My introduction to breastfeeding was an unwanted one. I was only 18 years old and I remember being so thankful that the challenging pregnancy and pain of childbirth was over.
Finally my life (and body) will return to some sort of normal, right?
But no… this was not the case. The nurse (probably shocked at my age) sternly instructed me to feed my baby. I felt a range of emotions. My body was still not my own. I had already given up 9 months of my youth to house another life. Do you mean to tell me, I now have to give up my flesh yet again, to feed the culprit too?!
The disappointment was quickly replaced with feelings of guilt (I mean, how dare I feel this way) and an overbearing sense of finality. In that moment, the young, immature, 18 year old me quickly fell away, as I realised that my life will never be the same again.
No more a girl, I had graduated into motherhood. Someone’s mother. Someones carer. I was my baby’s nurturer and sustenance… and he was my responsibility. This was my new normal.
Maybe your breastfeeding story looks a lot different to mine. Maybe there are similarities. Whatever the case, I know that the reality of breastfeeding can hit you right in the jugular, without you even preparing for it!
This is the very reason why I was so drawn to Leah Hawker’s phenomenal new book, Breastfeeding 101. Friends, you need to read this one! In it, Leah shines a spotlight on 101 women, telling their often surprising stories about their journey with breastfeeding.
With gorgeous portraits, accompanied with candied stories as told straight from the “mamas mouth”, Leah explores personal truths, myths and attitudes towards the subject of breastfeeding, inevitably raising topical questions about how women feel about themselves, how they are seen by others and how they are marketed to.
I was so drawn to each story – relating to each on a different level. There is beauty in the difference and I love how Leah unpacks the multiple facets of breastfeeding, by creating a space where we can connect, as women and share a “wow, me too” moment as we page through her book.
The incredibly beautiful images, that accompany each story, paints a picture of what it means to be proudly and diversely South African AND united by the overwhelming task of Motherhood, all at the same time.
Leah says: “This was an important project to me because the subject is a central axis for current debates and highlights the current influences and outside factors affecting women, breastfeeding and infant health,” says Hawker. “The book tells unique stories and reveals surprisingly uncommon knowledge. My interest, as an image maker, is looking at women’s entire identities and the multitude of facets that these can be composed of.
Now, after photographing 101 portraits, I realise there is still so much we don’t know about the subject and even about what women experience when they become mothers.
The current influences and outside factors affecting women, breastfeeding and infant health are substantial. The stories told in this book are therefore important ones.”
My friends, if you’re a book lover, or you’re looking for something fascinating to add to your coffee table, trust me, you want this book! It is a stunning collection of work by one of our own and I highly recommend it! It is available for purchase via Exclusive Books, The Book Lounge and directly from the author at R385. You can contact Leah Hawker via email or visit her website.
About the author: Leah Hawker is a South African professional photographer. Her work covers birth, nudes, documentary features, art-based and editorial projects. Her most recent diptych titled “60 days (Pen & Hlomla)”, a reflection on motherhood and infant mortality, showed at the 2018 Sasol New Signatures Awards in the Pretoria Art Museum. The images exhibited were created during her Breastfeeding 101 project, which has taken three years.
Win a copy of Breastfeeding 101!
Leah Hawker is giving away a copy of her gorgeous book, Breastfeeding 101, to one lucky reader!
To enter, simply follow the prompts below:
1. Find the specially marked post on Instagram and follow instruction to grab 1 entry.
2. Find the specially marked post on Facebook and follow instruction to grab 1 entry.
3. Comment below and let me know what you think of the book, to grab 1 entry.
Giveaway open to SA residents only. Winner announced on 6 December and has 24 hours to claim prize.
This review and giveaway was done in collaboration with Leah Hawker. All images in this post was supplied by and is the property of Leah Hawker.