Monday, July 22, 2024

Breastfeed or Nah?

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( After I had my first son, I was elated to be at the end and beginning of a journey that has been a rollercoaster ride so far. Carrying my son and giving birth was the most life-changing process that I have had to endure. It brought forth some of my greatest fears but also brought out my resiliency and can-do attitude. Even with all of these changes, the greatest fear that I had was that I would not be able to breastfeed. Honestly, this is was a crowning concern of mine. To me, breastfeeding was the penultimate function of a mother. Being able to have my son that close to me and be feeding him “liquid gold” was a dream that I had seen in my head over and over again leading up to his birth.

The time came for that moment and it seemed to be going well. I breast and bottle-fed for the first month and I waited patiently for my milk to come in. I kept waiting…and waiting. Long stretches of attaching myself to a breast pump and praying to my female ancestors to help. I drank so much Mother’s Milk tea I could have made myself sick. Yet in spite of everything I tried, it never happened, and I was devastated. I felt like such a failure that I could not provide my son the best nutrition that I possibly could. It made me feel less than a mother and I did not know how to cope. It took my family member to calm me down, during a hysterically self-deprecating phone call, and let me know that it was ok that I could not breastfeed. She had to convince me that it was completely normal, formula feeding my son was just as good, and did not make me a bad mother.

At times, black mothers are called into question for various parenting practices. Breastfeeding is no different. There are those of us who swear by it, some of us who promote both breast and bottle, and there are those who are completely averse to the practice altogether. Over the years and another baby later, I can say breastfeeding definitely has its advantages and helps you build a bond with the baby. It also keeps a little cash in your pocket if you can produce a significant amount of milk and store it for the little one. Yet, I have always wondered why some black women ultimately give up or never attempt to breastfeed their children.

I have heard many different reasons as to why some women of color won’t breastfeed their children. Sometimes, a working mother cannot breastfeed because they must be a provider for the family which limits the time for the practice. Another reason would be the slight pain associated with breastfeeding that makes women not want to attempt it. However, there was one reason that caught my attention and that is the ties that our breastfeeding has to the enslavement of our ancestors.

This reason might seem far-fetched but it is just as plausible as any other. The trauma of our foremothers feeding children who were not theirs has lasted for generations. Those images endure in our history books, muscle memory, and seem to turn our noses and stomachs when we view them. Breastfeeding is then cast in a burdensome light. The practice becomes a chore for the help, less engaging, and an outdated activity for the stay-at-home mama. It is most definitely none of those things. Lately, there has been a trend to celebrate black women who breastfeed as the practice becomes hotly debated. Blogs dedicated to black motherhood are pushing back against the narrative and making headway in showing women of color breastfeeding their children is a badge of honor. It is our connection to our ancestral mothers and a way of creating a soul tie to our children that endures for a lifetime.

Staff Writer; Jessieca Carr

One may connect with this sister online over at Instagramsusiecarmichael1920 and Twitternoladarling1920.

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