It is an insane, ridiculous truth that breastfeeding in public is something women are routinely shamed for – which, I’ll remind you, is a completely natural, non-sexual act, the purpose of which is to provide sustenance for children. Just a couple of weeks ago, for example, new mom Connor Kendall was shamed on social media for having the temerity to breastfeed her son at a TGI Fridays (her response was perfect, by the way). The continuing prejudice against women who breastfeed their infants in public (the horror!) is why photographer Ivette Ivens’ work is both inspiring and important: Ivens takes gorgeous photographs of breastfeeding mothers and demonstrates that, not only is breastfeeding completely normal, it’s also pretty darn beautiful.
Lithuanian-born Ivens, who is based in Chicago, is herself a mother of two, and regards breastfeeding as empowering. In April, she told The Huffington Post, "Every time I nurse my baby with my burp-spotted shirt on and messy hair, I still feel like some kind of superhero, and nursing is my super power.” She’s not willing to let the stigma against breastfeeding limit where she goes, explaining,
I nursed them both anywhere I wanted. From church to parties, from farmers market to high-end designer stores. I believe that mothers should nurse their little ones whenever they want to.
Ivens's photographs show gorgeously styled women breastfeeding in beautiful, often stylized settings. In the blurb for her forthcoming book, Breastfeeding Goddesses, Ivens explains that the photographs don’t depict the physical reality of breastfeeding, so much as the internal feelings that breastfeeding can evoke:
Breastfeeding can be messy, uncomfortable, and even painful at times, but the mother’s inner consciousness tells another story. The images in this book depict the way each woman feels while nursing: pure, beautiful, saintly, celestial.
Ivens is a proponent of extended breastfeeding and has publicly discussed the fact that she breastfed her older child until he was just over three years old; she’s still breastfeeding her younger child, who is 10 months. She told The Huffington Post, "Children know when it's time to wean off. Mothers do too. Strangers don't know, so they shouldn't care."
That last line could also be a solid response to the whole “breastfeeding in public” debate: Dear strangers, it’s not about you, so get over it. The End.
Check out Ivens’s Instagram account for more photos.