a life-giving reminder for [Black] mommas who need space to be human.
if you’d asked me about breastfeeding before now, i would not have had much to say on the matter. my mother didn’t breastfeed me. her mother (my grandmother) never breastfed her. and i never had the remote desire to allow a baby to be connected at my nips. until it happened to me.
i’d love to say that it was out of an abundance of care and concern for my baby that i gave it more serious consideration. but due to complications with my pregnancy, my doctor was very concerned about foreign growths in my uterus and had warned me that my stomach may appear enlarged permanently after giving birth. spending time speaking with her and my doula, i learned that breastfeeding might help my uterus contract back to a “normal” size. so, selfishly, i decided to try it. and, nearly 5 months later, i have so many learnings and observations* that deserve to be uplifted about my breastfeeding journey.
*none of these things may be new thought, but they are new experiences for me that i’d like to share.
after celebrating the fact that my baby is still alive and that i am still halfway sane due to sleep deprivation via a facebook post, i've had so much support and love from fellow baby mommas who understand the breastfeeding struggle. many of these amazing parents encouraged me by affirming that breastfeeding is indeed a superpower, a bit of magic that strengthens and fortifies our little ones as we yield our liquid gold. i love that so many of us find solidarity in praising the strength it takes to breastfeed a child. and i understand why it's viewed as a kind of superpower. when i am awakened in the middle of the night by my baby girl’s hungry whimper, indeed i feel powerful when i am able to meet her hunger with the nourishment she needs.
i have decided that viewing my ability to breastfeed as a superpower is unfair to me and countless others who were not given the choice or did not have the privilege to breastfeed (more on this in a bit). it is unfair to me because i’m not a superhero. though i might be in my daughter’s eyes, as a Black woman, i must insist that i have room to be human, imperfect and flawed. i am not a superhero for what i produce. i am a beautiful human with gifts and the need for grace. additionally, when we call breastfeeding a superpower, we unintentionally overlook the countless women who could not breastfeed because of their jobs or health concerns or other issues that prevented them from doing so. what’s more, would we call the Black women who were forced to be wet nurses for white families superheroes for keeping their children alive? the act may have been heroic, but i doubt those women felt that way during those days.
i am learning to view my ability to breastfeed as a gift. not a superpower. a gift that comes, in part, from the privilege i was afforded to a generous parental leave from my place of employment, the opportunity to work from home, a supportive partner, and enough financial means to have access to great healthcare coverage - which included a knowledgeable doula and excellent lactation specialists. As a result of this combination of tangible resources, i have been able to offer my daughter something my mother and many others were not able to provide for their own children - a sacrificial gift of life-giving nourishment.
we must allow ourselves the space and freedom to call breastfeeding a gift (even if we do find pride in calling it a superpower as well). For me, this subtle nuance makes a world of difference. when we view something we can do (a capacity we have) as a superpower, oftentimes we push ourselves to the brink of unhealthy because we are needed and no one else can do the thing we can do. But when we view it as a gift, we ask ourselves better questions about how and when our gift is needed and how we need to take care of ourselves as good stewards of that gift. lastly, when we allow breastfeeding to be viewed as a gift, we open ourselves to being grateful for the opportunity to share it with our little ones. Breastfeeding as a superpower tempts us to creating harmful comparisons around what is best and invites us to link our worth as mommas to the commodification of our breasts’ productivity. i wholeheartedly reject this line of thought - especially as a Black woman. i am not superpowerful because i breasfteed my daughter. i am simply grateful that my body provides for her and that i have what i need to give her sufficient portions of this gift.
i remain fascinated and overjoyed that i am still breastfeeding my babygirl. many days, i am exhausted and ready to give up. but the valuable things i am learning in the meantime keep me motivated to share nuggets from this journey so that all of us can get free and stay free. may we resist unhelpful views of what is right (or wrong) for all mothers/parents. i leave you with 4 socially conscious tips for breastfeeding success. the motherhood journey continues…
socially conscious reframing reminders for breastfeeders:
breastfeeding is a gift that requires great care and rest.
breastfeeding is a personal choice but it is *also* a choice made easier by access to privilege(s) many do not have.
breastfeeding is not a part of a motherhood hierarchy. all parents are doing what is best for them and their little one. and that is beautiful.
breastfeeding is not simple - especially for Black women. interlocking mechanisms of lack of access to maternal healthcare, misinformation, and economic disenfranchisement complicate breastfeeding across social classes.