South East Wales

Breastfeeding: Abergavenny mums share nursing images online

Becky Higgins feeding Juniper and Zebedee Image copyright Memento Cottage
Image caption Most of the women photographed met at a breastfeeding support group

A group of women have posted photos of themselves breastfeeding on social media to raise awareness of the difficulties some women face nursing their babies.

The project was the brainchild of photographer Sarah Haile, 25, who lives in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire.

The idea came to her during a late-night feed with nine-month-old Jasper.

"I had a few issues at the beginning... it would have been nice to know it isn't just me," she said.

Breastfeeding women can face a variety of medical problems from cracked nipples and engorgement to thrush and mastitis.

Image copyright Memento Cottage

Ms Haile said Jasper was feeding well in hospital. But when she returned home she started experiencing problems.

"I couldn't do it, I was in agony," she said.

"I would be curling my toes and clenching my teeth with each feed and my nipples were cracked and bleeding.

"When Jasper was maybe four days old I broke... my husband took us back to the hospital where a lovely doctor sat with me for an hour and helped me with different positions and just calmed me down. We've been brilliant ever since."

She hopes taking and sharing pictures of other breastfeeding mothers in her town will encourage others to speak more openly about the hurdles they face and make new mothers feel less alone.

"It would have been nice to have some real accounts of people's experiences as I felt guilt and like a failure when I was struggling," she said.

Image copyright Memento Cottage
Image caption The photos show women breastfeeding both in public and in their homes

Katie Walbeoff-Price, 29, met Ms Haile at a breastfeeding support group.

She said she initially felt self-conscious about being photographed breastfeeding eight-month-old Ffion but was keen to take part: "It would be lovely if it was normalised, we're getting there but we're not quote there yet."

Image copyright Mamento Cottage
Image caption Katie Walbeoff-Price says she treasures the picture of her feeding Ffion

And now the photo is something she treasures: "[When I see the photo] I feel really fuzzy inside. It's just lovely. A lovely memory of our breastfeeding journey and the bond that you get."

But it is not just feeding from the breast that is the subject of the photos.

Mari Davies, 28, is no longer breastfeeding six-month-old Thomas after suffering recurrent mastitis followed by a low milk supply.

She now feeds him a mixture of milk donated by two breastfeeding mothers she found online and formula.

She said: "I had this primal urge to feed him myself... I did feel like a total failure and it made me down for a while."

Image copyright Memento Cottage
Image caption Many of the women have become close friends

She is due to be photographed feeding Thomas donor milk from a bottle and feels it is important her image is included in the project: "People's reaction [to me using donated milk] is 'oh that's really gross' but no-one thinks twice about donating blood or getting a blood transfusion.

"Most women are able to successfully breastfeed with support but it's not fair that formula is seen as the only option for the mothers who are not able to."

She would like to see a milk bank established in Wales where donated milk is screened and pasteurised that can be accessed by women like her as well as adoptive mothers and women who have had mastectomies.

Ms Haile hopes her images show all sorts of women can succeed at breastfeeding: "You don't have to be an earth mother - [breastfeeding] can suit you no matter what your lifestyle is."

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