WHEN Ariana Youmans Keenahan became a mother she never questioned how she’d feed her child. Breastfeeding is part of her family legacy.
“I’m one of 12 cousins. All of us were breastfed,” says Ariana, originally from Georgia in the South-Eastern region of the US, but living in Kilcock, Co Kildare for seven years.
Growing up, she recalls a book on her parents’ coffee table that included a photo of her Aunt Mary breastfeeding Ariana’s cousin, Sara – alongside photos of her aunt riding horses and roping cattle.
“There was something about that photo that always drew me in. It was the closeness, the connection, the attention – like the photographer wasn’t even there – just mother and baby having that moment. That single photo said: ‘This is your family legacy. This is how babies are fed and you can grow up to be an empowered woman and breastfeed too’.”
Married to Garrett, Ariana has a three-and-a-half-year-old-son, who she breastfed until a year ago when her daughter was born. “He weaned very naturally – he just woke up one morning and forgot to latch,” says Ariana, who continues to breastfeed her daughter.
Although far from the support of her mum and close family when she began breastfeeding, Ariana felt reassured by community midwives from the domino scheme (she’d been hoping for a home birth but ended up having a C-section), who visited her home daily for a week after her son’s birth.
“They gave suggestions, saw whether the latch was correct – it was all very reassuring. I created a community around me of women who’d breastfed – the friend of a friend, a woman I met at a baby fair.”
And breastfeeding in Ireland was maybe easier than it might have been in Georgia.
“I wouldn’t have had the support of the domino scheme. And where I’m from is the Bible belt – there’s a lot of emphasis on modesty, a cultural influence to be covered while breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding inspired Ariana to start her photography business, documenting families (wellfedphotography.com).
She’s currently compiling a book of breastfeeding stories and photos, capturing the experience of 60 women across Ireland.
“Breastfeeding has been such a gift to me. I want to pass it on to the world. I didn’t know my power as a woman until I went through birth and breastfeeding. Sustaining life through your own body – what’s more powerful than that?”
Ariana would like to hear from women/families with the following perspectives for her book:
- Breastfeeding of multiples (twins, triplets).
- Breastfeeding by someone in the Travelling community.
- Breastfeeding/chestfeeding by someone who does not identify as female.
- Breastfeeding by someone who has had breast cancer diagnosis while breastfeeding; or someone who has had a breast cancer diagnosis and gone on to breastfeed.