Breastfeeding? Go on, take a picture, it’ll last longer.

Nancy, in her usual pose, in front of a laptop, nursing son Toby (about a year old in photo). Toby is now 16 years old.

Nancy, in her usual location in front of a laptop, nursing her son Toby (now 16), circa 1998.

I’ll bet you have 4,367 photos of your baby.
How could you not? He’s adorable! But, how many of those photos actually have you in them? Not so many, right? You’ve got the “mom with new baby in hospital” shot, “first feeding” photos, “mom and baby heading home” shot, maybe a few semi-formal “parents and baby together” pictures from special occasions, holidays or family gatherings.

Baby grows, but you’re there too.
As the weeks and months go on, long beyond the newborn phase, you’re probably the one behind the camera taking the photos, not being the subject. A few slightly-out-of-focus “selfies”, compliments of your smartphone, may make up the majority of photos featuring you and your baby together at 6 and 9 and 12 months, perhaps with your disembodied hand offering a toy or spoonful of baby’s first food.

But day and night (oh boy, night) for hours and hours (oh boy, so many hours), you’re there, breastfeeding your baby, or pumping for your baby. Feeding and holding and cuddling and wrangling (okay, sometimes wrestling), lounging on the couch, sitting in your favorite nursing chair, or side-lying and nursing in bed hoping for just a little more shut-eye. Capture it with a photo.

Please take pictures along the way. Breastfeeding (and pumping) is so often a hard-won battle, requiring significant time, effort and dedication. Whether you’ve breastfed for two weeks, two months or two years, you’ve worked pretty darned hard to make it that far. Your nursing photos will later serve as visual, sometimes visceral, reminders,  helping you document the various stages of nursing when your child was younger.

When I asked on twitter if moms had photos of themselves nursing, many mentioned with regret that they did not, hadn’t thought of it at the time and now wished they did, or, only had nursing photos from the early newborn days but none with them nursing their older babies. Moms who are exclusively pumping (one has even named her pump: Fiona!) agreed they should take some photos to commemorate the many (many!) dedicated hours spent attached to their electric companion.

Every day memories:
I’m not talking about professionally done photographs with you, perfectly groomed and wearing a white linen nightgown, nursing your angelically dozing baby while partner stands by with a supportive smile and hand lovingly resting on your shoulder (those are nice photos, too). I’m talking about the everyday, real-life scenarios of nursing or pumping for your baby, spit-up stained sofa and all, at home, at work, and out and about. How you really spend your time. When it comes to skin, show what you’re comfortable with – that’s why there’s a delete key -  nursing photos can be detailed or discrete, and kept as public or private, as you’d like. The key thing is that you’re capturing the moments now, to trigger the memories, later.

Consider documenting scenes like:
Your six week old, peacefully milk drunk, lips slightly parted, trickle of milk leaking from the corner of her mouth. Your thumb up to the camera, Yes finally, believing this breastfeeding thing is really going to work out after all.

Your four month old’s funny new habit, hand reaching up to “gently” <wince> pat your cheek while nursing.

Your nine month old wriggler,  latched on and giggling as he holds up his toes for you to kiss and nibble.

Your 11 month old, nursing in the Ergo, almost asleep, as you walk around the aquarium with your preschooler.

In Twenty Years
With a photo, you can look back and will clearly recall the pattern of the nursing pillow that sat on your lap for umpteen hours (when you really, really needed to pee), how you so carefully arranged the remote, phone, iPad just so (oh, how quaint and old-fashioned that iPad will seem!),  the water bottle just inches out of reach (how does that always happen?), and the posters on the wall of the pumping room you visited three times a day, five days a week, month after month at your workplace. You’ll remember it all, with fond nostalgia (maternal amnesia) and probably a strong sense of personal pride for the hard work and special time that it was.

Maybe you’ll want to share these photos – and memories – with your child in the future, (I think you probably will), but you won’t ever even have the option if the photos don’t exist.

Do you have pictures of yourself nursing your baby, or pumping?  Can you imagine looking back on these many years in the future?

About Nancy Holtzman RN IBCLC CPN

Nancy is a Vice President at Isis Parenting and leads Clinical Content. As one of the original co-founders, she was instrumental in the creation of many prenatal and new parent programs at Isis Parenting, helping to develop the Isis vision in its earliest stages. Nancy has over 25 years of clinical nursing experience including ten years at Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital, and is a mother/baby nurse educator, a board certified lactation consultant and board certified pediatric nurse. She is the founder of the Great Beginnings New Mothers Group series which has now reached over 10,000 Boston-area mothers. She speaks and writes for a national audience about breastfeeding and infant development, and has served on the board of MLCA, the Massachusetts Lactation Consultants Association. She received a BS from Northeastern University College of Nursing, and a Certificate in Advanced Pediatric Assessment from Boston College. Nancy lives in Boston with her husband, two teens and a rescued Bichon. Find her tweeting about all about babies at @nancyholtzman

25 Responses to Breastfeeding? Go on, take a picture, it’ll last longer.
  1. Kara (@karamat)
    March 14, 2013 | 1:38 pm

    My twins are now 15 months old and I am so thankful for the pictures I have and took of them nursing. And the ones of me pumping! I already have looked back at them with pride and agony as I remember their growth and my sleepless nights. Thanks for reminding other mothers to do the same.

  2. Jill
    March 14, 2013 | 2:12 pm

    Aww. Your post just made me tear up. I have had my husband take a couple photos of me breastfeeding because I DO want to remember these moments. I have none from the tough early days (and I’m kind of okay with that) but I have them now and I love them. I will keep taking them!!

  3. Liz
    March 14, 2013 | 3:33 pm

    If it weren’t for my smart phone, I doubt I’d have the few snapshots of my daughter nursing that I do. I love looking back at them and seeing that content look in her eyes while she nursed.

  4. Janet
    March 14, 2013 | 3:42 pm

    Love this post and the photo of Nancy! I’ve been trying to make sure I’m in more photos with my boys. I have a couple of photos of me nursing them and I already treasure them because they look so small and we look so happy in them.

  5. Mandy
    March 14, 2013 | 4:31 pm

    Well now I’m crying. I feel like I miss the chance to capture so many moments, and I’m trying to get better at that. Now, just to figure out how to take a picture of my 9 month old without him trying to eat my iPhone…

  6. eutheria
    March 14, 2013 | 6:35 pm

    We have lots of fun nursing pictures: nursing at a petting zoo, nursing while laughing, nursing curled up with a cat, no-hands nursing in a sling or other carrier, nursing while fast asleep and holding onto my necklace, nursing with one of his hands in my mouth and a foot on my shoulder… and on and on. :)

  7. Teresa
    March 14, 2013 | 7:12 pm

    I am going to take a photo tonight while I’m nursing my 20-month old! Wonderful article, Nancy!

  8. Paula E
    March 14, 2013 | 9:18 pm

    This really made me emotional. I will be snapping pics from now on (rather having someone else do it). Thank you for writing this Nancy.

    Paula

  9. Penny
    March 14, 2013 | 9:59 pm

    Loved this. I’ve pics of her nursing, but none really of both of us. I especially like your suggestion of a picture of all the surroundings! I’m already regretting missing pics of the early early days (and nights!).

  10. YH
    March 14, 2013 | 10:04 pm

    I have a couple such photos. One is particularly poignant, which is me nursing my son, my husband shot the photo when I wasn’t expecting it – I have my head turned looking at the camera and all you see are my son’s little feet around my waist, and I’m beyond exhausted – in my work outfit, after a long day, just getting used to being back at work, not sure (are we ever?) if it was the right decision.

  11. AmyC83
    March 14, 2013 | 10:05 pm

    After you tweeted about this, I took my 11 month old outside for some naked time and when he wanted milk, I nursed him and took a picture that is now one of my very favorite pictures of us together. Thank you for reminding us that this is a beautiful time and to document and cherish it.

  12. Susan
    March 14, 2013 | 10:16 pm

    I actually have quite a few BFing pics! From the moment Syd was born to current pics of a not-so-tiny 15 mo old dangling from my breast. I fought SO hard to make nursing work that I always want to remember it. And years from now I want my girls to see that it was important to me. And normal, too.

  13. Tarayn
    March 14, 2013 | 10:23 pm

    Aw, I LOVE it!! I love the memories captured in this photo…makes me want to take one a day now! :)

  14. Erin
    March 14, 2013 | 10:57 pm

    Nancy, thank you for blogging about this topic. I had never considered taking a picture while nursing but as my baby is nursing less and less these days I am starting to get sappy and emotional about it coming to an end one day (hopefully not for at least 5 more months!!!) and will make it a priority to take some pictures to remember this precious time and the effort and dedication it took to get to this point. Now, I’m off to find the camera and husband to operate it before or last nursing session for the night.

  15. Kirsty
    March 14, 2013 | 10:58 pm

    I’m going to take some today!!!
    I’ve already taken some of the casual way her legs rest on my lap, but today, it’s going to be a proper photo!

  16. Jenny
    March 14, 2013 | 11:08 pm

    That actually made me cry a little! Nursing these babes is such a sweet thing. I’ve been breastfeeding for two years straight, as of tomorrow. My daughter will be turning two, and we have a 4-month old. Long days and nights, but gosh, it’s also flying by! Thank you for this post and reminder to mak my husband snap some more pictures.

  17. daniatchy
    March 14, 2013 | 11:09 pm

    So so true! I’m going to make an effort to take more pictures. My favorite pic of R is him nursing and grinning up at me. I know I am the only one in his whole life that will get that smile.

  18. Jm
    March 15, 2013 | 2:34 am

    Yep, this post is making me cry, nostalgic for the bf relationship that we are establishing right now with eachother. My son (my son!!) is 16 days old and we’ve just hit our 8th day of actual nursing. I am so thankful for these moments (ok endless hours) and I hope I never forget them. They were hard fought, and I want to thank you for reminding me to document them. Because like you said- we will never get them back.

  19. Perfectwhitebow
    March 15, 2013 | 4:48 am

    Too surreal for you! I’ll try to get real life shots mixed in from now on, thanks for the reminder!

  20. Nancy Holtzman RN IBCLC CPN
    March 15, 2013 | 7:12 am

    I am just loving all these comments! Thank you for sharing your perspectives.
    For those who have asked me many questions (on twitter) here are some of the answers:
    Toby is my younger, I also have Julia who is 18.5. Toby turns 16 and was probably 14ish months old in that photo. (I’m just guessing because he was born in June, and we’re wearing summer-like clothing and I am tan).
    No, there was not Wifi “back then”, BUT, I’m married to a high-techie and he informs me the box on the back of the laptop was called a “Roam-About” and was a precursor to Wifi. I have a photo of my and Toby hours after his (VBAC) birth, in the hospital, nursing him, also on the laptop.
    What was I doing on the laptop (before twitter?) Giving new mom, baby and breastfeeding advice, absolutely. Even 18 years ago (I’m incredulous that it truly IS that long ago!, I was connected to groups of new moms online, many I worked with IRL (in real life) through my Great Beginnings New Mothers Group program, and many were from what was called, back then, “Listserv” – L-Soft closed email lists. I’m part of one that is STILL together, more than 17 years strong. In fact, I’ll tell them about this post, since I’m probably reading their email in that photo.
    XOXOXO, Nancy

  21. Jamie
    March 15, 2013 | 5:31 pm

    Nancy, you were probably emailing me in that photo! :-) With your advice and support, I was able to successfully nurse Alex after I had seriously struggled with breastfeeding my first two children. Then when I was pregnant with Matt and also dealing with cancer (knowing I’d lose my uterus at his birth) you were there to reassure me I would still be able to nurse. He nursed until he was 18 months old and never had a single supplemental bottle. When I later had two more babies through Gestational Surrogacy, I was excited to induce lactation for them, too. Without you, none of these wonderful nursing experiences would have happened! Thank You, Thank You!! I love your post and the great photo of you and Toby! XOXO!!

  22. Jill
    March 16, 2013 | 1:15 pm

    Nancy, this made me cry (in a good way). I am happy to say I did capture a ton of nursing photos, especially with the twins. I didn’t take any pumping photos because that was more work than fun, but I will cherish the nursing photos forever.

  23. trishpk
    March 18, 2013 | 3:12 pm

    Ahh… Nancy, this would have been just after the time I called you when a doc told me I needed to take steroids (prednisone) for a month, and I’d have to pump and dump, and supplement my then-9-month old Cece, who is now 14.5! I knew that was NOT necessary, and your resources and wisdom (and Hale book!) confirmed that this was inaccurate medical information!!

    Remember the acronym NAK? Nursing At Keyboard? That’s the reason that many of us ended up with one side larger than the other ;)

    I nursed all my kids for … a long time. It’s one of the things in my life of which I am most proud!!

    And I still love that group of gals on our list!

    • trishpk
      March 18, 2013 | 3:12 pm

      and PS, I took pictures, and my favorite is of my toddlers tandem nursing :)

  24. Nancy Holtzman RN IBCLC CPN
    March 18, 2013 | 4:08 pm

    I keep returning to this page, to look at that photo again, and linger over your comments and stories. I think this has to be my current “feel good” post!
    Also love seeing my “MayMoms” group friends commenting here! Different parts of my life coming together. Thank you Jamie, Jill and Trish!
    XO :)
    Nancy

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