With my first daughter, I only breastfed for four months. That’s still better than nothing, but I didn’t meet my minimum goal of six months of exclusive breastfeeding. At four months, my daughter weighed as much as she did at her 2-month well child visit. Everyone panicked. Her pediatrician recommended that I supplement with a bottle of my pumped breastmilk, and if that didn’t work to use formula. I wasn’t knowledgeable about lactation consultants 7 years ago, so I resulted to formula out of fear of my baby starving. Til this day, I don’t know what exactly caused my baby’s weight loss. I’ve chalked it up to my Mirena IUD. I got it placed in October 2011, which is when Taniya turned two months. I’ve since learned that Mirena, and other birth control methods that release the progesterone hormone into your system can make your milk supply decrease. The IUD mixed with stress could have played a part in my milk production. Either way, it traumatized me.
That entire time, my baby wasn’t getting enough milk and I felt HORRIBLE. When I look back at pictures and see how thin she was, I shame myself and wonder how could I not see that my child was losing weight? Again, my insecurity dealing with weight had been highlighted. I began to obsess over whether Taniya was gaining the proper amount of weight. I eventually had to tell myself, my baby is fine!
Just as I prepared myself for a better pregnancy, labor and delivery experience with my youngest daughter, I also made sure that my breastfeeding experience would be different this time around also. I took several classes, read several articles, followed Instagram pages on breastfeeding, and have joined breastfeeding support groups on Facebook. I also received lactation help from the hospital lactation consultant and the beautiful @Khadijaknowsbreast (IG handle) when she was with Mamatoto Village.
Even with all that help, I still stressed over weight gain for Jayla. The nurses said she lost more than 10% of her birth weight while in the hospital so the focus began to shift toward her gaining weight. Then to top it off, she developed Jaundice when we left the hospital, so I had to nurse and nurse in order to flush the bilirubin out of her system. The more she drank, it would be released through her bowel movements. Each appointment, we were watching closely to monitor her weight gain, as well as her bilirubin levels. Our process ended successfully, but my PTSD with baby weight gain didn’t go anywhere.
I panicked every other month consistently, wondering if our daughter was gaining or losing weight. My husband was often upset by my panic, but I couldn’t help it. It wasn’t until one afternoon at the park with Taniya and Jayla, and a mother of a newborn asked me how old Jayla was that things began to shift. She was 8 months old at the time, and the girl said “Oh she must have been a preemie.” I said “No, she was full term and is very healthy.” In that moment, I was highly irritated, but realized how confident I became in my baby and our breastfeeding journey.
That confidence soon became shaken when the women in the support groups I am a part of started to talk about their negative experiences with breastfeeding. More so their experiences with pediatricians, unsupportive family members and strangers when they are breastfeeding in public. I found myself preparing to curse someone out for asking about my baby’s weight, telling me about how I need to feed her or cover my breast. Mentally, this journey has been a rollercoaster, but physically and emotionally… it’s been a blessing.
This is for everyone! Mother’s who breastfeed and have chunky babies. Mother’s who formula feed and have chunky babies. Mother’s whose babies sleep through the night. People who don’t understand breastfeeding. People who think I (we as a community) should cover up. Women who are planning to or are new to breastfeeding.
MY BABY IS FINE! No; I will not cover my baby while she eats. No; I will not go in the bathroom. Turn your head, mind your business or get popped in the face! No, I’m not being extra—I’M FEEDING MY CHILD! No, I don’t have to give her bottle. Yes; she is growing fine! Yes; she is meeting her milestones. No, I will not give her cereal. Yes; we still wake up through the night! No; I will not give her formula. No, I will not give her cow’s milk. No; I don’t breastfeed because I’m poor, but I do enjoy the fact that it’s free. No, she wasn’t born prematurely. If you’re uncomfortable, turn your head! If you have questions, ask politely. Yes; BLACK WOMEN DO BREASTFEED!!!!
Breastfeeding women do not mind educating you about breastfeeding. Just ask! Please do not attack us because we are like lionesses and bears with their cubs. We will demolish you!! We are trying to care for our babies and feed them the best way we know how. Naturally. If you formula feed your baby, that is just fine! Please don’t make breastfeeding out to be negative. We are all on our own mothering journey, and doing the best we can. There is no need to attack each other’s choices. As long as our choices are what’s best for our babies.
If you know a breastfeeding mother, ask her how her nipples are doing. They’re probably dry, scabbing, have scratches and more. Ask her if she’s been able to get any rest. Her baby could be cluster feeding, teething, sick, or going through a growth spurt. She didn’t get an ounce of sleep, but still went to work, cleaned the house, cooked and cared for her other children and husband. Ask her is there’s anything that she needs support with. She’s most likely had to wash the same load 3 times in a row because she keeps forgetting them in the washer or forgets to turn the dryer on.
Just be there for a breastfeeding mother. Breastfeeding is the most natural thing a woman can do, but it’s not the easiest thing. Support goes a long way. Love goes a long way. Support has gotten me to 11 months and counting on my current breastfeeding journey.
Happy Black Breastfeeding Week 🙂