Black Breastfeeding Week 2018 / by Petra Sherbin Fox

Let me start by saying Happy Breast-Feeding Month! And a special kick off of Black Breastfeeding Week! 

My breastfeeding journey started as an 18-year-old single mom- with no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that breastfeeding would be most cost effective for me. And with little to no resources or education I made it to eight months. Once my son made my nipples bleed I STOPPED. Wish I would've known then that THAT WAS NOT NORMAL & probably something I could've corrected. But, I am proud that I was able to breastfeed that long with my first go around.

Fast forward ten years later, I was determined to hit my goal of one year exclusively breastfeeding. I had my birth plan ready and this idea that this would be easy, I mean I did it before, right? And this time around I had soooo much more support. I found the Black Breastfeeding Support Group on Facebook & my sister-in-law was also pregnant, due 7 weeks ahead of me. So, I literally had a BREASTIE!

And let me tell you’ll breastfeeding was an emotional rollercoaster ride.

BREASTFEEDING WAS NOT EASY.

BREASTFEEDING DID NOT LOOK GOOD ALL THE TIME.

I WANTED TO GIVEUP PLENTY OF TIMES.

FIRST, my birth did not go as I planned, ended up having an emergency C-Section, Chancelor was ten pounds & we were separated a few minutes after birth. Luckily, our first latch, about an hour after birth was successful. Immediate skin to skin- didn't happen. I was so delirious & didn't have my husband there (he was at Military Boot Camp but was present by phone). Luckily, my mom was there to help with Elijah, my grandma & a close friend, Charlaine, was there to hold my legs when I pushed & another close friend, Phelyna, who held my hand during my C-section, 

SECOND, I was pressured into giving Chance a bottle because of his blood sugar. And at that time was too tired to fact check. Now as a CLC, I know that his levels DID NOT WARRANT FORMULA SUPPLEMENTING. Although, supplementing lasted about 48 hours, I wish I would’ve stood my ground a bit more. Luckily, my son's pediatrician SHUT THAT DOWN IMMEDIATELY (Jamaican-bred woman pediatrician)! 

THIRD, although my mom was such a huge help- she wasn't up to date with her breastfeeding knowledge and thought because Chance was born at ten pounds there was no way I'd be able to adequately feed him. She totally encouraged my decision but as I was learning, I also had to educate her.

I remember at around 12 weeks old, I was ready to GIVE UP- Chance was cluster feeding like attached to the boob all day long for like 2 weeks. My nipples were so sore, I was so tired. I am sure I only showered once or twice during that time. I was exhausted, I thought that there was no way that I was producing enough if he was nursing like this. But, here is where my support played such an intricate role in my journey. The Black Women Breastfeeding Support group spoke about cluster-feeding often, referenced articles from Kellymom.com (AMAZING RESOURCE) and my sister-in-law had just gone through THE SAME THING. It helped me realize this is NORMAL and this was a part of the process. And the process didn't look like what I’ve seen on TV. It wasn't always glorious. One day, it was beautiful the next it was like a nightmare. But this is what I wanted. I knew better this time around so I wanted to do better. My only goal was to make it one more day. And we made it 15 months 3 weeks and 4 days, the end was bittersweet! But Chance self-weaned RIGHT ON TIME, cause this momma was DONE! 

OBSTACLES I FACED-

Pumping, man I had a love hate relationship with my pump. Spectra S1 was the BEST PUMP! I never had luck with a manual pump, where I know ladies that have. I learned to hand express in a bathroom in Paris because I left my pump parts at home- THAT WAS NOT FUN. But, I never had much luck with building a stash- good to know I never really needed one! I had my left breast and my WRONG breast only normally pumped an oz from it! But my left breast came through with about 3-4 oz per session. This was my normal! And nothing was "wrong" because one produced less than the other. After taking a pumping hiatus of about 3 months, I was in the bathroom cryinggggggggg because I was only getting drops! Power pumping didn't work well and I felt so defeated cause I was going back to work. I hit my BREASTIE up- she was like "P, pump one breast while nursing on the other & stop stressing!" AND THESE WERE THE TIMES I WAS MOST THANKFUL FOR HER! I wouldn't have made it without her! 

Hypothyroidism Diagnosis- Who would’ve known, I made enough for Chance but I was on the undersupply side- Never heard of postpartum thyroid issues. But, here I was faced with this obstacle. I was put on thyroid medication & started making milk like a milk making machine. But again, this is why staying educated is so imperative! Going to the doctor for routine care is a must! Mommas, we have to take care of ourselves to be able to take care of our families!

Let’s touch upon the obstacles we face with family members. 

CREATE BOUNDARIES IMMEDIATELY, 

Grandma says put baby cereal in the baby's bottle because he needs more food- Grandma- that’s a negative.

Mom says give the baby formula, he was less gassy then- Mom- that’s a negative

Give the baby a faster flow nipple, he will be more satisfied- Mother/Father in Law-No ma'am/sir

You still breasting after one, you only have powder left- Uhhhh I’m pretty sure he hasn't burped powder.

These are all things I've heard and the boundary had to be set quick, THIS IS MY BABY & WE WILL DO THINGS MY WAY. I don't care what worked in the past, cause news flash, it only worked because of lack of resources. And it took me educating those around me also and being set in what I will accept and won't. And it’s important that we do this! Especially because the success of our journey depends on it! The support of our family members will increase our chances of successfully reaching our goal. I had to explain to my husband why ONLY three ounces a feeding was ENOUGH. Or why it was best to hold off on solid foods. Thankfully, my husband was extremely supportive, researched with me and encouraged me to keep going no matter how discouraged I was at times. I know his support and encouragement also played a huge part in me accomplishing my day to day goal. 

All-in-all, I loved my journey, even when it didn't look pretty. I also loved being able to help other moms reach whatever goal they had. It is beautiful seeing other moms go through their journey and do what they feel is best. The importance of the education and the support amongst the African American community is VITAL. Infant mortality amongst our community doubles other ethnicities. Black babies are STILL dying at TWICE the rate of White babies. According to the CDC, if black families breastfeed more, that statistic would decrease by 50%. We need to share our stories, see other breastfeeding moms, see other black healthcare professionals supporting breastfeeding, create safe spaces to discuss our obstacles. Only then will we see a decrease in the enormous gap in infant mortality. WE DO NOT HAVE TO FEED OUR BABIES FORMULA. We have a CHOICE and we have OPTIONS, this is why I became a part of my local Mom2Mom chapter and a CLC. 

We deserve the best; our babies deserve the best. And we need all the resources available to make the best decision for our families.  

 

Enjoy some of my breastfeeding pics- sometimes I just wasn't feeling it, LOL. But deep down I was always so thankful to be able to provide my son with the best start in life possible!