More Milk Please
One of the great debates amongst mothers is deciding whether to breastfeed or formula feed. Long before scientists discovered how to make powdered-base formulas for babies, women were suckling their youngins. Breastfeeding has long been accepted and trendy in non-color communities as opposed to the black communities. Our ancestors have been nursing other women’s children, including their own, for years, so I’m not sure when breastfeeding became so taboo within the black community.
Many of us were raised on powdered-base milk. Our mothers and aunts formula fed their children and didn’t consider breastfeeding as an option due to the negative connotations. One thing that was always funny to me was the fear of getting sagging breasts once you stopped nursing. If you're worried about your breast sagging then go buy a push up bra; they work! Also being shunned or ridiculed in public while nursing can scare a mother away from the idea of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a natural and loving experience shared between mother and baby and deserves to be celebrated.
Choosing to breastfeed comes with challenges of its own. Cracked nipples, mastitis, which is a severe breast infection, exhaustion from pumping every few hours or even low milk supply can be difficult for any first time mother - or if this is your fifth time being a mom. Being a mother of three I breastfeed both of my older children and I’m currently breastfeeding my nine week old. I’ve been faced with many challenges this third time around, one of them being low milk supply. Initially I thought that my milk would come in right away, but that didn’t happen and I was disappointed by that. Sure, I was able to get out the colostrum, which is the first “milk” your baby receives from the breast (when pumped it is a yellowish color), but the milk was not forthcoming.
Due to my son being a premature baby, it was imperative for me to pump soon after birth so that the hospital could get my milk into his gut before anything else. Breast milk helps fight off certain infections, reduces the risks of viruses, lessens the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), protects against allergies and causes less diarrhea and upset stomach in babies. For some reason my milk wasn’t coming in as quickly as I expected it to or hoped for. I was very frustrated with pumping every two to three hours with no results. It really made me feel like a bad mom. I would cry because I felt like I was failing my son by not being able to give him what he needed from me. It was good to know that the hospital encouraged me to keep trying and not give up. They knew the importance and bond that would give to my son and I, to strengthen him so he could come home.
With each passing day I was able to pump more than I had days prior. Before I knew it, I was pumping more than I had expected. After two weeks I was finally able to nurse him successfully at the breast as well as pump milk to store at home. It was like the floodgates opened and I had an endless supply of the liquid gold filling up my freezer. Joy and confidence had been restored
back into my heart. I’m glad that I trusted my lactation specialist, myself to keep trying, and others that gave me encouragement.
There are things that you can do if you are experiencing difficulty with breastfeeding your little one. You can always consult a lactation specialist. They are God send. They give you different techniques and coaching to help increase your milk supply, one of them being kangaroo care (which is skin to skin bonding). They also encourage you to pump every two to three hours to help stimulate your breast so your milk can come in, and although it may get frustrating, keep pumping. Your milk will show up.
Each of us is different and some new mothers just simply cannot breastfeed for reasons known to them, and that is okay. Formula feeding is another option. Just because some mothers choose to formula feed, it does not make them bad moms. Formula has gotten a lot better over the years and there are so many options to meet the needs of different baby issues. I was formula fed and turned out great!
As women we have to start embracing differences and be more welcoming of each other. Whether you admit it or not we are hard on each other, especially when it comes to parenting, and it should not be so. We all need grace to get through parenting our children. It bothers me when a mother is scolded for not breastfeeding their child(ren). Breastfeeding is not everyone’s cup of tea. Yes breast milk is a natural gift from God to feed our babies, but it’s not the only way to feed them. Some mothers aren’t able to nurse because they are working single parents. They don’t have the time to pump every two to three hours or may not have a work environment that encourages breastfeeding. Medical conditions can also keep moms from breastfeeding, and some women honestly just don’t want to.
We should not be shaming them for not exclusively breastfeeding and if you are, STOP IT. You don’t know what that mother is facing and shaming her is just adding to her difficulties. You can still have a great bond with your child even if you don’t breastfeed them. I’m glad that over the past several years more black moms are choosing to breastfeed their babies as opposed to formula. But if you are formula feeding them, that’s awesome too. Honestly, these babies just want to eat, they don’t care where they get it from. As long as you have educated yourself on the best way to feed your baby and you are trusting that process, I say, “Go for it.”
Yes I am a champion for breastfeeding but at the same time, I know it’s okay to give your baby formula. At the end of the day, you have to make the right choice for you and your family. So whatever you do, do it for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and also for the love of your child.
Shebah Etosha Brown