Normalizing Breastfeeding: Why Women Are Taking A Stand Against The Shaming of Breastfeeding
By: Asia Cheyanne
August has been a month of breaking barriers for women, especially mothers. During this month, the U.S. government has officially made public breastfeeding legal! Many people did not know, but breastfeeding in the U.S. has been illegal in two states; Utah and Idaho, and know it is legal to feed your child in public. In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, we sat with two mothers who breastfeed their kids and their experience as breastfeeding mothers.
36 year old Danielle belonging to Orlando, Florida birthed two healthy baby boys whom she breast fed. “There were several reasons. The first was for economic reasons. Formula can cost as much as $20 a week, if not more, and we are a lower income family. Then you also must wash and sanitize bottles and all components to the bottles before even preparing the formula, which can’t be prepared in advance. On the other hand, breast milk is essentially free with very little preparation.” She explained when asked about why she even decided to breastfeed. She made excellent points about it’s affordability, how it’s economically safe and low maintenance.
Being lactose intolerant also piqued her keenness about breastfeeding as well. That placed a lot of influence on her decision. “How do you feel about milk formula?” I inquired.
Danielle's Diet and Nutrition Advice
Although it isn’t necessarily relevant to the topic at hand, cow milk has been linked to several cases of cancer and obesity. To avoid many cases of illness and bacterial infections, many mothers choose to breastfeed to lower the risks of their child(ren) getting sick. There are a plethora of instances where the folks of our generation jabber on and on about spirituality, vibes and energy. In this case, energy does play a role in the bonding of mother and child and Danielle explained what she feels differs in the breast feeding process vs the formula feeding processing.
“There were fewer sleepless nights than people I know who formula fed. I was able to get up, change my baby, nurse him back to sleep and be back in bed in only a half hour. There was also a sense of ebb and flow from myself to the baby that would not have been matched with formula. I knew without a doubt that we depended on each other and that helped build a bond we wouldn’t have been able to build had he been formula fed.”
As far as diet goes, Danielle went on to stress the importance of a balanced diet.
“I also limited caffeine intake. I don’t drink alcohol at all, nor do I smoke or do drugs so that wasn’t an issue for me either. I did get sick frequently while I was breastfeeding, so I had to check medications with multiple sources to ensure they didn’t leech in to my milk supply.”
Cons of breastfeeding
But with the joys of breastfeeding and pregnancy, there are some cons. Danielle elaborated on how both her pregnancies would have successfully been smooth sailing had not it been for the ill manners of others. She explained how her first son – while unborn – was referred to as a monkey by a co worker because he is half black, she mentioned how working in retail placed a lot of strain on her. Customers and coworkers were rude and unwilling to cooperate with her restrictions. For instance, she wasn’t supposed to be lifting things no more than 10 pounds and she was still being forced to do so. Danielle was almost pushed to quitting and a man even threatened to hit her. There’d been many nights she spent crying about how terrible things were. She didn’t have much support so Danielle attempted to join mom groups but that required money so she didn’t receive the support based on her decision to breastfeed. Then her second child came along which was frightening because he was threatening a premature birth; depression waiting it’s turn to further bother her. However, she managed to weed through such obstacles, her children easing the mental difficulty she experienced.
Danielle’s 3 Advice Tips
I asked her to give advice to other mothers who planned on breastfeeding and she happily obliged:
a. Breath. When I was still in the hospital it was difficult to start breastfeeding. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I was afraid I wasn’t doing it right. The stress made it harder and the baby felt my stress. Just breath, try to relax and it will make it easier.
b. Don’t listen to every piece of advice. I read an outdated parenting book somebody gave me that suggested I “toughen” my nipples for breastfeeding by scrubbing them with steel wool. This is completely unnecessary. My mother told me I should rub Vaseline in to my nipples. This is also false information. A friend told me that breastfeeding alone wasn’t enough and that I wouldn’t produce enough milk to sustain my baby. All of it is false. Breastfeeding is one of the most natural experiences. Trust in your body and know that women have been doing this for thousands of years.
c. Stand up for yourself. People are awful. There are many instances of people verbally attacking women for breastfeeding publicly. It is legal in this country so don’t be afraid to fight back. If you aren’t comfortable using a cover then don’t. If you prefer using a cover then do. If somebody forces you to expose yourself, and they do, don’t be afraid to assert yourself. This is your baby and your body. No other person has the right to tell you what to do with it.
We also were honored to speak with Kintoria Wilson, a 26- year old woman from South Carolina.
I asked Kintoria why she decided to breastfeed when she did and her answer was just as plausible as any other mother’s.
Motherhood is not only difficult but it’s very costly and providing milk for a child straight from the nipple on her body was the best option.
“Breast milk has more health benefits than formula. Instead of chemicals, it's direct nutrition. If I did not express milk after a few hours, my breast would become engorged, painful. I breastfed for 27 months. One day, I just stopped and I experienced minimum swelling. Probably because my breast were used to going long hours without release, so they weren't producing as much.”
Kintoria didn’t necessarily think it was wise to feed her child milk formula because she felt it lacked nutritional value which was very important to her for her child’s well being.
Of course with feeding straight from the nipple comes the responsibility of maintaining a balanced diet. One that benefits both you and your child. Anything you consume will expel from your breast and taste pretty much the same.
Diet and Advice
“I ate fruits, veggies, and had a pescatarian diet, but I'd still have some chocolate. Other than that, my main focus was my water intake. I had to drink a lot of water. When the baby woke up in the middle of the night i was drinking water. Unless i was asleep, I took a few sips every 30 minutes.”
Hydration seemed to be key for prosperous milk that produced in ample amounts.
She then elaborated on what she enjoyed most about her first peak into motherhood as well as the thing she least enjoyed.
When asked about some advice she could give to other mothers and/or expecting mothers, this is what Kintoria told us:
1. invest in a nipple shield; it relieves the pain of the sucking while beginning
2. DRINK WATER CONSTANTLY; straw bottles help intake more quantity, Mother's Milk Tea works wonders, oatmeal breast milk cookies work overnight (recipes online, Pinterest, etc),
3. Don’t be embarrassed or bashful to feed ANYWHERE; don't let the baby suck at night once teeth begin growing in (I put my daughter in the playpen for 5 seconds and explained to her that she couldn't have any milk at night or she'd have to stay in. About 12 months, was late but as long as they are coherent it'll work usually)
4. Invest in breastfeeding bras and cloth nipple shields, do it exclusively (no formula) at least 6 months!
For the privacy of the mothers, we kept their identities anonymous. In the meantime, to learn more about breastfeeding options, please visit https://www.parents.com/baby/breastfeeding/ for more information.