Dougherty, a New Jersey-based birth photographer, snapped the image as the mom, Kate, fed her 2-year-old daughter with her second girl on the way.
“The timing ended up working out nicely. Their daughter was home with family members, and they decided to bring her to the hospital for a visit,” Dougherty, 37, tells PEOPLE. “Kate expected she might want to nurse, and she was fine with that.”
“The fact that their little girl was nursing is such a normal part of everyday life that I don’t think anyone thought much of it.”
Dougherty, a mom of two boys herself, says that nursing often helps labor along.
“Nipple stimulation is often recommended as a way to naturally help labor progress, because it increases oxytocin,” she says. “Soon after breastfeeding, Kate’s contractions became more intense and frequent, and baby sister was born two hours later.”
Dougherty was thrilled to capture the moment.
“It’s a feeling I have often doing the work I do — how did I get so lucky to be witnessing this?” she says. “Maybe that is part of what makes this image so powerful. Birth and breastfeeding are normal and natural and are happening all the time. They are also beautiful and special, and remind us how important human connection is and how amazing our bodies are.”
And the mom was just as excited.
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“Kate and I mostly communicate via text, and she sends me a lot of hearts and tears streaming down the face emojis, which is adorable and perfect,” Dougherty says.