Hector Cruz, a photographer in Clarksville, Tennessee, founded Project: Breastfeeding, a campaign to educate more fathers like himself and to empower women by raising awareness and destigmatizing breastfeeding in public.
The project aims to help fathers understand "what a vital role they actually play in the breastfeeding journey with their spouses and their children," Hector says in the introduction video for his campaign, which he began in November 2013.
Hector and his wife Nicole battled infertility for more than 10 years before Nicole became pregnant in 2013. After the birth of their daughter, Sophia, Nicole had difficulty nursing, and their pediatrician recommended that the couple switch Sophia to formula because she was losing too much weight. Nicole was still determined to breastfeed, and Hector was determined to support her.
"I wish I could say I was an enlightened guy, but I wasn't," Hector told Fox News. "I figured women have breasts, a baby has a mouth, it all works, and there are never any issues. I was very, very wrong."
As he learned more, he decided to help share what he learned by using his photography skills. His campaign includes eye-catching images of men, some shirtless, holding babies as if they were breastfeeding, with the caption: "If I could, I would." The campaign also features photos of breastfeeding women and families who support nursing.
"As fathers, we think our role is to figure out what the best car seat is, to figure out what the best carrier or stroller is, have the right car, and make sure we put up the crib and get everything in order, but our roles go so much deeper than that," Hector says. "This project is really helping them. It's getting education to those men to make them better fathers and better husbands."
The campaign is now partnering with the nonprofit organization Mama Hope, which works with in-need communities in sub-Saharan Africa. Together, the two organizations are going to Uganda in May to educate fathers about pregnancy and breastfeeding.