Autumn 2018, The Cable commissioned Esther to take pictures of humans feeding newborns .
During the first 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, taking these pictures I witnessed babies fed in hugely different circumstances. Some latched, some couldn’t and others would not stop breast feeding for years.
I met a woman for whom breastfeeding was painful, so she brought up her children on formula and the whole family thrives. I met mothers who couldn’t produce enough milk to sustain their baby alone (often due to past trauma) and so combined breast with formula. I came across radical kith and kin networks, mums who sourced what their babes needed from a breast-milk bank – 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 gifted from 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’.
However the journey goes, I saw mothers, fathers and loved ones look deep into the eyes of their new love drinking in nourishment and love and 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.