Montana woman has initiated a breastfeeding campaign featuring life-sized cardboard cutouts.
Montana woman, Dawn Gordon-Wilcox, has initiated a breastfeeding campaign featuring life-sized cardboard cutouts of women breastfeeding their babies.

The support of a community can make a huge difference for mothers who are on their breastfeeding journey. For many, lack of family and community support remains one of the biggest barriers to breastfeeding success. With the goal of normalizing breastfeeding, Gordon-Wilcox's life-sized cardboard breastfeeders are turning heads.

Gordon-Wilcox knows a thing or two about breastfeeding. This mother of four currently serves as a Board Certified Lactation Consultant for the Butte Health Department. In her years of experience working with breastfeeding moms and their babies, Gordon-Wilcox has personally experienced a common theme. "New moms start out wanting to breastfeed. We do a great job at helping these women initiate breastfeeding, but we need to give them the resources to encourage them to continue," said Gordon-Wilcox.

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With this idea in mind, Gordon-Wilcox applied for the Montana Breastfeeds Grant through the Montana State Breastfeeding Coalition. Award in hand, Gordon-Wilcox got to work. Inspired by a WIC clinic in NYC, her idea was to create life-sized cardboard cutouts, or "standees," of women breastfeeding their babies. She envisioned placing these realistic standees in public areas throughout Butte.

Butte Photographer Hayes Novich was immediately on board, volunteering his photography services to this worthy cause. "We pitched the idea to Hayes and without blinking, he jumped on board. It was wonderful to have a male photographer embrace our project. He understood what we wanted and created very realistic images that blend in with a crowd." Gordon-Wilcox said, "While the women are beautiful, we were looking to capture everyday women parenting their kids."

Montana leads the way when it comes to breastfeeding. In fact, the state ranks number one in exclusive breastfeeding at three and six months. However, Gordon-Wilcox noted, Butte lags significantly behind.

Related: Candid Shots of Everyday Moms Breastfeeding in Public are Helping to Normalize Nursing

Many Butte residents do not have the resources to continue breastfeeding once they leave the hospital. Most women return to work soon after having a baby. They face many obstacles such as not having enough break time during their work day to pump or having an employer that does not fully support it.

"Breastfeeding is just not that visible in Butte. Many families are trying to overcome breastfeeding obstacles, but they are facing challenges when it comes to navigating breastfeeding within the community," said Gordon-Wilcox.

Gordon-Wilcox believes that placing the focus of the intervention back at the community level, as opposed to the parental level, is an important first step. She aims to assist the Butte community to see that breastfeeding women need and deserve support. "Moms have enough on their plate. We need the community to show their support."

The breastfeeding standee cutouts, referred to by Gordon-Wilcox as "the ladies," first debuted at the Breastfeeding Learning Collaborative in April. The project inspired many people throughout Montana, and the feedback has been extremely positive. "The realistic standees blend into the crowd. In fact, many people mistake the breastfeeding ladies for real moms nursing their babies. My hope is that they will be a conversation starter," said Gordon-Wilcox.

The ladies are currently on display in the rotunda at the Butte-Silver Bow Courthouse for the next month. Following their Courthouse appearance, they will travel to public locations throughout Butte.

Photo 1 credit: Montana Standard
Photo 2 credit: Meagan Thompson photographer, Little Light Images