

Aisha

Sophie Harris-Taylor

"I think the most unexpected thing I've found in breastfeeding is down to Raya's personality. The images of breastfeeding I have seen always show the baby lying peacefully in mums arms, feeding away serenely. Other mums in my antenatal group say their babies will feed for 45 minutes to an hour at a time. Raya doesn't feed like that. She always wants to be up and active and we often feed just a few sucks at a time, here and there as she clambers over and around me, milk spraying over everything in the vicinity as she pulls away just as my milk lets down." - Aisha

Alice 

Sophie Harris-Taylor

"I'm her greatest comfort. Everything can be wrong with the world but she can curl up on my lap and find a bit of calm." - Alice

Anna

Sophie Harris-Taylor

"I love the closeness of it. How our eyes lock, the skin to skin. I love that I can cure almost any sadness or outburst by nursing her. Breastfeeding also gives me confidence that she gets all the nutrients, good bacteria and antibodies she needs to stay at optimum health. Breastfeeding has also boosted my body confidence. I feel that my body is a superpower." - Anna

Anna 

Sophie Harris-Taylor

"It becomes challenging when Yona-Gray has a growth spurt, is ill or there is a sleep regression. Then she is often glued to my boob, sometimes all night. I get so touched out. Nursing at this age can be challenging and I had to set certain boundaries. Yona can become very possessive over my body, almost disconnecting that it belongs to me. But she understands a lot now and we have our groove." - Anna

Bella

Sophie Harris-Taylor

"Just the sheer size of difficulties that I have learned about. I think there definitely needs to be more education on what to expect and what can go wrong. There is so much emphasis on preparation for pregnancy and birth and so little that goes in to educating about breastfeeding. Because of this I definitely thought it was going to be easier that it has been." - Bella

 Bella​

Sophie Harris-Taylor

"For us it was really difficult at the beginning because Cosmo had a tongue tie that was diagnosed late. The only thing that enabled us was using a nipple shield. I felt ashamed to use one, and was under the impression that their use was temporary and only as a last resort. 5 months later we're still using them and I'm so grateful for them as they are the thing that has actually made me able to breastfeed." - Bella

 Bella

Sophie Harris-Taylor

"The feeling of being connected to him, intrinsically, like when I was pregnant. It brings me so much joy that I am his safe place and I can tell how happy he is when he feeds." - Bella

Chaneen​

Sophie Harris-Taylor

"When I had my first daughter I would have said I most enjoyed the slowness and closeness of breastfeeding but now I'm breastfeeding two at once there's no more slowness." - Chaneen

Elizabeth

Sophie Harris-Taylor

"Some people just don't like the fact that I'm feeding my child and think that I should go hide away or just stay home, which I think is ridiculous, and I feel as though it should be embraced more in the public eye so it's not seen as a problem." - Elizabeth

Elodie

Sophie Harris-Taylor

"I like to know that what I've been eating - all the nutrients are now being passed on to her." - Elodie

Elodie

Sophie Harris-Taylor

"It would be great to be able to express more, it's hard to find the time and a bit of a hassle with the constant sterilising and then only getting 40ml at the time..." - Elodie

 Emma

Sophie Harris-Taylor

"The most challenging part for me has to be the heavy ugly, uneven boobs. I just hate the feeling of being soooo full at times. I've never had big boobs and I find it uncomfortable" - Emma

Lizzie

Sophie Harris-Taylor

"You can go to every lactation class, read every book, have super long, teat shaped, perfect nipples and it can still be bloody difficult. The feeling of failure that I couldn't get breastfeeding to work and having to exclusively pump for almost 3 months. I made myself sick with bladder infections, mastitis & nipple thrush. I really imagined myself as some earth mama that would breastfeed her baby until 6 months and beyond, I'll probably always feel guilt that I wasn't able to do that." - Lizzie

Nicole

Sophie Harris-Taylor

"I enjoy fulfilling Oki's purest and most basic need - knowing that all she needs to grow is my milk. I love the intimacy, for instance, feeding her in the bath and feeling her soft body on mine as the milk dribbles out from her mouth into the bathwater. I am grateful that I'm able to feed Oki and connect with her on this bodily level, in someway continuing the physical connection we had when she was in my belly. It makes me wonder at the power of one body to grow and feed another: to know that her legs are getting chubbier and she has the energy to play all because of my milk." - Nicole

 Misli

Sophie Harris-Taylor

"Every day is a new challenge. At first she fed constantly and I was trapped, then she didn't feed enough and it was a battle to get her on the boob. Breastfeeding is constantly changing and shifting every day, and I hope I can keep up with it for as long as possible." - Misli

Thea

Sophie Harris-Taylor

"Nova had tongue tie for the first 8 weeks which made breastfeeding very tedious for me. He'd feed for very long periods and never seem satisfied afterwards. I was constantly questioning my ability and supply as well as dealing with sore nipples, exhaustion and over all discomfort.. I built a negative relationship with the whole thing that is hard to break even though things are better after his tongue tie surgery." Thea

Thea

Sophie Harris-Taylor

"I never imagined how tough it would be. Throughout my pregnancy I had visions of how easy it would be and how much I'd enjoy whipping my breast out in public without a care in the world. I never, ever thought I wouldn't enjoy it. Whenever I thought about it, my head was set on breastfeeding for a year with a 'breast is best' attitude. In reality, I'm counting down the days until we can start weaning and I'm not sure I'll even make it to six months. I've realised that 'best' is whatever makes me happy and relaxed because only then can I be the best mum to Nova." - Thea

Rosie

Sophie Harris-Taylor

"Everyday since Sunny was born we have this huge unspoken dialogue with each other just around eating. As he grows and I try to understand what it is he wants out of each feed, I am amazed how each time its really just about us listening to each other more then I could have imagined." - Rosie