Las Vegas photographer Abbie Fox wants to remind the world that when it comes to the bottle vs. breastfeeding debate, there’s an underlying message to keep in mind: “Fed is best.”
Fox gathered a group of 21 moms to feed their babies however they choose in an empowering photo shoot. The final featured image from the session depicts women breastfeeding their babies (including one tandem nursing her twins), as well as mothers bottle-feeding formula and pumped breast milk to their children.
Fox, who has a 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter, said her own breastfeeding struggles inspired her to create this empowering photo. She told The Huffington Post that when her son Maverick was born, he was an impatient eater with a voracious appetite, but he would not latch. “I couldn’t produce fast enough for him,” she said.
After consulting specialists, Fox saw no improvements, and the stressed-out mom found herself crying herself to sleep each night. Ultimately, with her husband’s full support, she decided the best thing for her family was to switch to formula.
Fox faced criticism for her decision. “I had many people tell me things like, I didn’t try hard enough, or I must’ve been doing something wrong,” she recalled. “Or the worst was when people would tell me my child wouldn’t be as healthy as breastfed babies.”
“I actually had so much mom guilt that when people would ask me if I was nursing I’d lie, and they would always respond ‘good, breastfed is best,’” she continued. “The worst part about all of this, was it was other moms telling me these things. The people whom I thought I could go to and ask questions and get advice, they were criticizing my choices.”
When Fox gave birth to her daughter Georgia, the baby latched instantly and nursed for three months, until the mom’s supply was suddenly depleted. “We tried supplements of all kinds, and nothing worked,” she said. “Being a second time mom I was much less worried about what other people said because I had kept a little boy alive and healthy for two and a half years, so I knew that I knew what was best for my kids.”
“I was very happy that I was able to bond with my daughter through nursing but was OK with the fact that formula was what we needed to do for her,” Fox added.
The photographer was always hesitant to share her struggles with others, but when World Breastfeeding Week came around this year, she decided to channel her emotions into a creative project. She had always wanted to do a nursing session. “But I also thought us bottle fed mamas are always left out,” she said. “Isn’t how we feed our children beautiful too?”
While Fox said she understands the importance of normalizing breastfeeding in today’s society, she also thinks parents need to be less judgmental of their peers’ choices when it comes to nourishing their babies.
“My thought behind this session was to remind the world that fed is best,” she said.
To bring the project to life, the photographer posted on her Facebook page that she was seeking moms to participate in a photo shoot with their babies. She gathered the interested volunteers in a private Facebook group and shared the details of her vision. Expecting only 10-15 moms to remain interested, Fox was pleasantly surprised that ultimately 38 women still wanted to participate. Based on scheduling availability, the final group of participants numbered 21.
For the photo shoot, the women wore dresses that were either handmade by Fox or purchased from Taopan and Sew Trendy Accessories. When the photographer posted the final image on her Facebook page, she was touched by all the positive comments and messages of gratitude she received from fellow moms. Many viewers said they’d dealt with similar struggles and remained silent, fearing criticism from others about their decisions.
“Basically I just like to bring awareness to the fact that as moms we all struggle in many different ways, and through it all, we should be supportive to one another,” she told HuffPost. “The world needs to start accepting nursing in public more, and the mom community needs to start supporting each other’s parenting decisions more.”
She added, “As long as baby is happy, healthy, and taken care of that is all that matters.”