When Leilani Rogers was a breastfeeding mother, she was afraid to nurse in public.
“I feared shame. I feared judgement,” she told The Huffington Post. “I had babies who did not tolerate being covered, and it wasn’t until my fourth baby that I worked up the courage to breastfeed openly outside of my house,” she added.
“I found myself stuck in a train station while on vacation in San Francisco with a fussy baby and nowhere to hide,” the mom recalled. “So I took a deep breath and did what I had to do.”
A decade later, Rogers has dedicated her life to helping other moms overcome their fear and pushing back against the stigma around breastfeeding in public. In 2014, she founded the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project (PBAP) ― an initiative through which she showcases breastfeeding photography to raise awareness about the intolerance that nursing moms often face and to normalize the sight of nursing in public.
“The main issue with nursing in public, I think, is that we are confused about the ‘appropriateness’ of it,” Rogers explained. “Appropriateness should have nothing to do with meeting a child’s needs. But with an excessive amount of focus on the sexual function of the female body, we don’t consider breastfeeding as a physiological need when we round the corner at the grocery store and find a breastfeeding woman standing right there. Instead, we rush to judgement over her exposing herself.”
To combat this common reaction, Rogers tapped fellow documentary photographers from around the world to capture and share breastfeeding images. “What it comes down to for PBAP, is the more you see something the more normal it becomes,” she explained.
”Had I seen more images of [moms breastfeeding in public] years ago, I might have felt more comfortable with it myself,” Rogers added. Over time, the photographer found that she was not alone in her struggles. “Many new moms fear judgement or discrimination for breastfeeding in public, so they hide in restrooms, cars, or just never leave their house!”
The Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project currently includes over 70 photographers in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Venezuela, Brazil, Australia, Estonia and Italy. The photographers aim to showcase the many ways moms choose to feed their children in public ― breastfeeding (both covered and uncovered), bottle-feeding and feeding with a supplemental nursing system.