By Aqueila M. Lewis-Ross
Last month in honor of National Black Breastfeeding Week (August 25th-31st) I started writing about the highs and lows of my breastfeeding journey. At almost 2 (DOB: September 13, 2017), my daughter whom I affectionately call “Babyluv” still loves to receive milk from my breast aka, “Titty Titty!” I didn’t know she was actually listening to me when I would offer it to her when she was a newborn and infant, but recently when we were in a meeting she blurted out loud and strong in a song, “TITTY TITTY”! Instead of becoming annoyed, I kinda smirked because she did a little dance when she said it! I’ve been thinking about weaning her from breastfeeding, whatever that means. I’ve been told by dentists that her 4 front teeth aren’t healthy and may have to be pulled all because I didn’t wipe them after breastfeeding at night. I also might have been late introducing fluoride toothpaste!
I really enjoy breastfeeding my “Babyluv” The benefits: major weight loss. I never really was ashamed of my body weight/type while pregnant, after losing the baby weight, or before pregnancy. I love my full-figuredness, and with some counseling/therapy from traumatic childhood/adult sexual and physical violence, I love me and my fighter-body-spirit even more!
Another benefit to choosing to breastfeed: Our bonding. But I remember the first two weeks we both were very frustrated because she couldn’t latch. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to give her “the best” most healthy/nutritious food source. Lactation Specialists, doula’s, and midwives tried helping with various positions like cradle, cross cradle, football, or recline. It was so much to learn as a new mother and I felt lost. I was blessed to have trained/educated women available to help. But I also wished that my maternal and paternal “mama’s” were present. I was too embarrassed or scared to ask for help.
I remember how shocked my in-laws and family members were when I breastfed in front of them. I wouldn’t say that they shamed me, but there were times when I would’ve rather breastfed in my room, the car, or bathroom because I wouldn’t risk the looks, and hear uninteresting, or unrelated stories.
Although I received a lot of coaching and or mentoring from my doulas and midwives on breastfeeding, I wasn’t prepared to not be “fully” supported for my choice to do so. I don’t think anyone asked me why, but instead offered their reasons why they chose not to. I just listened, I guess.
I chose to breastfeed my “Babyluv” because I wanted to. It seemed the best and most healthy “free” thing to do. Plus, of all the stories that did seem to stick out the most, my mom said when she tried to breastfeed she was teased, discouraged, and bullied to not do so. I still hear the regret in her voice, but I sometimes wonder if she knows that her looks or comments make me want to shut down.
Although it is now against the law for mothers to be harassed for breastfeeding in public and more spaces to breastfeed are available, still employers, families, and various cultures are uncomfortable, and/or have sexualized what is natural.
It helps to have an outlet, hobby, or doula/midwife, or friend to help voice your concerns or feelings of shame. What a beautiful world we would live in if we were just accepted for who we are regardless of race, class, culture, sexual orientation/preference, body type/shape, style of dress, and whether we wanted to breastfeed our babies or not.
I look forward to learning about and experiencing the “Beautiful Two’s” with my “Babyluv” because everything about her is beautiful and she’s not terrible! She’s feisty, curious, adventurous, full of grace and beauty, a princess, a goddess, my legacy, my everything! My breastfriend!