In Autumn 2018, The Cable commissioned Esther to take pictures of humans feeding their newborns at this crucial, tender time. A work in progress, she is currently looking for subjects to continue the work over 2019.
During moments of nursing, parents experience bliss and trauma and everything in between. It is a sensitive chapter in our lives. Be it bottle, breast or both, I witnessed babies fed in intuitive and inventive ways, in hugely different circumstances. Some latched to nipple, others couldn’t and some did not stop breast feeding for many years. I met a woman for whom breastfeeding was painful and stressful, so she brought up her children on formula and the whole family thrives. I met mothers who combination-fed out of choice, and mothers who couldn’t produce enough milk to sustain their baby alone and so combined breast with formula or milk from a breast-milk bank. I came across radical kith and kin networks, out of photo frame but indispensable—women gifting their milk and time to support one another.
But this nurturing phase can also be isolating. Women often felt different degrees of shame – either uncomfortable bottle feeding in baby groups or breastfeeding in public, or feeding for what seemed too short or too long! One mother’s DIY inventiveness was realised in a contraption that delivered her milk along with with a bounty of milk belonging to another mother, through a tube taped to her nipple. Fearless, loving, she told me that she wished she had a T-Shirt that said, ‘I’m doing my fucking best’.
Mothers, fathers and loved ones look deep into the eyes of a baby as it drinks in nourishment – milk, love, a sense of belonging. Each feeder and every babe has their own interrelated story. The start of a story that goes on for years, one that reciprocal, feeding the ones we love.