Staci Caspers and Justine Temke, who are moms, doulas and certified lactation educator counselors, created a photo project that they hope will help break down the stigma and judgment in debate around formula feeding versus breastfeeding.
"Fed Is Best" is a calendar that features intimate photos of moms nourishing their babies however they see fit for their families -- from nursing to pumping breastmilk to formula feeding. The project is part of a movement called "Judge Less," which aims to put an end to "the so-called Mommy Wars," Temke told The Huffington Post.
"We constantly face [the Mommy Wars'] negative impact," she continued. "It seems that everything is up for judgment. No matter the topic, no matter how you choose to do things, at some point, someone will tell you that you are doing it wrong and that you should do this or that."
The Minnesota moms provide support to families in their community through their business, Midwest Doulas. "We make a point to empower our families, helping them stand up for their choices and inform the naysayers that their lives, their family, and their parenthood is nobody’s business," Temke said. "Unless you ask for advice, you do not need anyone’s passive-aggressive guilt!"
Both women said they've felt shamed and judged as a result of their decisions regarding breastfeeding. Caspers faced backlash for breastfeeding her two children and also for weaning her oldest at two and half years old. Temke had a "painful, discouraging experience breastfeeding," which was worsened by her interactions with fellow nursing moms who were "extremely judgmental and opinionated about the 'f' word (formula)."
"I held on for three and a half months, with cracked, sore nipples; constant massive engorgement, a screaming babe and the feeling of being a complete loser." When she decided to stop breastfeeding, Temke said she was shamed for feeding her baby with "poison." She also faced disheartening comments like, “You must have not tried enough,” and “I would never forgive myself if I was formula feeding my son.”
As Certified Lactation Counselors, Caspers and Temke strongly support breastfeeding advocacy and resources for nursing moms, but they believe that shouldn't come at the expense of mothers who nourish their babies in other ways. "We believe in the absolute awesomeness of breastmilk, but we are not about to judge anyone for the way they feed their babes," Temke said. "We do not know the struggles, the history, or the trauma another mother might have lived through. Fed Is Best, not because the alternative is to starve your babe, but because feeding your baby, to the best of your abilities, with the support, knowledge, and education you have, so that you are happy and baby is healthy, is best."
"Breastfeeding advocacy and formula shamers aren't and shouldn't be the same people," she continued. "You can support breastfeeding without taking away the freedom of choice of a mother."
To empower all moms, however they feed their children, Temke and Caspers teamed up with photographer and mom of three Ashley Rick from St. Paul Photo Co. to create the Judge Less: Fed Is Best calendar, which is filled with intimate photos of moms feeding their babies.
Proceeds from calendar sales will go to a nonprofit called Babies Need Boxes, which provides teen mothers and moms in need with a box filled with supplies for a baby's first year of life -- inspired by Finland's famous maternity packages. Each year, the doulas hope to create a new Judge Less calendar, centered on a different parenting theme.
Keep scrolling for a sample of the stunning photos of moms feeding their babies and visit Midwest Doulas online to purchase the Fed Is Best calendar.
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