A version of this story was originally published on September 25, 2019. It has been updated.
When photographer Felicia Saunders uploaded a portrait of three mothers feeding their babies, she could not have imagined the impact she was making.
In August 2019, Saunders published the below portrait on her Instagram and Facebook accounts to mark World Breastfeeding Week and month. There are so many beautiful photos of breastfeeding online, but Saunders wanted to create something that shows at all types of infant feeding are beautiful and that even when mothers feed their babies differently, they still have so much in common.
In the weeks since posting the photo, not a day has gone by without Saunders receiving emails or messages from mothers who can relate to the story she was trying to tell through this image. "My own battle with guilt from not being able to breastfeed really helps fuel my inspiration, we all do what is our own best and that truly is the best," Saunders tells Motherly.
We could not agree more. All parents need to be supported in early parenthood, no matter how they are feeding their babies. The pressure to exclusively breastfeed can be harmful to a mother's mental health , and no one should feel guilty about feeding their baby formula.
A mother feeding her baby is a beautiful thing, whether it's by breast, bottle or a medical intervention. These photos prove it.
All images courtesy Felicia Saunders Photography .
Nourishment doesn't have to come from nipples
For Saunders, it was important to show a spectrum of infant-feeding experiences. One of the babies in Saunders' now-viral photo series doesn't eat from a breast or a bottle, but from a tube.
It's clear her work is making a difference to moms who see themselves in these photos. "I have been so honored to have received sweet words and support from across the entire world, many women have shared their experiences with me publicly and in private messages and emails. The entire experience has been very humbling that I created this it's still surreal to think about the true vastness of its impact," she explains.
Bottle feeding can be beautiful
For many moms who were not able to breastfeed, breastfeeding week and month were tough times to be on social media. That's why Saunders wanted to showcase this beautiful image of bottle-feeding on a week when breastfeeding photos were dominating our feeds. "I wish more people would judge less, we never know what someone may be going through, showing support and love can always be the first things to show any parent no matter their nourishment avenue," Saunders tells Motherly.
Breastfeeding is beautiful
Breastfeeding isn't for everyone. Other forms of infant feeding are beautiful, too, but Saunders recognizes how important it still is to advocate for breastfeeding. Even in 2019, many mothers feel like they need to hide when breastfeeding and a surprising number of people don't believe mothers should breastfeed in public.
A June 2019 survey from Aeroflow found 28% of women do not believe new moms should be allowed to breastfeed in public, and 22% of men agreed (although legally, moms can breastfeed in public in every state ).
Whether you're breastfeeding or feeding your baby with a bottle or tube, know that you don't have to hide, mama. What you are doing is beautiful and these photos prove it.