Parents

6 Moms Share Their Breastfeeding Struggles In Powerful Series

From bad latches and supply challenges to mental health issues.

A new series of breastfeeding photos is bringing mothers' nursing struggles to life.

Photographer Cheyanne Booker took pictures of six moms, who shared their breastfeeding journeys and challenges -- from bad latches and supply issues to medical conditions and mental health struggles.

Six breastfeeding moms shared their stories of struggle and perseverance.
Six breastfeeding moms shared their stories of struggle and perseverance.

Booker told The Huffington Post that her own breastfeeding struggles inspired the series. After giving birth to her now-13-month-old daughter Blyss, the photographer nursed very frequently everyday, but the newborn baby lost weight during those first weeks.

"I felt like a failure because I thought my body wasn't going to be able to produce enough milk for her, and I desperately wanted to breastfeed her," she said. With the support of her sister-in-law, Booker was able to persevere, and at 3 months, Blyss reached the 97th percentile for weight.

For the breastfeeding photo series, Booker found subjects by posting a callout in local mom Facebook groups in her home of Mobile, Alabama. In the future, the photographer hopes to find more moms to photograph and add more diversity to the series.

"The main thing that I hope for this project to do is to encourage all breastfeeding mothers who may be going through their own struggles and show them they are not alone in their journeys," Booker told HuffPost. "Breastfeeding can be the hardest thing ever sometimes, but it is so rewarding!"

Keep scrolling to see the breastfeeding photos and read the moms' stories of struggle and perseverance.

1
"I struggled to breastfeed my first two children. Both were born pretty small and wouldn't gain weight or latch for long enough to get a good amount to eat. Both of them were on formula by two months because they wouldn't put on weight. So when I had my last child, Kam, and I wasn't able to nurse him for the first 24 hours, I was already discouraged. I had planned it out from the day I found out I was pregnant I was going to nurse until 1 year at least. After finally getting to nurse him he latched perfectly, fed for 20 minutes and now he prefers breastmilk, won't take any formula or a bottle for the most part. He's been gaining weight much faster than my other children had at his age. I'm proud to say we've made it 5+ months exclusively breastfeeding with many more to come." -- Gwendolyn Martin
2
"Aven is my fourth baby -- my fourth breastfed baby. But the first baby that I've nursed.My breastfeeding journey began with preemie twins. Not at all how I'd imagined things would start. Born at just 29 weeks, the twins were too small and too underdeveloped to nurse right away. So I pumped and they got my milk though feeding tubes and, later, bottles. I did eventually try to nurse them, but they preferred bottles. I was able to give them 10 months of pumped milk.I didn't expect to have issues with my son. But he was born with micrognathia -- a jaw deformity that made it impossible for him to latch. So I pumped again. He got 13 months of milk from me and we donated more than 3,000 oz to other babies.I spent my entire pregnancy with Aven terrified that history would repeat itself, and I'd be forced to pump again. But I worried for nothing. She was full term. She was healthy. She didn't have micrognathia. And she latched right away.Nursing Aven for the last four months has been wonderful. Finally, breastfeeding feels easy. It feels special. I hope to nurse her for two years -- or more, if that's what she wants. I'm in no rush to give this up." -- Shelby Butler
3
"I'm Sam (left). I gave birth to Finnick in July 2014. We struggled a bit with nursing at first. By eight days old, he was dehydrated and hospitalized for rapidly rising bilirubin due to ineffective nursing. At two weeks old, he was still losing weight, down almost a pound from his birth weight. But with the help of an IBCLC and his pediatrician, we got it worked out without supplementing, and he began to thrive. The two of us struggled through a nursing aversion he developed after being given bottles when I returned to work at six weeks postpartum, and through a huge supply dip following my heart surgery when he was three months old, to correct an arrhythmia I developed during pregnancy. Everything smoothed out after that, and I almost forgot that we'd ever struggled -- he's 22 months old now, and still nursing. My wife is Phoenix (right). She gave birth to our youngest baby, Shelter, in November 2015. He came at 31 weeks via emergency C-section for severe pre-ecclampsia and the beginning stages of HELLP Syndrome. She pumped for him because he was tube fed and on IV nutrition. To say pumping was hard for her was an understatement. She has autism and Borderline Personality Disorder, panic and anxiety disorders, and pumping took her at least 45 minutes, sometimes up to 90 minutes even with a hospital-grade pump. She was hooked to a pump for about 8 hours each day, and she had D-MER -- dysphoric milk ejection reflex. She had severe nausea and feelings of panic and depression during pumping and afterward. It got to the point where she was going into panic attacks just looking at the pump, and she was thinking things like, 'If I cut my wrists right now, I wouldn't have to pump.' There's no fix for D-MER. There are distraction techniques and other things, but none of it worked. The only other fix is time ... a lot of women will have their hormones even out over a number of months and stop experiencing it. She didn't have that kind of time. At six weeks postpartum she was diagnosed with severe PPD, at risk for PPP. At that point, in consult with her OBGYN and an IBCLC, she made the very difficult decision to stop pumping for him and stop trying to get him to latch. She went on medication for the PPD, and the end of the D-MER gave her enough relief for it to begin taking effect, and she was no longer at risk of self-harm. The plan was for me to take over. I'm still nursing our older boy, so we didn't think it would be too difficult. But it turns out I no longer respond to a pump. Phoenix's milk lasted Shelter until he was nine weeks old, and I used those three weeks to start re-lactating. With medication and supplements, a lot of pumping and a nipple shield to work on latching him, I went from pumping droplets to pumping about two ounces per day, sometimes three. Since that was only a fraction of what he needed, we started looking for women willing to donate breastmilk to him, and we were blessed with several amazing women willing to help us out. For about a week, I was able to get him to latch and tandem nurse the boys, and I had a lot of hope that my supply would come up. But I was at work full time and in nursing school full time, and with me being gone so often, he stopped latching. I had to take over supervising my shift at work -- I'm a 911 dispatcher -- and supervising made it nearly impossible to pump as many times a night as I needed, to try to get my supply up. And then I had an emergency dental surgery, and the two to three ounces I was getting a day went back down to nothing. I've not had any success on getting my supply to come back up and start responding to pumping, or in getting Shelter to latch, since. But with the help of almost two dozen amazing women so far, Shelter has been able to stay almost exclusively on breastmilk in spite of all of that. We find our donors through women we know or through a nonprofit called Human Milk 4 Human Babies and we are so grateful to all the people who have made it possible for us to keep our preemie breastfed." -- Samantha McMillan
4
"I have been breastfeeding for almost 3 years now. I started nursing my son the day he was born -- it was a learning curve for both of us, but once we learned what worked for us, it was the easiest thing in the world for us to do. My son nursed all through the pregnancy of my daughter, and though I struggled with nursing during pregnancy I never stopped, I always knew that nursing was the path I would take with my children but I never thought my son would still be nursing at 2 years and 8 months. I never thought I would tandem nurse two children, but here I am. My daughter was lucky when she was born because I had an established supply of milk for her the day she was born. When I first began to tandem nurse the two of them I realized that nursing two children was incredibly difficult. I cried, I got angry, I wanted to stop nursing both of them many many times. I finally decided that I couldn't do that to my children, they depended on the nursing relationship for comfort, support, nutrition and bonding with each other as well as me, so I set boundaries with my son. I told him he was only allowed to nurse when I said yes, that it would only be two times per day and that was that. I didn't back down for the sake of my sanity. It was the perfect solution and it is what works for us. My son and daughter will wean someday, but until then I'll continue to nurse." -- Monique Johnson
5
"I have breastfed all three of my children. My oldest Trevor (8) had every issue come up that could go wrong, milk protein allergy, reflux, colic, you name it. So because of these issues we only made it to six months with our breastfeeding. I didn't have the knowledge or support to learn about elimination diets. So when our middle child Zoey (2 1/2) came around, I was very determined to breastfeed no matter what. We had our fair share of issues including supply issue's, a milk protein allergy, dairy intolerance, and a latch issue that required me to use a shield, after a bunch of research I cut out ALL dairy. You would be surprised just how hard that was. And was able to wean her from the shield. Luckily she outgrew the dairy allergy by about seven months. As far as the supply issue I discovered lactation cookies, and they worked so well for me that I wanted to share them with all women who struggle. So I started, The Milk Maids Of Mobile, a lactation bakery that specializes in baked goods to increase your milk supply. Now flash forward to now she is still nursing at 2 1/2 and sharing 'boobies' with our newest addition Cyrus. Who is nine weeks old and has been the absolute easiest so far. He is a great eater and had a perfect latch. And is very good at sharing his milk with his sister. Whenever Zoey see's him eating she 'has' to nurse too right then with him, so she can hold his hand. I look forward to many more years of this. My personal goal for breastfeeding Cyrus Is that I want to make it to 2 years, and as far as Zoey goes I just want her to be able to nurse as long as it still provides her comfort and then she can self wean when she's done." -- Emily Lowell
Photo Series Showcases The Messy Side Of Breastfeeding