Breastfeed Here, Breastfeed There, I’ll Breastfeed Everywhere!

Except for the bathroom… or a closet. I would never nurse my child in those places. It’s unfortunate however that many people in the world are so against breastfeeding that they’d rather a mother take their child into a public bathroom and nurse. I guess it’s extremely difficult to turn your head and continue to mind your business on this strange planet called Earth.

I wrote a blog titled To Cover Up or Not to Cover up? back in January when my youngest daughter Jayla was three months old. I was still getting the hang of the new mom life for the second time, and was in the early stages of breastfeeding. I became engulfed with all things motherhood and breastfeeding. One thing I found myself uncomfortable with was nursing without a cover. I didn’t disagree with women who chose not to cover, I just preferred to keep myself and daughter covered. It gave us as much privacy as we could have in public.

I had no idea what would transpire only five months after I wrote that post. Jayla turned eight months and grew irritated with being covered. Partially because of the Summer heat, majority of it being because she needed to see my face and feel my skin. She and I would go back and forth playing “tug of war” with the cover the entire time we nursed in public. I would be embarrassed each time my breast was exposed. I didn’t want any negative attention or encounters. I had been reading about so many terrible experiences women were having while breastfeeding in public places, and was also witnessing pictures and videos going viral of women being shamed for breastfeeding in public. More specifically, the black woman who was breastfeeding her child uncovered on the airplane.  I was appalled that someone would find her nursing her child uncovered disgusting, but had no issue with recording her baby and bare breast. To top it off, the video went viral.

I didn’t want that to happen to me. I wasn’t totally confident in myself or my breastfeeding journey. Although it had been eight months, it was still new to me. It’s new each month I go on because it’s a month longer than I expected I would nurse. I had to get my mind right QUICK because Jayla wasn’t in the mood to give me a grace period. So I upped the ante on the amount of breastfeeding pages that I followed on Instagram, and  joined a breastfeeding support group on Facebook to surround myself around women who were on the same journey as me. These women were unashamed of their purpose no matter the size of their breast and the setting where a feeding would take place. I grew to feel empowered.

I had to “get rid of my stinkin’ thinkin'” and remember my purpose is to provide for my daughter in the most natural way that I can. My breastfeeding journey doesn’t need to be a stressful one because of my fear of stares or negative comments. My baby needs her mother’s milk. I refuse to walk down the formula aisle at the grocery store losing my hair over the prices when I already produce milk for free. I remember that feeling when Taniya was younger.

Once I refocused and got inline with my vision for my mothering and breastfeeding journey, I began to see more positive breastfeeding posts and experiences. Definitely had to change my perspective in order to see this. I began to see animals of all sorts, which is as natural as it gets, breastfeeding their young. Monkeys, dogs, pigs, bears and more. During one of Taniya’s science classes in homeschooling, we learned about the blue whale. I was amazed to learn that baby blue whales, mammals just like humans, survive only on their mother’s milk for their first year of life, gaining about 200 pounds each day. I was getting reminders during a homeschool lesson! Not only is breastfeeding beautiful in all forms, but a reminder that our babies can definitely survive off of our breastmilk and be ok without anything else for the first year of life. I am now 1 year and 2 weeks strong on my breastfeeding journey. I thought I would stop at 1 year, but it didn’t happen that way.

Now I don’t just whip my breast out while I’m walking down the grocery store aisle, but I would do it if I need to. Nurse and continue to shop like I intended on doing in the first place. I’m learning that I can’t let motherhood stop me from doing what I set out to do. I’ve breastfed in the gym in between workouts, before I went out on my high school’s track to do an alumni cheerleading performance and more. Amazingly, I’ve received such beautiful feedback. An older woman at my high school’s homecoming football game said, “I just want to tell you that you are doing an amazing job! You are out here doing your thing. One moment I saw you breastfeeding your baby, the next you’re out their cheering like you’re still in school.” That same day my mother said, “I’ve noticed that you’re much more comfortable with feeding Jayla in public now. I’m proud of you for being confident. I know that’s been a struggle for you.” My heart was so full.

I am still the mother who enjoys privacy when she breastfeeds though. One because I just love peace and quiet when I’m nursing because it’s calming for me, but two because toddlers are extremely distracted. I can’t count the amount of times Jayla has snatched off my breast to see what was going on wasting precious milk. So when an establishment has a room designated for breastfeeding mothers, I’m in there! If there’s no room, I’m nursing proudly and confidently. Restaurants, my car, the gym, the mall, football games, dentist offices, doesn’t matter. In Dr. Seuss’ voice, I’ll breastfeed here, I’ll breastfeed there, I’ll breastfeed anywhere.

I hope other mothers who are experiencing shame, embarrassment and fear of negative responses read this and leave with an understanding that your responsibility is to your child, not the comfort of others. If you are the friend or family member to a breastfeeding mother, please continue to support her and uplift her on this journey. She’s doing the best she can. She doesn’t need to hear your comments about how HER child is ready for cow’s milk or formula. Or how HER child is too old to still be breastfeeding. If you’re a stranger and you see a woman breastfeeding and it makes you uncomfortable…. turn your head, and mind your business like a normal functioning adult. Most likely, you’re making that woman uncomfortable and staring for long periods of time only makes you come off as a perv.

 

 

My Baby Is Fine!

With my first daughter, I only breastfed for four months. That’s still better than nothing, but I didn’t meet my minimum goal of six months of exclusive breastfeeding. At four months, my daughter weighed as much as she did at her 2-month well child visit. Everyone panicked.  Her pediatrician recommended that I supplement with a bottle of my pumped breastmilk, and if that didn’t work to use formula. I wasn’t knowledgeable about lactation consultants 7 years ago, so I resulted to formula out of fear of my baby starving. Til this day, I don’t know what exactly caused my baby’s weight loss. I’ve chalked it up to my Mirena IUD. I got it placed in October 2011, which is when Taniya turned two months. I’ve since learned that Mirena, and other birth control methods that release the progesterone hormone into your system can make your milk supply decrease. The IUD mixed with stress could have played a part in my milk production. Either way, it traumatized me.

That entire time, my baby wasn’t getting enough milk and I felt HORRIBLE. When I look back at pictures and see how thin she was, I shame myself and wonder how could I not see that my child was losing weight? Again, my insecurity dealing with weight had been highlighted. I began to obsess over whether Taniya was gaining the proper amount of weight. I eventually had to tell myself, my baby is fine!

Just as I prepared myself for a better pregnancy, labor and delivery experience with my youngest daughter, I also made sure that my breastfeeding experience would be different this time around also. I took several classes, read several articles, followed Instagram pages on breastfeeding, and have joined breastfeeding support groups on Facebook. I also received lactation help from the hospital lactation consultant and the beautiful @Khadijaknowsbreast (IG handle) when she was with Mamatoto Village.

Even with all that help, I still stressed over weight gain for Jayla. The nurses said she lost more than 10% of her birth weight while in the hospital so the focus began to shift toward her gaining weight. Then to top it off, she developed Jaundice when we left the hospital, so I had to nurse and nurse in order to flush the bilirubin out of her system. The more she drank, it would be released through her bowel movements. Each appointment, we were watching closely to monitor her weight gain, as well as her bilirubin levels. Our process ended successfully, but my PTSD with baby weight gain didn’t go anywhere.

I panicked every other month consistently, wondering if our daughter was gaining or losing weight. My husband was often upset by my panic, but I couldn’t help it. It wasn’t until one afternoon at the park with Taniya and Jayla, and a mother of a newborn asked me how old Jayla was that things began to shift. She was 8 months old at the time, and the girl said “Oh she must have been a preemie.” I said “No, she was full term and is very healthy.” In that moment, I was highly irritated, but realized how confident I became in my baby and our breastfeeding journey.

That confidence soon became shaken when the women in the support groups I am a part of started to talk about their negative experiences with breastfeeding. More so their experiences with pediatricians, non-supportive family members and strangers when they are breastfeeding in public. I found myself preparing to curse someone out for asking about my baby’s weight, telling me about how I need to feed her or cover my breast. Mentally, this journey has been a rollercoaster, but physically and emotionally… it’s been a blessing.

This is for everyone! Mother’s who breastfeed and have chunky babies. Mother’s who formula feed and have chunky babies. Mother’s whose babies sleep through the night. People who don’t understand breastfeeding. People who think I (we as a community) should cover up. Women who are planning to or are new to breastfeeding.

MY BABY IS FINE! No; I will not cover my baby while she eats.  No; I will not go in the bathroom. Turn your head, mind your business or get popped in the face! No, I’m not being extra— I’M FEEDING MY CHILD! No, I don’t have to give her bottle. Yes; she is growing fine! Yes; she is meeting her milestones. No, I will not give her cereal. Yes; we still wake up through the night! No; I will not give her formula. No, I will not give her cow’s milk.  No; I don’t breastfeed because I’m poor, but I do enjoy the fact that it’s free. No, she wasn’t born prematurely. If you’re uncomfortable, turn your head! If you have questions, ask politely. Yes; BLACK WOMEN DO BREASTFEED!!!!

Breastfeeding women do not mind educating you about breastfeeding. Just ask! Please do not attack us because we are like lionesses and bears with their cubs. We will demolish you!! We are trying to care for our babies and feed them the best way we know how. Naturally. If you formula feed your baby, that is just fine! Please don’t make breastfeeding out to be negative. We are all on our own mothering journey, and doing the best we can. There is no need to attack each other’s choices. As long as our choices are what’s best for our babies.

If you know a breastfeeding mother, ask her how her nipples are doing. They’re probably dry, scabbing, have scratches and more. Ask her if she’s been able to get any rest. Her baby could be cluster feeding, teething, sick, or going through a growth spurt. She didn’t get an ounce of sleep, but still went to work, cleaned the house, cooked and cared for her other children and husband. Ask her is there’s anything that she needs support with. She’s most likely had to wash the same load 3 times in a row because she keeps forgetting them in the washer or forgets to turn the dryer on.

Just be there for a breastfeeding mother. Breastfeeding is the most natural thing a woman can do, but it’s not the easiest thing. Support goes a long way. Love goes a long way. Support has gotten me to 11 months and counting on my current breastfeeding journey.

Happy Black Breastfeeding Week 🙂