San Diego Judoka Breastfeeds Toddler at California State Games

If you are following my personal profile on Facebook you know that I have been training Judo at the Heisei Judo Dojo in Chula Vista twice a week for more than a year! I have been making an effort recently to be more consistent with training since I am often out of town for the #NBFtour. Around this time last year, I bumped into this mama who came to class with her son pictured below. She mentioned that she was still nursing him. At the time her son was about 17 months old, only one month (to the date) younger than my son who was also still nursing. We chatted briefly about documenting breastfeeding in her gi at the dojo sometime, but “life happened” for both of us many times since then and we were unable to make it happen. We were, however, connected on social media. When my sensei mentioned to me that her son was starting to wean, I knew it was time to contact her to book a session. Last weekend she competed in the California State Games: “a multi-sport festival of Olympic-style competition for California’s amateur athletes of all ages and abilities.” This year the Judo Event took place at Southwestern College, in memory of Judoka Jesse Jones.


When I arrived to the event she had already competed! I was heart-broken, but I thought it would be best to keep a positive attitude and take advantage of the opportunity to capture a few Judo images while I was there. It was a great learning experience. I actually took some pretty great shots just because training in the sport myself helped me to be more precise when choosing to press the shutter. All of a sudden, they called her name to compete AGAIN! She was unprepared as she had already put her gi and belts into her car. I quickly (and happily) offered to hold her little guy and suggested that she run to the car to grab her competition uniform. And she did! It was so exciting to have been given another opportunity to document her story in this way.



Post-match talk with coach.


This is her breastfeeding story:

“I started Judo at Southwestern College where I studied for 3 semesters from Spring 2009 – Spring 2011. I joined Heisei Judo dojo the summer 2010 till current and San Shi judo dojo May 2016 – current. First, I gave birth to my daughter, Sydney, in August 2003. I chose to breastfeed to explore the natural way for my own experience of becoming a mother. It was unlike what I was used to seeing from my family of bottle-feeders. 😉 I also supplemented because I was doing this as a single parent, it was my first time, and it was overwhelming at times. So after 3 months of nursing I just stopped trying and Sydney didn’t mind. She took to a bottle with everyone who wanted to hold and feed her. Plus, the breast pumped looked like farm equipment to me! 😜 Then in 2014, I welcomed my son, Alexander into the world. He took to breastfeeding right away. He was like a pro! I suffered from a gunshot wound to my left breast in August 2012. I was very curious to see how well I recovered. Unfortunately, I could not pump milk out from the left breast and I was not sure if he was getting any milk from it either. I just relied on the right breast after months of pumping nothing from the left. Luckily, I had no problems with just nursing on the right side. He is 2.5 years old now and he is starting to self-wean. It’s mostly for comfort, an emergency snack, at night falling asleep, or when I am out and come home. We decided swimming lessons and attending Judo would be a good distraction to encourage him to get by without nursing. Things are working out well. It was so much easier not having to wash and make bottles. AJ is healthy and happy and we have a wonderful bond. It’s good to have experienced such a success.” -Jennifer Orey, Mom of 2


AJ, drinking water, as Jennifer is encouraging him to wean.



Jennifer Orey Awarded 2nd Place Silver Medal



11 minutes after drinking water, AJ asks to nurse.



Son still latched on, smiling and holding up Jennifer’s medal.



Jennifer with daughter, Sydney and son, AJ.


As a mom it is so important to stay active and keep our own health in mind. I have grown to love Judo with passion and look forward to competing in the near future. Hopefully, another photographer will be available to document my experience as well!

::  OSS  ::



Tour Dates/Locations 2016:

2/27 – Las Vegas, NV
4/10 – Washington, DC
6/4 – Oklahoma City, OK
7/23 – Chicago, IL
7/30 – New Orleans, LA
8/7 – Los Angeles, CA
8/20 – Philadelphia, PA
8/27 – Harlem, NY
9/10 – Evansville, IN
9/24 – Boise, ID
10/1 – Denver, CO 
10/22 – Charlotte, NC

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  1. Jennifer says:

    It’s amazing and beautiful, your work is outstanding. The beauty and passion you posses is incredible. It was a pleasure being a part of one of your photo shoots and more of a pleasure to know you. Stay blessed and much love from this Phila mom. Fantastic work. 💖💖💖💖💖💖💖

  2. Karen Rasmussen Vlasaty says:

    WOW! FANTASTIC! THANK YOU, Vanessa Simmons! Wonderful photos. Can’t believe you and Nikki Lee were not seriously hurt in terrible accident. Brave you, got going ahead that day. Many blessings on you, your family, and your calling.

  3. Romina says:

    This is absolutely beautiful and inspiring. I appreciate your honesty and courageous vulnerability in sharing your story. Thank you for the work you’re doing. It’s incredibly important. Brilliant!

  4. Michelle says:

    The images are wonderful! Congratulations on your contribution to such an important project! I was just in Philadelphia and must have just missed them 🙁

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