That’s a question photographer and new dad Hector Cruz thought about long and hard. He found himself feeling naive and helpless when his daughter, Sophia, was born and his wife, Nicole, had so many problems breastfeeding that Sophia’s pediatrician suggested the family consider formula. Nicole didn’t want to bottle-feed her daughter, though.

The Cruzes had tried for more than 10 years to have a baby and, when the big day actually happened, Cruz, 33, realized how unenlightened he was. “I figured women have breasts, a baby has a mouth, it all works and there are never any issues. I was very, very wrong.”

Cruz thought other new fathers might be wrong, too. He thinks a lot of men check out of the process once the pregnancy is confirmed. That they’re not really part of it after that and their participation isn’t typically encouraged. He’s working to change that.

His first step took him to a breastfeeding advocacy group on Facebook that Nicole had joined. He asked for advice. Donor milk. Anything.

Fifty responses within minutes had Cruz speaking a whole new vocabulary — tongue latch, tongue-tie, clogged duct, hand expression. The self-described clueless father followed the online advice and found a lactation consultant who went to the hospital to help Nicole conquer breastfeeding.

His second step was to use his photography skills to found Project: BreastFeeding, which started in November 2013 with a billboard featuring a bare-chested military dad holding his baby as if he were breastfeeding it himself. The billboard’s caption read: “If I could, I would.”

The first billboard photo was just one of many and soon a full-scale campaign was developed. Project: BreastFeeding has applied for non-profit status so it can raise funds for programs that empower women about breastfeeding, educate their men, and eliminate the stigma associated with breastfeeding in public. Its curriculum for co-ed breastfeeding support classes is in development.

Cruz now travels the country taking photos of men and women in the breastfeeding position, individually or with their families. He wants to leave a billboard behind in every community where he sets up a photo shoot.

The Project: BreastFeeding message made its way to MommyCon, an annual convention that spotlights natural parenting. Cruz’s next stop is Africa.

Cruz is working with a non-profit organization called Mama Hope that provides family support to communities in need in sub-Saharan Africa. The two groups will team up in Uganda in May, where Cruz will focus his efforts on educating fathers about the value of breastfeeding, how to be an effective father, and paternal family support.

Source: “If I Could, I Would.” Project: BreastFeeding. Project: BreastFeeding by Hector Cruz Photography. n.d. Web. Mar 12, 2014.

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