One of the first and most basic primal needs of our babies is to feed them. To sustain them with the nutrition required for their little brains and bodies to grow and thrive. Yet, for black women, breastfeeding has historically been undermined, over simplified and tossed to the side. In 2019 more of us are choosing breastfeeding and sticking with it until 6 months and beyond, but we still have a long way to go.
For the mothers who navigated their way through the big Pharma marketing campaigns and free formula at every turn; without a bit of influence on her decision; The mother who despite what her mother aunty or cousin have done still choose breast for her baby; The mom who refuses to feed her baby in a dirty bathroom. And the one who sacrifices to provide the sustenance her baby needs although working away from her baby daily… We appreciate you. Because only when women of color see ourselves represented in spite of these limitations, can we begin to see and understand that, black women CAN and DO breastfeed. But, breastfeeding requires support. And let’s face it, we are the demographic with some of the least support, so we must work to support each other.
Breastfeeding, for me, didn’t come with many challenges. My children, who were all born healthy full term and without any medication seemed to be alright with latching and intake. I dealt with the engorgement, cracked nipples, blocked ducts but nothing that turned out to be a severe impediment. I always knew I wanted to nurse them at least 6 months, so I went through the challenges and learning curves without thinking twice about any other option.
Truth be told, although I wanted to give them the best, I also thoroughly enjoyed nursing them. The time we took to just sit still and look at each other, play and sing. The cuddles I received during times I was completely overwhelmed dealing with a toddler and a newborn. And the reality that no matter how much they played with dad or were entertained by toys or another child, there was one thing that was exclusively ours to enjoy together. They needed me, and we needed each other. I missed nursing each time I stopped with my 2 oldest boys. But then my daughter came around and for some reason our breastfeeding relationship was completely different.
It is all perspective…
To give some context, all three of my children were born back to back, with about 18 months between each. I stopped nursing mid pregnancy with the first two, in order to give them time to adjust to a new baby and because my supply had waned. So with my daughter being the last (at the time), it became an extremely difficultly tug of war between she and I. My little girl LOVED her “boo boo.” She drank me thin, she used my breast as a pacifier, she cuddled them and still wanted more. During this time I was battling with PPD, family changes and gearing up to move our family to a whole new country. It was a lot. As peaceful and beautiful as it had been before, this wasn’t that now and it felt like a huge chore sometimes. However I still kept on with the idea that breast was best for my baby.
After the move I had to deal with old school in-laws constantly hounding me about nursing a big child (at 1 year old), giving me unsolicited judgemental advice and even buying Nestum for my daughter because “it would hold her better.” Still, I stood firm and decided that two years old would be my cut off. She had other plans. It took me six months to wean her. I literally tried every method on YouTube, took suggestions, we cried, we fought…and I always gave in because that’s what I was suppose to do. Sustain her, right? It was an internal battle within myself too. I wanted my body and bed back to myself and knew she ate enough nutritious food to be well without my milk but also felt as though it was my duty and obligation because it was there for her, after all.
Then I got still…
This challenge for me was spiritual at its core. One day I just cried as she fell asleep on my breast because I didn’t want to do this anymore, it was so tiring and not enjoyable at all. I resented it. I got down and prayed, begging for guidance. Then I sat still with my breath. I sat with the chaos of thoughts and feelings and desires for my child that I loved so much. In a moment of clarity, I got the message.
It won’t last forever, it will pass, just allow it.
With that, I gave up resistance. I accepted this journey for everything that it was and wasn’t and decided to enjoy it while it lasted. Because in no time, this demanding 2 year old could be heading off to school away from home, or travelling the world without me.
The next day, we had a chat about her not having the boo boo anymore. We would laugh and be silly when she nursed and I would remind her that soon she wouldn’t be having it anymore. She must have thought I lost it, but after about 3 weeks of us talking about it and enjoying our time, she began asking less. The journey ended off peacefully. By 2 1/2 she was completely weaned. We both survived. And I learned a very valuable lesson in resistance and surrender.
Although the journey can be quite the challenge in many multifaceted ways, it can also be extremely rewarding in equally as many ways. Not just for baby but for mom too- physically, emotionally, and spiritually. So, with this, I encourage you to fight the good fight in your own way and to support a mother who has a desire to. Because it truly does take a village.
Ebboni Savory is a Canadian writer and doula who loves to write about personal growth, motherhood and all things pertaining to pregnancy, birth and beyond. Ebboni writes over on her blog Ebbo Just Doing It, and has also been published in Black Moms Blog. She is a passionate doula and works to create spaces for moms where they can cultivate a village of support based on sisterhood, wellness and purpose. Ebboni lives in Grenada with her husband and 3 (soon to be 4) children.