What's A-Parent

This Statement-Making Photoshoot Proves There's No One "Best" Way To Be A Mom

"We as moms should support one another and not make each other feel bad for us just trying to keep these little humans alive."

What's A-Parent is a series highlighting those who get real about the hardships that come with raising kids. These often untold stories help show parents they are not alone in their struggle, and are doing an amazing job.

Every new mother wants what's best for her baby, but too many are told that can only mean one thing: breast milk. While mothers have made important strides in normalizing public breastfeeding, there still exists a stigma surrounding mothers who don't breastfeed their children, either by choice or ability. 

Abbie Fox, a photographer, was one such mother who had difficulty breastfeeding and felt the immense pressure from other mothers who told her "breast is best." 

Instead of buckling under that pressure, she turned her individual experience into beautiful art honoring the many "best" ways to be a mom.

In 2016, she came up with the "Fed is Best" photography project, bringing together 21 new mothers in one ethereal picture. With the photoshoot coinciding with World Breastfeeding Week, Fox wanted to celebrate but in a way that felt both authentic and inclusive. 

Photo Credit: Foxy Photography
Photo Credit: Foxy Photography Abbie Fox

"When I had my first child nursing didn't work. I did everything I was supposed to do but my little chunker of a newborn was too impatient and even specialists couldn't help us. So after 6 weeks of stressing and crying myself to sleep we finally said enough is enough," she wrote in a Facebook post accompanying the photograph. "It was not worth the stress and as long as he was happy and healthy I was going to be happy." 

Fox went on to explain that though her family had been supportive, others were not, telling her she hadn't "tried hard enough" or "must've been doing something wrong." Perhaps most upsetting, she recalled, "... many times people told me that my baby wouldn't be as healthy as those who nursed up to a year at least, if not longer. It was very hard getting criticism from those who I thought would be the most supportive, other moms." 

Though Fox was able to nurse her second child and called the experience "amazing," she nonetheless learned that "breast is best" was a myth.

Whatever way a mother can ensure her child remains "Fed is Best" — and she wanted to make sure other mothers know it too. After the success of her first photoshoot, she decided to do it again this year. "Last year it was for me, for me to tell my story," Fox told A Plus via email. "... [This year] was more for other ladies who wanted to be in an image that represented this story." 

She hopes that by telling this story through her photos, everyone who sees them will begin to understand these women's unique parenting challenges. "I am the first person to admit that I would look at moms and what they were doing and think 'I'd never do that,'" she said. "Here I am seven years later, and I do anything and everything I can to make sure my kids are happy and healthy, and a lot of times it is something I never thought I'd do. We need more love and acceptance in the world from everyone, not just other moms." 

A few months before the photoshoot, Fox began to receive messages from other moms requesting she do it again. Despite receiving some negative comments on her first photo, she knew the subject was too important not to do it again. 

Photo Credit: Foxy Photography
Photo Credit: Foxy Photography Abbie Fox

"...While yes breastmilk is the healthiest option for baby most of the time, I'm not denying that, sometimes women cannot do it," she posted to Facebook on July 23, 2017. "Whether baby won't latch, mom can't produce milk, or a variety of other reasons, we as moms should support one another and not make each other feel bad for us just trying to keep these little humans alive. That is what the concept Fed is Best is all about." 

After sharing her own experience with other mothers and the world, Fox received "amazing comments and messages from moms" who finally felt empowered to accept their individual mothering abilities and not be so hard on themselves. "Because of that, I feel like we can share the message every year and reach more ladies," she said. "If we can help one mom feel a little less guilty for something they can't control, that is a win in my book." 

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