We are very excited to be showing support for black mothers, fathers, parents and infants during Black Breastfeeding Week. A recent CDC study regarding breastfeeding statistics which found that interventions are needed to address barriers experienced disproportionately by black mothers in their feeding journeys.
During this week, we will be sharing the feeding journeys of real parents in our community. Today, we bring you Ophelia’s story of staying positive during her initial obstacles and the resources she found on her journey.
How would you describe your own feeding (nursing or otherwise) journey?
My nursing journey has been extremely empowering. It was definitely rocky in the beginning as I knew nothing about breastfeeding, and there were no resources that I had knowledge of. I wasn’t able to ask my family for advice nor support as I was the first woman in my family to ever breastfeed. On many occasions, I heard that black women do not breastfeed; and that I should give my son a bottle of formula but, as I continued to learn about the benefits of my breastmilk verses formula I decided to continue despite the odds being against me. I am ecstatic to say that my body ALONE has nurtured my sons very being and his existence!
What, if any, misconceptions of nursing did you encounter?
One huge misconception I’ve encountered throughout my journey is that I breastfed too long. Most people believe that once a child is out of the infancy stage that they no longer need breastmilk. That’s totally untrue. The composition of breastmilk changes as the child grows and as their needs change.
The biggest challenge for me was not seeing black women or any woman of color breastfeeding. It would’ve been so much easier if there was a woman who looked like me at the breastfeeding support groups I tried to attend. Most of the moms had their own “cliques” and I never felt included. I eventually stopped attending; and searched hard for moms of color who shared my love for breastfeeding and who could understand the struggles I had. I finally found that group; and I’ve helped the creator build this group from the bottom up. We now have over 20 women who come out each month to get support and empower each other.
What resources or support helped you on your journey?
The support of my SO(significant other) has been so abundant that without him I do not believe that I’d still be breastfeeding today. The group Coloring Between the Lines also has been of huge support as the group is filled with women of color, mostly black mothers, who are breastfeeding their babies. I now feel that the support that I gained throughout my journey will help me to support the women of color in my community.
Why do you think it’s important to have Black Breastfeeding Week?
Black Breastfeeding Week is needed to bring awareness to the lack of breastfeeding in the black community. Infant mortality rates are staggeringly higher for black babies; and black breastfeeding rates are low. As a breastfeeding peer counselor I believe that if we increase breastfeeding rates in our community we will decrease infant mortality. This week is also needed to show the world that black women do breastfeed, and we need to be represented in the media, natural baby community, and hospitals. As most hospitals in low-income communities are sadly funded by formula companies and they do not give women of color breastfeeding resources if they choose to breastfeed.
Do you have any specific advice to share with anyone looking to nurse?
Breastfeeding is a journey. There will be good and some bad days. The good will outweigh the bad and you should never give up on your worse day. Find support, hold your baby close, look into their eyes, and know that you are giving them the best start at a healthy life.
Thank you Ophelia!! You can follow Ophelia on Instagram.