Chemainus birth and lifestyle photographer Ashley Marston is bringing an international breastfeeding awareness project to the Cowichan Valley for the first time next week.
Marston has been invited to participate in a Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project during World Breastfeeding Week Aug. 1-7.
The project was founded by birth and breastfeeding photographer Leilani Rogers of Austin, Tex., and the purpose of the project is to help normalize breastfeeding.
In Lansinoh’s 2012 breastfeeding centered study, 40 per cent of mothers listed breastfeeding in public as their top worry, according to a press release from Marston.
“There are increasingly stories of mothers being asked to leave establishments for breastfeeding as well as being banned on social media for sharing breastfeeding images,” states Marston. “While the world is slowly making steps to support breastfeeding moms, we still have a long way to go. That’s why Rogers feels the more people who see mothers breastfeeding in public, the more accepted it will become. I share the same view as my fellow photographer. This is why I chose to participate in this global project and bring it to Vancouver Island.”
During World Breastfeeding Week, Rogers, Marston and other photographers around the world will be trying to get as many breastfeeding images into people’s Facebook newsfeeds, Twitter feeds and on Pinterest as possible, using hashtags like #supportpublicbreastfeeding, #thisisnormal, #breastfeedinginreallife and #normalizebreastfeeding.
On Aug. 3 and 5, Marston will be photographing women willing to participate in the Project, around the Cowichan Valley in many different public places and sharing the images online throughout the week.
“I have been overwhelmed with support I’ve seen on my own personal Facebook page and website with breastfeeding portraits I’ve captured and also regarding this project,” said Marston. “My hope is it will encourage and inspire mothers to breastfeed in public with more confidence.”
Marston believes mothers shouldn’t feel like they have to go to their cars or to the washroom or leave and go back home when they need to feed their babies while they’re out in public.
“Unfortunately, the media and people like to sort of sexualize it, but it would be great if moms could go out and feed their babies and feel comfortable,” she said by phone. “I think the more people see it, whether in photographs or in the street, the more it will be normal and moms will feel more comfortable. That’s why I jumped at the chance to be part of this project. I really believe that the more people see it and see the beauty in it and see that it’s natural, the more normal it will become.”
Marston put out a modeling call for World Breastfeeding Week. Her spots are already full, and she will be photographing women in very public places around the Cowichan Valley as they go along their regular routine.
“I would encourage people during World Breastfeeding Week to just get out there and not be uncomfortable breastfeeding publicly,” she said. “In doing so, they may just encourage another mother struggling with continuing to breastfeed to keep at it, or encourage her to feel OK breastfeeding wherever she may need to.”
Marston also encourages mothers to have someone photograph them breastfeeding, whether it’s a photographer or a family member.
“Often people don’t,” she said. “I’ve had such positive feedback on those photos and comments from people who wish they had that memory to look back on. As soon as you see that photo, you remember that feeling of feeding your baby.”
To learn more about Marston, visit www.ashleymarstonbirthphotography.com.