A beautiful, exhausting, empowering, overwhelming experience.
Breastfeeding is a full-time job and extreme sport. And I say this as a former collegiate athlete.
So let's start at the beginning
I decided that I was going to breastfeed halfway through my pregnancy for two very simple but naive reasons. First, my sister did it and second, it was "free."
Reflecting on my journey, I could see how naive and uninformed I was about breastfeeding. Which in all fairness is not uncommon in the black community.
It’s a fact that black women are less likely to breastfeed than white women.
The factors that play a part in these statistics, range from the lack of knowledge to resources, to support. The lack of representation for black women when it comes to breastfeeding is a topic that deserves a blog post.
So let's table that.
Fast forward to the first couple of weeks of breastfeeding. I would be lying if I said it wasn't one of the most difficult transitions. My biggest challenge was latching my son. Once I left the hospital, it felt as if I had been thrown to the wolves. I had no idea what to do, my boobs were engorged, my nipples were sore and, I didn't know that there were lactation professionals that would help support me.
But by the grace of God and (social media) 18 months later here we are.
I never thought I would still be nursing my son, but looking at the journey I wouldn't change it. I wish that I would have been informed sooner. But I have to give myself grace simply because, there is a racial disparity in breastfeeding, just like many other areas in society.
Breastfeeding is an area in motherhood that we need to be educated about and shown support through. I know that society has a way of painting the picture that breastfeeding comes naturally, but the truth is... it is a skill. It requires patience, trial and error, and lots of support.
I am grateful to have had a partner that supported me 110% in my breastfeeding journey. However, I did still have my fair share of unsolicited advice and judgment. I don't think people realize how discouraging negative comments about breastfeeding can be.
There is so much that goes into breastfeeding. Like...
Keeping your milk supply up
Making sure baby is getting a good latch
All the things that come with pumping,
Cracked nipples and Mastitis
Different breastfeeding positions
The lack of sleep
The emotional, mental, and physical challenges that come with it
That's not even the half ... If you know you know.
Now that I think about it, that is the problem. We have to do better at normalizing breastfeeding. The lack of knowledge society has about breastfeeding is what contributes to shame, judgment, and annoying stares. I can't tell you how often I read about breastfeeding moms being shamed.
I might be ruffling some feathers here, but as a black breastfeeding mom, I noticed this lot in the black community, especially with the older generation. To a certain extent, I can understand why. I mean the history and generational trauma that comes with breastfeeding for black women. Again another topic that deserves its blog post.
I expect the stares and shame from confederate flag-waving billy but when it comes from my community is when it doesn't sit well with me. Simply because I believe in my soul if black women were supported more by our community then there would be more positive experiences.
From one black breastfeeding mom to another.
I see you.
I hear you.
Your breastfeeding journey is one that you define through your perspective and the confidence to say "worry about your own tits, we good over here."