United We Feed: the photo series for all mums

In an attempt to combat the battles and pressure on women around how they choose to feed their child, Caitlin Domanico, a photographer and mum of two, has created the United we Feed project.

The project, which commenced in April this year, displays photos of mums gathered together feeding their babies – by any means that they so choose.  

Some of the women had pre-pumped their milk, some used tubes; others fed with formula, others opted to breastfeed. 

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 Photo: Caitlin Domanico

Caitlin says that her focus on the variety of ways to feed stems from her own experiences of receiving "conflicting information, as well as being subjected to the all-too-prevalent 'mommy shaming' that exists online".

It's something I can relate to. When I had my son I wanted to give breastfeeding a try, and, even though I was conscious not to put too much pressure on myself, I was convinced that it couldn't be that hard. After all thousands of women did it successfully, so why couldn't I?

However I was very much mistaken.

Breastfeeding didn't come easily or naturally to me. I struggled to get to grips with feeding discretely. I never really knew how much my son had drunk, and my milk supply never seemed to be enough to fulfill his growing needs.  

I spent what felt like hours attached to a pump in an attempt to increase my supply, only to have my son wake up and drink what I'd just expressed, so I never seemed to get ahead.

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In fact, of all the things that I spent time worrying about in those first few months of becoming a new mum, breastfeeding topped my list.

Days turned into weeks of struggling, which morphed into months of feeling like a failure. I would swing between crying or getting stressed and frustrated – and most of the time it appeared that my son felt the same.

So the day I decided to turn to bottle-feeding and formula was a blessing for us both. The relief I felt was intense and as my son happily guzzled down a bottle and slept solidly and soundly for three hours, I knew I'd done the right thing.

However, it didn't come without its own problems.

Both family and strangers alike made comment about my choice, and I felt like I had to constantly justify my reasons for turning to the bottle. I already felt bad enough, so this did nothing to alleviate my sense of failure and guilt.

Of course, there are countless other mums who've been in my shoes. 

Karen Faulkner, a midwife and child health nurse, says there's a lot of pressure around how women feed their babies and this can have huge psychological issues.

"The 'breast is best' campaign has played a part in mummy shaming, and mums who are formula feeding can feel less of a mum because of it," she says.

She also adds that the advent of social media and Facebook has allowed for mummy shaming to occur anonymously. As a result, many mums try to breastfeed even though the odds are against them.

But Faulkner says, "How you feed your baby is not that important, as long as they are fed.  What is important is that mum is enjoying her baby and being supported.

When it comes to your choice, Faulkner advises all women to speak out and have open and honest conversations.

She also suggests speaking to a health professional and finding a 'safe' or supportive Facebook page, such as Nurture Parenting, where you will not be judged based on your feeding choices.

"Just like every aspect of parenting, there needs to be support, good information and balance," says Faulkner. "Judgement has no place in empowering mums."