Mothers are tired of being told when and where to breastfeed their babies. To illustrate how natural it is to nurse out in the open, Arizona photographer Alicia Atkins recruited 27 mothers for a powerful shoot against the backdrop of a gorgeous desert sunset.
"THIS is for everyone that says to cover up. THIS is our right. THIS is for everyone that rolls their eyes. THIS is for the ones that say go feed your baby in the bathroom," Atkins wrote on Facebook, where she posted the photo on Sunday night. "THIS is for US. THIS is for or children. THIS IS OUR RIGHT!" The post already has more than 690 reactions and 350 shares.
This was the Glendale photographer's third year of organizing a breastfeeding mothers' photo, but something about the timing this year led to an overwhelming response. "I had moms from all over Arizona tagging other moms, saying, 'Please do this,' 'Please do this,' 'You have to go do this,' " Atkins tells Yahoo Beauty.
While 55 signed up, she wound up with 27 mothers at the park on Sunday at 6:50 p.m. As anyone who's raised a baby knows, that's typically a difficult time (aka "the witching hour") for little ones, so it's doubly impressive that this photo took only 15 minutes to capture.
"That was the beauty of the picture: Breastfeeding isn't easy," Atkins says. "There's one mom in there that has a baby and she's kind of falling out of her arms because she really didn't want to be in the picture. Some of the moms we had to do a really quick '1-2-3' so they could put the baby there and nurse really fast. It was overwhelming for the babies to be out in the desert. It was hot, it was bedtime, they were on camera. It was a little bit of work, but everybody worked out really well."
The breathtaking backdrop, apparently untouched by civilization, helps illustrate her point. "We try to stay away from buildings and major crossroads, just to make sure that everything is natural and beautiful and brings attention to the actual beauty of breastfeeding," she says.
Though she hadn't initially planned it, Atkins managed to present a variety of ways women feed their children in the shot: There's a woman using a breast pump, one using a bottle, one tandem-feeding twins, and another tandem-feeding her baby and toddler.
"I breastfed for 5 years total," Atkins, a mother of three, wrote in her post. "I support it. I will ALWAYS advocate for it. BUT This does NOT put down moms who don't, or can't. I SUPPORT YOU AS LONG AS YOU FEED YOUR BABY!!"
While woman have been more vocal about their breastfeeding rights in recent years, Atkins has found that's also made those who disapprove bolder too. A few of those responded to Atkins's post, which went viral almost immediately after she published it on Sunday night, and on the local news coverage of the shoot.
"It's your CHOICE to breast feed," wrote a woman calling herself Ladybug Bugzy. "My CHOICE is I don't want My Family to see PORN before their time. I BREAST FEED ALL MY CHILDREN I carried a light blanket when in public."
But most women proudly shared their own breastfeeding selfies in the comment thread that followed, drowning out any negativity.
Atkins said there were a couple of park employees who questioned whether she could take the photo without a permit, but she was able to argue that there was no commercial intent behind the shoot. Now, due to its popularity, she's arranging to do another one this Sunday, with 73 mothers already signed up.