August 25-31st is National Black Breastfeeding Week. This annual celebration is set to raise awareness of the multiple health benefits and personal empowerment that comes with breastfeeding. There are racial disparities in the gaping rates of breastfeeding within communities of color. Lack of tools, resources and support have been known as the causes of this continued disparity. Breastfeeding reaps the benefits of ideal nutrition, antibodies, reduction in disease risk, healthy weight and much more.
Although this sacred act of nurturing has brought about many lacking efforts in awareness, it still remains as a tradition among many Black mothers. Despite the lack of resources and tools, many mothers have powered through personal storms to triumphantly succeed as a breastfeeding mother. I spoke with three brave mothers from different regions, lifestyles and professions to learn more about their breastfeeding experience as a Black Mother.
Meet author Jhordynn of Shreveport, LA. She’s the mother of one loving daughter. She navigated through the breastfeeding woes and successfully nurtured her child:
“My daughter didn’t latch well, so I had to pump for 13 months. My husband was very supportive and helped in every way he could. Many people didn’t want to babysit her because they didn’t want to touch her bottles that had breast milk in them. I pumped every 4 hours while I was awake, no matter where I was: at work, on a girls’ trip, in the car, at book signings, etc. Many of my associates hinted that I should just buy formula and that breast feeding was “stupid”.
“I also experienced jealousy from a lot of women who did not and/ or could not breastfeed for whatever reason they experienced. I was also surrounded by a lot of people in the Black community who had never seen breast milk nor a pump, therefore, they were fascinated by me, and, with my permission, watched me pump. Breast milk alone took my baby from being underweight to being in the 95th percentile. She never was seriously sick because the breast milk kept her healthy. The entire 13+ months that I pumped, my nipples were extremely sore, and I never adjusted to that pain. I bought a hands-free pump that was supposed to be more comfortable, but because of the shape of my breasts, I never was able to successfully use the pump.
If I could, I would try harder to get her to latch on. Exclusively pumping decreased my milk supply. I had to introduce her to formula at 5 months old. As a nurse, I knew it was healthier. I was too afraid of what was put in the formula; I wasn’t sure my baby’s stomach could digest it.”
Meet Jordain Collington of Glen Burnie, MD. She’s the mother of one infant daughter. She’s currently balancing the life of new motherhood:
“I’ve been breastfeeding for 8 months and it’s been an amazing journey. My daughter had an amazing latch from day one and never struggled to nurse. Breastfeeding has brought me a lot of joy even through the biting, tugging, and twiddling! The smile on my daughter’s face after she unlatches is perfection.
The one thing I would change is out of my control. I so badly wanted to exclusively breastfeed my daughter, however when I went back to work I was not able to pump enough bottles to keep her fed during the day. If I had a magic button that would allow my body to better respond to a breast pump. I found plenty of resources on Facebook and through friends in regards to breastfeeding. I feel that if I didn’t have the inclination to search for those things, I would have to say no there wasn’t or isn’t any amount of resources. My daughter wasn’t supposed to be here, everything the doctors said pointed to no.
Being able to give her my all meant everything to me. Breastfeeding allowed us time to bond in a way that she couldn’t get with anyone else. I wanted to be able to tell her I made an honest effort. Even though I’ve had to supplement with formula, breastmilk is still the best.”
Meet Frances Alford of East Windsor, NJ. She’s a mom of three boys who exclusively breastfeed all of her sons:
“I decided to breastfeed because it was more healthy for the baby; and provided bonding for my sons and I. Breastfeeding was the best experience ever. The bonding & closeness alone was indescribable! Overall, my children were all very healthy & I believe that was most definitely due to the breastfeeding. My children were breastfed until they were about three years old.
Even my son with Down Syndrome successfully breastfed. Medical professionals said that he would not breastfeed due to the inability to latch on because of the weakness of his jaws but my baby, my God & my faith proved them wrong! I was an “older” mother but I was very determined & willing to make whatever sacrifice necessary to be able to breastfeed ensuring I was providing the best nourishment for my babies.
I wouldn’t change anything. I’d do it all over again. It was a very beautiful, priceless experience that was the complete joy of my motherhood. My pediatrician’s office & lactation specialist were very supportive to me.”
Although each individual breastfeeding experience is different, most mothers find it to be a rewarding process. Whether you breastfed for a few months or a few years, you did what was best for your little one. One of the consistent concerns among breastfeeding moms has been the lack of support. Here’s a list of some breastfeeding resources that can support moms during their motherhood journey:
Remember to enjoy your motherhood journey without putting much pressure on yourself. Breastfeeding is a natural process that may take more time, resources and support for some moms. Although each experience is different it is still priceless.
Happy National Black Breastfeeding Week! Thank you for doing your part to close the breastfeeding gap.