Representation matters. I have been reminded of this fact time and time again! I currently live in what one of my friends have called, “the middle of white America”. You see I’m from a small town that doesn’t have a Walmart and approximately 90% of the population is defined as African American. But, I moved. Now I’m here looking around, and the only people of color that I see throughout the week are my husband and my son.

We moved here while I was 32 weeks pregnant and during my pregnancy I would read blogs and watch videos to prepare for motherhood. Rarely, if ever, did I see any mothers that looked like me or had the same concerns that I knew I would face, such as what do you put on a brown baby’s scalp? I yearned to see those who looked like me and understood cultural concerns and issues. 

Now, with my 10 -month-old son, I often hear from my mom friends how traumatizing it is when they have the “Stranger Danger” talk with their kids, but none of them know my mixed feelings of having to raise a black male in today’s society. Some of the things on the news and major life changes has led me to therapy. 

But, it is comforting when I do see a mother of color, like a hot cup of cocoa or tea. It’s especially a pleasing encounter to see one who understands the importance as well as the benefits of breastfeeding. That one aspect, that seemed so simple prior to the birth of my son, has been hard. But, seeing so many of my friends from home being able to give their babies the best, is uplifting. Witnessing others who have been misinformed, and often times pressured to give their little one’s formula by their elders and even doctors, push forward, consistently providing their child with breast milk, gives me strength.

A friend recently asked me why I have been so vocal about my parenting methods: breastfeeding, baby wearing, and cloth diapering. My answer is and will continue to be: because we matter! There are mothers educating and advocating, but there are still some mothers feeling left out of the picture due to societal norms. So, I’m here to tell you, do what is best for you, do what is best for your child, do what is best for your family! You may not see many women of color if you Google “breastfeeding mom” or “natural mom” but I’m  here! For support, for advice, to vent, laugh, and cry. And I’ll continue to be here.    

Photography credit: Amani Nichae of

Snapshot 11 Photography

 

 

My journey started at the young age of 15. I hid my pregnancy from my parent until I was 32 weeks but during that time I spent a lot of time on the internet preparing myself for childbirth. One day I came across an article that stated babies born to parents  that were unwed, young, and or poor are twice as likely not to graduate high school and live under the poverty line themselves. This came to me as a disappointment. I didn’t want to birth my child and have them at a disadvantage before they even had a fighting chance, so I Googled many ways and fashions to improve the odds of raising a successful adult. I came across a breastfeeding ad, you know the Breast is Best type of deals. It stated that breastfed babies score higher on their ACT and are twice as likely to graduate college. I made up my mind right then and there that I was going to breastfeed. Then I was a woman of many titles,15 years old ,breastfeeding, high school honor student and mother. Now a two-time current breastfeeding mom, I can say it was one of the best decisions I’ve made and one of the most cost effective ones too. Although pumping while in nursing school is rather tedious I wouldn’t have it any other way .

– Proud mom of 2 🙂

Depression, not Eating, not getting enough water, stress, not sleeping well, not getting your baby to your breast….these were all factors that contribute to a drop in your milk supply. All factors that I dealt with while my baby was in NICU. I was suffering from postpartum depression and PTSD. I was afraid to eat because I didn’t want t o miss anytime with my baby while I was there, same with drinking water..using the bathroom meant I had to give my baby back to the nurses and have her put back in her incubator and I dreaded it every time it happened. I rarely slept because I spent all night crying. Set up for failure.I never counted on the fact that all the breast milk I had stocked up would run out…the milk I was producing was not enough for the increase in my babies need. I will never forget the first time the nurse told me they had to give her formula. My heart dropped. I had been pumping like crazy, meeting with lactation consultants, buying supplements to help..but without the ability to get out this funk I was in…nothing was happening. Nothing. Talk about embarrassed.

On April 26,2018 my baby was released to come home. One of the best days of my life..a weight was lifted off me and I knew that my milk supply would return and we would be ok. But my baby was used to the bottle..she hated coming to breast! After meetings upon meetings with the lactation consultant we decide supplementing would be best. From here on out I would pump but whatever I couldn’t produce I would give DemiRose in formula. Not what I imagined, but we are both much happier. My baby is fed and still receiving my nutrients. I am able to still feel like superwoman. Many people have tons of opinions and the new science of what I should do to produce more milk but DemiRose and I are happy and she has tripled her birth weight. That’s all I could ask for. I wish I could go back and change my pregnancy so that I could have put her on breast immediately but that is not the hand we were dealt. More so than concentrating on breastfeeding I needed to get my mental health together. I wish I could describe the feeling that was on me during those 49 days in NICU but I never want to feel those ever again. I know this is a breastfeeding blog but taking care of us moms is so important. I believe the single reason that my milk supply did not continue to improve is because I was not taking care of myself. How could I with my baby laying in the hospital…taking care of myself was selfish. However, DemiRose will only thrive if mommy thrives and right not mommy thrives pumping what she can and feeling good about it.

When you become a mom often times our bodies pay for the beautiful life we just brought into the world. Our once beautiful skin is covered in acne. Our once toned and sexy stomachs are now loose and covered with stretch marks. The list goes on and on and for some more than others, it takes a toll on us mentally. How do you begin to feel comfortable in these new bodies our baby’s gave us? Embrace it and having good friends and amazing significant others can definitely play a roll in your road to feeling like yourself again. You are still beautiful and a little tiger stripes just added some design. This was something I really struggled with after having my daughter. I am so grateful to have great friends and a loving husband who constantly reminded me what good came from my new body and that I am still beautiful and fierce. 

I would really beat myself up and stare in the mirror and hate what I saw. The constant comments from my husband were such a help. I wanted to sit in the house and hide but he kept encouraging me to get cute and go out. So after finally taking his advice and dolling myself up just to go out for food or to the mall, I was beginning to embrace my new body and role in life. Sitting in the house will only cause you more pain. Go to the gym, go on a walk, go have drinks with the girls, go out with some makeup on and get your hair done, go put that sexy dress on and go out with your significant other. Your self esteem does not have to  be compromised because you are a new mom with a new body. You are fierce, beautiful, strong, and fearfully and wonderfully made. 

Family, friends, strangers, books, and the Internet. These are all sources that try to provide you with information regarding their interpretation of the best way to feed your baby. I have always been the person who followed the beat of my own drum, no opinions needed when it came to the best way to feed my baby. My motherhood journey started 22 years ago when I was in my teenage years. I found myself pregnant and faced with the reality of motherhood. I had it all figured out! There was never a doubt in my mind that I would formula feed. How else was I supposed to feed my baby? With my boobs? Nah… that’s not what those are for. These perky little fun bags will not be used for infant feeding, no Ma’am… On top of that, I found the cutest little baby bottles that had elephants and other cute images printed on them that would be perfect for my baby’s formula!

 As I look back over the years when I was a young, new mom, it never occurred to me that there was any other method of infant feeding other than formula. By the time I was married and expecting my 4th child at 34 years old, I found myself going through a complete mind shift. At this point in my life, I wanted to breastfeed… and I was determined to do it for at least one year. To make sure that I was able to take in all the information that was needed, my husband and I took a breastfeeding class at a local hospital. After the class, I was super prepared and ready to take on breastfeeding! But… by the time my daughter was born, I found myself seriously struggling with maintaining a secure latch and making sure that my sleepy baby was getting all the milk that she needed. I cried, felt defeated, and wanted to give-up. Low milk supply began to plague my journey, which was supposed to be so wonderful and filled with unicorns, rainbows, and sunshine. Breastfeeding became a chore that ended with me partially then fully supplementing with formula by the time my daughter was 8 months old.

 As my daughter turned one year old, my husband and I thought we were done having children…But God had something else in store for us. We went on to have two more daughters, my 5th and 6th child! I exclusively breastfeed my 5th child for 14 months until she self weaned AND I am currently exclusively breastfeeding my 8 month old with no end in sight! I have always been a busy mom. I have worked full-time, finished graduate school, and raised other children all while breastfeeding… It is hard work! Although I have shed many tears, suffered though cracked nipples, milk blebs, thrush, and low milk supply… I would not change it for the world. The incredible bond that results from breastfeeding is the greatest benefit that can ever be achieved. As mothers we have the distinct privilege to create and sustain life…an ability that I do not take for granted. For all the mamas out there who have struggled with breastfeeding, don’t feel defeated…keep pushing and never let anyone discourage you from you goal. You are a superstar! Whether you make a drop of milk, or a gallon of it. We all can say I make milk… what’s your superpower!

Having a new born is exciting, fun, and loving but nobody talks about the real stuff. There is so much that goes on after a baby is born with our bodies, our minds, and our emotions. Then when you try to throw breastfeeding in there, I’m still unsure how I do it. When I first brought my daughter home, my husband worked nights and we had a 4 year old at the time as well. I was already exhausted physically but the months to follow I became exhausted mentally as well. I never slept, my body was hurting, and I swear my daughter nursed every two seconds. With my husband working thirds at the time, I felt by myself. He tried to pick up the slack where he could, however, choosing to breast feed is a commitment. My daughter preferred the breast over a bottle and she wouldn’t take a pacifier so she became attached. For like 6 months she didn’t want anybody but me. I literally became a human cow and pacifier. Those were the hardest months of my life, because I was so focused on “her being my kid, my problem” but I had to realize that it’s ok to need help. If you have help, utilize it. It definitely takes a village to raise a child.

“I will never breastfeed.” Those were the words I repeated over and over again when asked by people during my pregnancy about my plans for feeding my child.  I thought breastfeeding would feel weird and pumping would take too much time.  I mean, I was fed by formula and I am fine!!!  All this changed on February 21,2018 when I was admitted to the hospital with severe pre-eclampsia and placenta issues.  My daughter was found to be severely underweight and I was admitted to the hospital for around the clock monitoring until her delivery.  I stayed in the hospital for two weeks until the doctors felt it was better for my baby to be out of my body more so than staying in and I delivered her via C-section at 31 weeks gestation age. I was devastated, guilty, ashamed, confused, and depressed.  I felt so helpless as I watched her lay in her incubator and felt there was absolutely nothing I could do to help her.

That was until a nurse and lactation consultant came to me and asked had my milk come in…” I don’t plan to breastfeed” I mentioned through my tears. “Well, I would hope you will consider it,” she exclaimed, “your milk is the single best food for your daughter and will help her with growing faster and healthier…some preemies cannot even tolerate formula and therefore do not grow, and it can be deadly for others.” That was all I needed to hear. Here was my chance to provide for my child. To pay her back for what I felt guilty for and I would do just that.  My milk took days to come in and we used donor milk to supplement until it did.  But when I received that first drop, I felt like the best mother in the world.  I was still in the hospital and woke my husband up at 3 am to wheel me down to NICU to make sure she had these drops for her next feeding.  

My daughter has currently been in NICU for the past 33 days. It has been an emotional journey but one thing I can say is she is exceeding all expectations. No major health problems…and has put on so much weight she looks like a completely different baby.  I attribute this to God, kangaroo care, and breast milk.  She is exclusively fed my milk which contains every nutrient she needs to thrive.  I feel like as superwoman knowing that.  I feel so proud of myself knowing that. As a NICU mom, my supply is less than those that have their babies home, so I have to work extra hard and I do.  I have now started putting my daughter on my breast and It is NOT weird…it is the most beautiful feeling I have ever felt in my life.  It hurts like hell with her little gums but there is a feeling that I cannot explain that happens when she is laying there looking up at me.  My hope is that more women will understand how important breast milk is to a thriving child, especially those premature babies who need extra protection to the world, like my little DemiRose.