Ever since MoniQua Perez saw the struggle her sister went through to nurse her niece, spreading awareness to normalize breastfeeding became one of her top priorities. She told POPSUGAR that watching her sister nurse her daughter opened her eyes to all the challenges women who breastfeed regularly experience.
I saw the strength and beauty of her breastfeeding journey. There were times when we were out in public together and she needed to breastfeed. I remember that despite using a cover, many people still stared at her in a judgmental way. I'm a strong believer that no mother should feel the need to cover up while breastfeeding because they're scared of being shamed or embarrassed while doing something that is such a natural part of motherhood.
"Whether you are rich, poor, black, white, Hispanic, or part of the LGBTQ+ community, breastfeeding is something all mothers can do."
And MoniQua admits that her sister was definitely not alone in her experience. The more women she spoke with, the more she learned about just how frequently moms are shamed for their need to breastfeed in public, both in in-person and on the internet.
"Breastfeeding should be accepted by everyone," she said. "In a society where breasts are constantly sexualized and exploited to help sell everything from bathing suits to cars, it seems ironic as well as ridiculous that mothers are being shamed for using their breasts for what they are intended to be used for: to feed their hungry children!"
After learning more about the breastfeeding community, MoniQua decided to put her photography skills to use and began contacting women who have been shamed for breastfeeding as part of an ongoing photo project. Her goals are to show moms breastfeeding in their true day-to-day element and to be as inclusive as humanly possible.
"I want my audience to see that breastfeeding is universal," she explained. "Capturing candid images of mothers from all walks of life in the midst of daily tasks while breastfeeding will resonate with mothers from all around the world more than a studio shot of a well-rehearsed smiling mother and child dressed in fancy outfits."
In order to show the most authentic sides of breastfeeding women, MoniQua asked each mom to pick a place that's important to them so she could take the pictures there.
My intention is to capture the rawness of breastfeeding while simultaneously capturing the mothers' personality. Each woman selected the location of their breastfeeding photo session so the specific setting they are in holds a special significance in their life. I want my images to show that breastfeeding is for all mothers. Whether you are rich, poor, black, white, Hispanic, or part of the LGBTQ+ community, breastfeeding is something all mothers can do.
MoniQua plans on turning her photo project into a coffee table book so that other women can feel inspired each and every day. Scroll through to see some of her most compelling shots that are sure to inspire.