Moms Who Have Struggled with Breastfeeding Come Together in Stunning Photo Shoot

"I want it to inspire all mothers who are struggling to breastfeed their babies, and to show them that they are not alone in their struggles," Cheyanne Booker tells PEOPLE

Photo: Cheyanne Booker

Photographer Cheyanne Booker wanted to bring together women from all walks of life who had struggled with breastfeeding for a one-of-a-kind photo shoot, after struggling with breastfeeding herself.

“I was the first mother in my family to breastfeed a baby, so I had no idea what I was doing,” Booker, 20, tells PEOPLE. “My daughter nursed every 10 minutes or so throughout the day, and it was overwhelming. I also couldn’t pump milk whatsoever. I was convinced she was starving, and I truly felt that my body was not working how it was supposed to be.”

Booker knew she was not alone, and wanted to celebrate the act of breastfeeding for women who also struggled by photographing them while nursing, and telling their stories.

“The stories attached to the photos are the most important part of the project to me,” says Booker. “I want it to inspire all mothers who are struggling to breastfeed their babies, and to show them that they are not alone in their struggles.”

RELATED VIDEO: Nursing or Not? Moms Talk About the Pressure to Breastfeed

“My breastfeeding journey began with preemie twins,” shared Shelby Butler. “Born at just 29 weeks, the twins were too small, too underdeveloped, to nurse right away, so I pumped and they got my milk though feeding tubes and, later, bottles. I did eventually try to nurse them, but they preferred bottles.”

Monique Johnson spoke about tandem breastfeeding her nearly 3-year-old son along with her baby daughter.

“When I first began to tandem nurse the two of them, I realized that nursing two children was incredibly difficult,” she said. “I cried, I got angry, I wanted to stop nursing both of them many, many times. I finally decided that I couldn’t do that to my children, they depended on the nursing relationship for comfort, support, nutrition and bonding with each other as well as me.”

Samantha McMillan spoke about her wife Phoenix’s dysphoric milk ejection reflex, a condition that causes women to experience negative feelings just before milk release.

“She had severe nausea and feelings of panic and depression during pumping and afterward,” said McMillan. “It got to the point where she was going into panic attacks just looking at the pump, and she was thinking things like, ‘If I cut my wrists right now, I wouldn’t have to pump.’ There’s no fix for D-MER. There are distraction techniques and other things, but none of it worked. The only other fix is time.”

“We had our fair share of issues including supply issues, a milk protein allergy, dairy intolerance, and a latch issue that required me to use a shield,” said Emily Lowell, who breastfed all three of her children.

“When I had my last child, Kam, and I wasn’t able to nurse him for the first 24 hours I was already discouraged,” shared Gwendolyn Martin. “After finally getting to nurse him, he latched perfectly. Now he prefers breast milk, won’t take any formula or a bottle for the most part. I’m proud to say we’ve made it five months exclusively breastfeeding with many more to come.”

Related Articles