A Mother’s Breastfeeding Story
August is National Breastfeeding Month and for many, breastfeeding isn’t easy. Those who want to do it usually require support, understanding, and education. We are in support of the new foundation of lactation support which is built on racial equity, cultural empowerment, and community engagement and is powered by our collective resilience.
When we remove the barriers to breastfeeding, we can all become a change catalyst and be part of the movement to help support a mother to breastfeed. We all play an important role in the protection, promotion, and support of breastfeeding. We asked women to share their breastfeeding stories with us, here’s Kenia’s story.
MIWN: Kenia, share your overall breastfeeding experience with us
K: First of all, thank you for running a campaign around this topic. Breastfeeding was a very personal, and also, very political act for me. I breastfed my two children into their toddlerhood; my daughter for about 1 and a half years, and my son, two and a half. The only reason this was possible was that I had the unconditional support of my workplace, my friends, and my family.
Breastfeeding was difficult in the beginning. My nipples bled because my daughter and I didn’t know how to latch correctly. During that same period, I was sick (a cold/flu) and struggled with the energy to breastfeed her, and she would wail in frustration. I remember saying, “there’s no way I can do this for 6 months!” I was incredibly fortunate to have a midwife, and mothers who had done this before, I leaned on them! They taught me how to latch her, how to remove her when she latched incorrectly, how to recognize her cues and more.
With time, I made it beyond the 6-month and 1-year mark. I loved nursing her because it was our special time together when it was just me and her. With my son, breastfeeding was a breeze, and that breeze kept blowing. He nursed for every situation, hunger, boredom, comfort, attention, and tiredness. By the time he turned 2, I was over it. And like my daughter, I leaned on my community, but this time, to teach me how to wean him gently. Eventually, he learned to go to his papa for love and cuddles, and we learned new ways of being that didn’t require nursing. My daughter is now 14, and my son is 7.
MIWN: What are some stigmas around nursing in public and what role does society play in nursing?
K: I remember I was at mama lunch meet-up one day with an acquaintance who brought her baby, and I
brought mine. Her baby started fussing, and she said, “I'll be right back”. She went into a public bathroom stall to nurse her baby. When she returned, I told her, she could’ve just breastfed there, I had no problem with it. She shared that she left because of her modesty, and society’s stigma. That day always stuck with me. I recalled if there were times when I had stepped away to nurse and if I had, why? There have been times when people (mostly men) have stared at me as I nursed on subway cars, at family gatherings, at community events, and everything in between. But I have never felt deterred.
I was able to nurse my two children because of the unconditional support from my people: whether my employer or my partner, my friends, and my family. At work, I was able to pump and store my milk. During family gatherings, I simply nursed my children on the spot. I was able to maintain that connection because my community facilitated it. Had I worked at a place where pumping was not an option or had a partner/family who didn’t support me doing so, my breastfeeding journey would have been very different.
MIWN: Share your thoughts on formula feeding.
K: At around month 9-10 months, my milk supply began going down. My children started eating a few solids, and I no longer nursed around the clock. I purchased a formula to have handy just in case. However, in my entire nursing experience, I may have gone through 2 cans.
MIWN: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
K: Though a very private act between a parent and their babies, breastfeeding is in fact, a collective experience. Employers, families, partners, and society at large must support its very possibility. Because I had that, I nursed both my children into toddlerhood. I am proud of the strong foundation I've built over the years as they’re now in their childhood and teen years.