Growing up in my household, I was surrounded by strong black women who breastfed their children. It was second nature, something that wasn’t given much thought and was just what needed to be done. My mother would tell me how she breastfed all three of her children for one year each. I’m not sure if she noticed, but there was pride in her voice every single time she told the story. In those moments, my mom was planting a seed that I would hope to one day reap.
My own breastfeeding journey began with my firstborn, my son, Logan. Finding out that we were expecting was a shock to myself and my husband, but we instantly fell in love before we even knew him. Logan came to us in a transitional period in our lives and represented new beginnings and endless possibilities. With all this love and positivity happening in our lives, we naturally expected that after he was born it would continue to be sunshine and rainbows. I was ready to reap those seeds that were sown by my mom so long ago. “It should be like second nature.” “It is just what needs to be done.” “I should be able to breastfeed my son for at least one year,” as my mom did. That did not happen.
My highly anticipated breastfeeding journey with Logan ended shortly after an extremely painful latch, split nipples before even coming home from the hospital, and not being able to maintain a sufficient supply. It was a frustrating experience for both of us and definitely not the experience I envisioned. Our journey lasted a total of three months with formula supplementation. I was heartbroken. I cried like I was living through a really bad breakup, but we survived – and it only motivated me to do better for our next child.
Not long after, we found out that we were pregnant with our daughter, Egypt, another pleasant surprise. Breastfeeding was at the forefront of my mind for this pregnancy. I wanted to do better, not only because of my experience with Logan but because I wanted to provide my child with all the health benefits that come along with breastfeeding. My plan this time was to stay positive and be open to however long my daughter would allow me to feed her. Not everyone understood this plan, and it was perceived that I was being nonchalant with my breastfeeding journey. After Egypt was born and I went for my six-week checkup, I was asked “How is Breastfeeding going?” and “How long do you plan on breastfeeding?” This provider was not aware of the wound that was left behind from breastfeeding with Logan. When I told her my plan, she tried to reassure me that “You can breastfeed as long as you want” and “It’s the best thing for baby.” I don’t remember everything that was said but I will never forget the feeling of pain and judgment reminding me of what I felt was a failure as a mom.
I did not exclusively breastfeed, but our experience began beautifully. She would latch and feed before receiving each bottle. She latched effortlessly, we would bond and have our girls’ time while breastfeeding. Looking into my daughter’s eyes, I felt so important. Two months into our journey, I was to return to work sooner than expected. In preparation for this, I began pumping milk, latching constantly, and taking supplements to increase my milk supply. I knew it would be a lot of work but I was determined to do this for Egypt. My determination and optimism quickly faded as the demand for work, poor pumping conditions, and the stress of pumping piled on. My milk was dwindling and I was trying so hard to get it back up. What I didn’t know at the time was that my elevated stress levels were working against all of my efforts. The only thing I had left to hold onto was the moments after work when I would rush home to feed and have girls’ time with my EG.
One day, I came home for our routine and Egypt was playing with Logan. I gave everyone big hugs then took Egypt to our little corner. She hopped right off my lap and went to play with her brother. At that moment I knew it was over, but I wasn’t heartbroken like I was with Logan. She was eight months old and had a big brother with who she wanted to explore. It was truly a humbling experience and one of my proudest moments as a mom. I breastfed Egypt for eight love-filled months and I did everything in my power to keep it going for as long as possible. I did not regret one moment!
Through my breastfeeding journey with both Logan and Egypt, I was taught and healed. I have learned that I don’t have to live up to expectations of what my body should do not even my own and neither should you. Instead, align yourself with people who support you listening to your own intuition and doing what your body needs. This very thought process propelled me into doula work because I wanted to, like Latham Thomas said, “remind you of what they already know.” Whether you’re chestfeeding, breastfeeding, or bottle feeding, we all wonder if we are doing what’s best for our children. Just know that you are not alone on this journey, your bodies were imperfectly purposefully made for this!
Sherika Daley-Martin is a working mom turned stay-at-home mom and proud owner of Sherika Doula Services. Sherika is trying to make her impact in the birthing world one birth at a time by guiding women through healing and transformation. She is using her social media presence to educate and create a sense of community and support for anyone in need. Sherika is operating as a Birth/Postpartum Doula working toward certification and offering an array of birth and postpartum packages that accommodate the busy lives of her clients.
If you are interested in her services, need a consultation, or just want some information on resources, feel free to check out her Instagram @sherikadoulaservices or email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org!