An Alberta hockey player captured feeding her baby in the locker room says she pushed aside nervousness in sharing the photos publicly in order to help other new moms.
Serah Small, a teacher from Grande Prairie, Alta., posted a photo to Facebook of herself breastfeeding her eight-week-old daughter Ellie — while dressed in her Grovedale Vipers hockey gear.
"She was in the dressing room — she's played hockey since she was four years old and hockey's been a part of her life — I just watched her and she was getting ready and she was sitting there and she was breastfeeding her daughter and I never saw anything more beautiful in my life," said Small's mom, Dena Lanktree, who took the photos.
Small, 24, said she had no idea she had been photographed until her mom showed her the pictures later.
It was awesome to be able to share something that I love with my daughter.Serah Small
Small decided to share a photo on her own personal Facebook page, as well as with her lactation consultant, who posted another one on her professional Facebook account.
"I feel very empowered when breastfeeding uncovered and feel that as a young, confident mom that I can help change the stigma of breastfeeding and help normalize it. Because it should be seen as something beautiful and normal. Breastfeeding is done anytime, anywhere," said Small in an interview with HuffPost Canada.
She said last season when she was pregnant marked the first time she hadn't played hockey since she was a pre-schooler, so she was eager to return to the sport after giving birth. The photos of Small were taken before the game as well as in between periods.
"I got half-dressed and breastfed her before I put the rest of my equipment on so that she would hopefully sleep and make it through the whole game since I didn't have my pump with me," explained Small.
"It was awesome to be able to share something that I love with my daughter."
In the past, when she tried to cover up the breastfeeding, Ellie couldn't latch and Small struggled to look through the cover to help her. So the new mother decided to just do it uncovered, and figured people who felt uncomfortable could just look away.
"We learn by watching others around us, and that's why I feel that Serah's photos are so important," said Small's lactation consultant Tara-Jean Thiessen. "They show a mother tending to her child. She's not hidden at home, not covering her baby with a blanket. She's out in the open.
"The more we see it, the more it is accepted as just a normal thing that humans do to nourish their children."
With the photos, Small also wants people to know that it's not as easy to "bounce back" from pregnancy as it can seem.
"Postpartum is hard and learning your new role in life as a mom yet still trying to fit in the old things you loved is challenging. You're in this new body you don't even recognize and that can be scary and challenging and frustrating and a million emotions," she said.
"I wish people and the media would view postpartum as this beautiful journey of rediscovery instead of how quickly one can bounce back."
Part of Small's realization came after this past weekend's hockey tournament.
"Our bodies need time to heal and it took me playing four games and exhausting my body to realize how amazing my body truly is and appreciate that it will never be the same. But that's OK because it grew a baby," she said.