Under the setting August sun, and shushed by rolling waves, 11 mums and 12 children became a Lincolnshire photographer’s breathtaking muses – celebrating the joys and benefits of breastfeeding in a way as natural as the cool Cleethorpes sands between their toes.
29-year-old mum and Grimsby university photography student Bethany Hunter’s own experience of breastfeeding, combined with the arrival of World Breastfeeding Week, inspired her to celebrate the achievements of mothers and their families.
And, baring all (literally and figuratively) on the beach might have proved challenging if it weren’t for some careful planning.
“As you can imagine, getting 11 women and 12 babies (one mother tandem feeds) all together on the same night is a challenge in itself, but these women were amazing, and pulled it off,” Bethany told The Lincolnite.
“I had a vision of focusing on breastfeeding to celebrate their individual journeys and praise them for doing such an incredible job that is it beautiful and natural.”
The shoot took place in a private spot at the Cleethorpes beach yacht club on August 2, with local mums.
Embracing both the magic and the raw challenges many mothers face on their feeding journey, Bethany wanted to create an opportunity for mothers to share their experiences and lift each other in support.
It was also a chance for her to reflect on what breastfeeding means to her.
Becoming a mother at a young age meant she didn’t have many peers to turn to.
“I felt so lonely, and I had no confidence, I was left to look after another child still being a child myself.
“I tried breastfeeding and I had the full support of my family, coming from my big family and all being breastfed, my family are all for it.
“I struggled to do it for longer than a few weeks and was hard on myself for giving up but looking back now I am extremely proud of myself to have even given it a go.
“My son was born in 2019 and throughout the whole pregnancy I told myself, my midwives, my family I will be exclusively breastfeeding and our breastfeeding journey lasted thirteen months, it was the hardest, most magical thirteen months of my life.”
With just one year’s experience, Bethany has found her niche and describes photography as a job that gives her happiness every day.
“It’s challenging work and I put a lot of time and consistency into by business, but when you believe in yourself challenging work pays off.”
World Breastfeeding Week is a global campaign to raise awareness and galvanise action on themes related to breastfeeding.
To find out more visit the website here.
Their confidence boosted by the invigorating experience, Bethany’s models shared their stories too:
“When I was pregnant, I would say, ‘I really want to breastfeed my baby, but I won’t put myself through hell if it doesn’t work out.’
“I did all the online classes, bought a manual breast pump, a nursing bra, and some formula just in case, and thought I knew what to expect.
“After having to have a C section, the first feed seemed to go well but after two days of a tricky latch I had to express and feed her with a syringe.
“After trying formula, I felt really upset that I couldn’t feed my baby the way I had planned. When we got home from the hospital, I managed to get her to latch but spent around seven or eight weeks in agony, crying at every feed.
“The pain from my uterus contracting and shrinking whilst feeding just added to the pain from my c section, and don’t even get me started on my nipples. My body felt consumed by pain. Nights spent sobbing while my partner asked my permission to please go buy formula, days spent sobbing in the formula isle at the supermarket, but I refused to stop because I felt so strongly that I would be letting her down. I’ve never been so determined to do anything in my life.
“When Beth asked if I wanted to come along to her motherhood shoot, I jumped at the chance. To say that it’s empowered me would be an understatement.
“Beth has given me a whole new kind of confidence in my body and what it has achieved. She has shown me beauty in determination and made me so grateful that I was able to be a part of this group of amazing mothers. I feel so lucky to be involved with her project and now have the most beautiful images, that to me represent all the obstacles I have overcome to breastfeed my little girl. I have met some incredible women that I now speak to regularly about the joys (and stress!) of raising our babies!”
“For me, pre feeding and baby I was always of the opinion you should cover up for feeding for the comfort of others, I never imagined i would ever feed more than a few weeks or so if I could do it.
“Fast forward to now, I am four months in and no longer feel the need to cover up, the shoot has helped me to see that we should embrace our incredible bodies and not hide away such a natural and beautiful thing. Thank you for giving me the confidence Beth.”
“My breastfeeding journey was far from easy. I knew I wanted to give it a good go, more to make my mum proud who breastfed me and my siblings and loved it. I didn’t want to pressure myself thinking it wouldn’t be too hard but wow how wrong was I? I had a horrific pregnancy, with cholestasis, gestational hypertension, Covid and pre eclampsia.
“My boy was then born with a tongue tie which made it incredibly painful for me to feed him and his latch was affected which caused excessive wind problems for him.
“We waited two long weeks for this to be cut and the amount of nights I spent up crying wanting to quit, but I just couldn’t. The cluster feeds and all nighters on top of it with no sleep made it extremely difficult to function and I couldn’t just pass him to someone else to give him a bottle. Most people didn’t understand he wasn’t like a formula fed baby and would only feed every four hours. Not my baby, he wanted boob hourly!
“The positive is after those first six weeks things became so much easier and I absolutely love breastfeeding now. Not having to sort bottles and going down in the night is a big bonus. Being able to go out anywhere and just having my milk on tap is incredibly useful and being able to sooth my baby instantly is amazing.
“By having my photos done whilst breastfeeding with Beth made me feel incredibly empowered and proud of myself. With all the other girls it just helped us to create an instant bond with each other and all become friends. Beth has brought us all together and it’s just amazing.”