When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, seven years ago, I knew that I would breastfeed my child. This, not because I had some profound conviction about the breast being best (I had never heard… or, never paid any attention to, that saying before I got pregnant), no, ma’am. This, not because it would help me lose weight or help with bonding or any of those things that I have since come to learn with research and doula training. I was determined to breastfeed my baby because…. THAT SHIZZ WAS FREE!
I grew up in a large family. I have four sisters and honey bunches of cousins, some of which I was raised with in the same household. I have been around babies my entire life. I have seen only two babies, in my family, nursed. I have heard from my mother and my aunts about how breastfeeding really hurt when they tried or how they were told or they thought they could not produce enough milk. So, I have been to the store, on numerous occasions while growing up, to buy formula. I have seen formula purchased with cash, WIC vouchers and food stamps. I have seen life decisions being made at the cash register because of the cost of formula (and diapers). So, for me, an unmarried, unemployed mama who had to move back in with her parents, breastfeeding only made right, good sense.
Fast forward to after my Ittle Wittle was born, I had had a doula for my birth and I learned a LOT more about breastfeeding. We had some issues (she has what I NOW know to be a lip tie which made breastfeeding fairly painful, especially once my period returned, I didn’t know she had allergies to some of the foods I was eating for the first four weeks, and I had a forceful letdown which caused her to fuss at the breast), but I was determined to breastfeed for at least a year.
Unfortunately, by the time she hit a few months old, breastfeeding became a bit harder for me. Not because I was fearful of my supply being low. Nor was it because it was too painful. For some folks around me, to breastfeed a baby beyond a couple of months was equivalent to doing “white people shit.” It was considered nasty. I was told I was spoiling my baby. I was told that I needed to pump and give her milk in a bottle (which, bee tee dubs, I tried to NO avail. She was not having ANYTHING to do with a bottle or a pacifier… Period). Fortunately, those who REALLY mattered, even if they didn’t understand, supported my decision.
I breastfed my child for three years and a few months. I was fortunate enough to have a doula, who gave me awesome information while I was pregnant, and some super researching skills in order to make the decision to keep going, regardless of outside input. But, so many Black women have not had a doula and have been given misinformation. There is also the 5,000 pound elephant in the room that seems to always be overlooked (read: hella ignored): TRAUMA.
Yes, there is trauma and stigma attached to breastfeeding in the Black community. If your ancestral mothers were owned and forced to feed the children of those that owned them by their own breasts while starving their own children OR having those children sold away OR having those children murdered… well… there is bound to be trauma. And if your more recent ancestral mothers were told that her milk was not sufficient and formula would better serve her babies… well… there is bound to be stigma. And if your contemporaries have not seen their mothers, aunts, cousins, sisters or homegirls breastfeed AND breastfeeding is only a suggestion in the hospitals where they are giving birth- the same hospitals who get funding from formula companies and give babies formula in the nurseries and samples of formula and bottles to take home- well… Breastfeeding is bound to be viewed as more a nonessential, perhaps, even a frivolity, and, lots of times, as “white people shit.”
Except, Black babies die at an alarming rate before their first birthdays. Black children are prone to allergies and obesity because of what they have been fed as babies. These are horrid problems with the simple solution of breastfeeding for as long as is possible for mom and baby.
Black women NEED to see breastfeeding as, not just normal, but natural and the thing their bodies were meant to do. We NEED representation of women who look like us with babies on the tetas! Imagery and celebration are important.
There is already a divide. Black Breastfeeding Week attempts to close it. Not by exclusion, but, simply by declaring that breastfeeding is not just about or for white people… this is Mama Shit!
It’s Black Breastfeeding Week, y’all! It is the time we set aside to specifically encourage, uplift and celebrate Black women who do or who plan to breastfeed their babies.
Why is there a BLACK Breastfeeding Week in addition to World Breastfeeding Week? Great question! The unfortunate reality is that Black infant mortality is the highest in this country. That means, more Black babies die before their first birthday than any other race. A HUGE deterrent to this is *drumroll, please* BREASTFEEDING! Not only does mama’s milk contain baby-specific antibodies to stave off infection and disease, but the skin-to-skin contact helps regulate babies breathing and heartbeat which can save a little one’s life!
So, in honor of #BlackBreastfeedingWeek, here is a copy of my Breastfeeding affirmations with some good info to help you to #keepgoing! Right click to save, print it out and put it somewhere handy.
Happy Black Breastfeeding Week!
We live in a culture that is all mixed up. We make mamas out to be deities with all the superhuman powers to make us invincible. Mamas have babies, breastfeed, go to work after only a couple of weeks, keep the house clean, retrieve our pre-baby bodies within weeks, take care of older children and look sexy doing it all without ANY help!
Mamas and daddies drag their bodies like the walking dead, believing that exhaustion is just par for the course when you have children. Being a “good mother,” according to most of the women I have worked with, includes sacrificing everything from alone time to simply having a full meal. Unfortunately, exhaustion and stress leads to burn out, which can lead to all sorts of physical and mental disorders.
This is why I am officially dubbing the week of Independence Day, “Interdependence Week.” It is my mission and passion to teach families how to function in harmony. So, this week is dedicated to pregnant and postpartum families depending on their Villages for help and support. This week, every family member and friend of new (and seasoned) parents should be asking, “what do you need and how can I help?” This week, all newborn families should practice vulnerability with their folks and practice using the phrase, “I need your help.”
Interdependence Week will be a catalyst for a more collective culture. A culture where mamas do not feel they have to suffer from postpartum mood disorders in silence; a culture where fathers are valued and supported; a culture where our children are well cared for, whether mama and daddy are able to do it themselves or not.
Happy Interdependence Week!
Most of us have seen the viral videos and the memes that poke fun at the “Mean Mama.” She is unreasonable, loud, and never seems to have more than a fleeting moment of happiness or joy. She is always complaining of how tired she is, how much she sacrifices, how her life might be different if it weren’t for “you damned ungrateful kids!” And let’s not forget about how much her child is “just like ya daddy!”
These caricatures are only comical because of how closely they mirror a lot of our actual childhoods living with mothers who seemed to never be happy about much of anything. We didn’t understand why mama was going all the way off about a couple of dirty dishes in the sink. Or why she seemed to get even angrier at the sound of her children crying (“shut up before I give you something to cry about!”). Or why the fact that you have your father’s smile/walk/eyes seemed to make her upset. Were our mother’s just hella mean or was there something else going on under the surface?
In many communities depression is a disorder that goes largely ignored. Until recently, Postpartum Depression was diagnosed as neuroses (for those women who actually spoke about their symptoms) and women with this diagnosis were treated with
Introducing “Doula For A Day”
Would you like a #doula simply to answer some of your #childbirth questions? Someone to put your family’s mind at ease about your childbirth or #postpartum preferences? Need someone to talk to your partner about #bonding? Want help with your #birth preferences list and questions to ask your #OB? But you aren’t sure that you want a doula’s support throughout your pregnancy, at your birth or long term postpartum?
Allow me to support you for a day (no time restraints!). I will answer your questions, help with lists, give tips, tricks and techniques for a wonderful birth and postpartum year!
By Wendy Rose Gould | Originally Published March on Mamapedia | Featuring Monique Cowan
Soon-to-be-parents can feel like they’re being tugged in all sorts of directions even before their little one enters the world. From breastfeeding versus formula, to maternity and/or paternity leave, to choosing where your baby sleeps at night, there’s a lot to think about.
BY SARAH HOSSEINI | ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED FEBRUARY ON ROMPER | FEATURING MONIQUE COWAN
Deciding to exclusively breastfeed an infant is not usually a decision that’s made lightly. There are many factors to consider including a mom’s lifestyle and whether they have any emotional triggers associated with breastfeeding. Many women know that even though breastfeeding has been a trend since the dawn of time, that doesn’t mean it’ll easy. Once in the trenches of nursing, you may wonder how to survive exclusive breastfeeding, especially when you feel like you really want to stop. Rest assured, many moms have felt the same way you have, and there are ways to get through breastfeeding, even the hard parts.
Surround Yourself With Support
Have Your Partner Help
Accept That Breastfeeding Has A Learning Curve
Allow Yourself To Struggle Without Judgement
Eat As Healthy As Possible
Practice Self-Care When Possible
Know Where To Seek Professional Help
Contrary to popular belief, exhaustion and GOOD parenting, DO NOT go hand-in-hand.
Around this time, six years ago, I was in my OB’s office for one of my regular prenatal visits. Everything with him had been pretty pleasant up to that point. Then, he asked me if I wanted to schedule an induction or if I wanted him to “let” me go to 40 weeks and wait to see what happens. I, of course, told him I wanted to wait, especially because I KNEW my due date was wrong based on the time of conception. His question scared me, made me angry and had me in a state of shock and confusion. We had spoken about how I wanted to give birth and now, it seemed he hadn’t even been listening. I kept thinking, would I even get to birth naturally or would unnecessary interventions be thrust upon me during labor?
I called my birth doula, almost in a panic, when I got home to tell her what happened. I half expected her to be as riled up as I was. I remember the calm in her voice as she spoke to me. I could hear the smile on her face. She simply asked me, “well, what do YOU wanna do?” I told her that of course I wanted to wait as long as she (my baby) would take to come. Then, I remember her little boy singing, “Baby you can do it, take your time, do it right!” 😀
I left his office afraid and within 20 minutes of getting home and speaking to this beautiful, awesome woman, I felt at peace. I felt powerful. I felt like I had this and that it was up to me to make the decision. She was my support when I felt tired, when I felt unsure, when I felt afraid and even when I was angry and having personal issues. Her job was to help me make INFORMED decisions that worked best for me and my baby. Her job was to make sure I was at ease so that I could birth my baby in peace.
I decided at that point that I wanted to help women feel the same. Being a source of education and support during a time where there is SO MUCH information- and most of it, pretty scary- was what I wanted to do. I wanted to advocate for families during one of the most vulnerable times in their life. I wanted to be the shoulder and the cheerleader for women and families when so many things during this time leave them feeling unsure of themselves and their decisions.
I know that not all- not even MOST- OB’s force interventions onto their pregnant clients. But, having an advocate and someone to reassure you that you have a voice if you DO encounter a doctor like this is INVALUABLE.
This is why I do what I do.