The benefits of breastfeeding are consistently touted by health experts, with many believing that breastfeeding promotes a strong bond between mother and newborn while helping protect both mom and baby from disease. Historically, nursing-related support, education, and resources have been targeted specifically toward women. But a new project called Project: Breastfeeding is breaking down gender barriers, working to spread the message that breastfeeding is not just for women anymore.
Breast milk, sometimes referred to as “liquid gold,” is rich in nutrients, antibodies, cells, and hormones that can help babies fight illnesses while being relatively easy for them to digest. According to WomensHealth.org, a federal website maintained by the Office on Women’s Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, breastfeeding can work to reduce the risk of Type 1 diabetes, leukemia, and a skin rash known as atopic dermatitis. Breastfeeding also provides important benefits for nursing moms, reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and postpartum depression.
But nursing is not always easy. While nearly all new mothers breast feed their newborns, about half stop after just a few weeks. A study published in the journal Pediatrics shared that women who experience anxiety or worry about their ability to nurse are more likely to switch to formula sooner than those who do not. According to the report, about half of new mothers began worrying about their baby’s ability to latch on just three days after delivery. About 44 percent of women worried about pain related to nursing, and about 40 percent worried about not producing enough milk.
A 2013 report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that women were more successful at breastfeeding when they felt supported by the baby’s father. The report also noted that dads who felt educated and knew more about nursing were better able to support and encourage the baby’s mother. But nursing-related resources for new dads are basically non-existent. Photographer Hector Cruz recently set out to change that, showing the world through his series of photographs that breastfeeding is not just for women anymore. Dads need support and guidance, too.
After Cruz’s wife gave birth to their child in October of 2013 and began struggling with nursing, Cruz found himself immersed in a world that left him feeling confused and under-educated. Cruz quickly realized that most of the education and resources about breastfeeding specifically targeted mothers. He eventually set out to change how the country views the role that dads have in breastfeeding.
Through a series of powerful photographs, Cruz showcases men posing with their children in a similar fashion as women who are breastfeeding. Beside each image is the message “Project Breastfeeding. If I Could, I Would.” Cruz shared with Today.com that highlighting men in this way helps to “show the support that men have for their wives.” Cruz originally intended to promote his images on billboards near his hometown in Tennessee but, as his popularity quickly grew across the country, Cruz set his sights even higher. His website states that his goals with Project: Breastfeeding now include launching a national billboard campaign and starting an organization that will offer educational resources and breastfeeding classes to partners.
Cruz is in the process of raising funds to support his goal in sharing the message that breastfeeding is not just for women anymore. Within the last four months, Cruz has raised over $1,800 which he plans to use to file necessary paperwork to launch his non-profit organization and conduct photo shoots with families across the country.
By Katie Bloomstrom
Image Courtesy of Chris Alban Hanson’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License