A Boob By Any Other Color: On Breastfeeding and Privilege

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This morning, I saw my girl Yanira in my text messages. I was ready to laugh at something funny or be inspired by her hustle. Instead, I got this: SemptembreA_Tweet

Hawtdamb!

Allen_Quote_Breastfeeding_InstaI rolled my eyes. Annoyed at the obvious way in which privilege rears its ugly head. Even when feeding a child. But then I thought, I want to see what the Buzzfeed article says.  Sure enough, it was all about how adorable this image was. The headline read: An adorable photograph of a Queensland student breastfeeding at her graduation has been liked by more than 110,000 people in 24 hours.

Of course, I didn't want to stop there and I did a search to confirm that Buzzfeed had indeed posted about Karlesha Thurman, the black woman who got so much slack and such a negative headline when she had the audacity to breastfeed her child after collecting her diploma. Karlesha's headline was: People Are Freaking Out Because This Woman Was Breast-Feeding At Her Graduation.

They both had negative comments and they both had support. They also both had lots of shares. So, what gives, eh?

I prayed to the sweet 8lb 6oz dark skinned baby Jesus with the Jheri curl!

Yes, I do feel this is racially motivated. The fact of how women of color are portrayed in the media is always an issue. I still feel there's an undercurrent of privilege here that needs to be talked about. First Shonda gets called an angry black woman and now this. Come on folks, I can't be the only one.

Now, I will say this: Jacci was graduating from the University of Queensland in Australia. I think this also speaks to how we view breastfeeding in the US. And it's the reason why sites like The Badass Breastfeeder and Black Women Do Breastfeed are out there fighting the good fight in order to normalize breastfeeding. Across the board.

Though it was the same media outlet reporting so, my eyes are rolled all the way to the back of my head.

Still, it is not lost on me how these two young women, each giving their best to their child while improving themselves are seen in such a different light. Some days I wonder if this will ever change. If my daughter's picture will be seen the same as that of a white child. And it pisses me off, to tell you the truth.

I don't have the answer. Just questions, folks. Lots and lots of questions. Because with the advent of social media more of these stories bubble to the top and we get to see how images are reported on and classified. And I think it's our job to call it out when we see it because that's the only way I know to stop this.

I don't know, people. What do you think?

Claiming Your Superpower

Twenty days after the birth of this blog I wrote a post called I Make Milk, What's Your Superpower? I did it as part of a linkup with Mary, the Mommyologist and first blogger that evah spoke to me. I'm forever grateful to her. See, she had started this Mom Sexy thing. And that long, long post written late at night as my kid was reworking her sleep schedule was my way of telling the world I was Mom Sexy!

The last line of the post was: I have conference calls while strapped to my Medela Freestyle, my nipples look like chewed up gummy bears and I’m STILL Mom Sexy!

Because it was true.

I felt so empowered being able to get through those obstacles. The mountain I don't think I climbed, though, was the oppressive attitudes towards nursing around me. I mean, I talked about nursing, I shared my experience and all that jazz. But I only recall going out once with my little frog princess while on maternity leave. I mean going out and having her in her sling while I nursed in public.

Looking back, those 8 weeks at home were a slight haze. I can't exactly explain why I didn't go out more except for the fact that it seemed time was liquid and there was a big drain in the middle of my home where it all leaked into.

I think it's the reason why I said I wanted a shirt with the title of that blog on it. Because if I had to do it over again, I'd try to find a plug to cover that drain. I would be comfortable in my own tits, so to speak. And not be worried about what others thought (including anyone that was with me). Interestingly enough, it's almost as if I purposely kept myself out of that situation in order to avoid confrontation.

Since then, I'd like to think I've helped other Mamis get through the hurdles that sometimes come with nursing. I hope that I have made a difference in the life of a Mami wanting desperately to breastfeed. I hope that I have strengthened someone enough to be confident out in public and okay with the obstacles that are sometimes encountered.

I'm not an expert, by any means. And I know many who have struggled and not been able to accomplish their goal of nursing. Which is what makes it that much more special when someone does. I want to celebrate that thing that I did. That thing that I almost gave up on. That thing that I am most proud of. Which is why I created this thing:

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I must admit, it's making my ovaries tingly. This shirt is giving me ideas. But even if I never nurse another child again, I will wear this shirt proudly. I think if you have ever TRIED to breastfeed, you need to be applauded. It is hard work.

I hope you will join me in wearing this beauty.  To show not just what you're made of but what you have made.

As I prepared to launch the shirt, I kept thinking I should do a little more to spread the message regarding breastfeeding and the fact that it is a natural thing for women to do (why do you think those pretty boobs are for?).  

So, I emailed Abby over at The Badass Breastfeeder for suggestions regarding organizations that support nursing women. After going through some suggestions, I settled on Project Breastfeeding. I don't know how many shirts I am going to sell but however many, I'd like to donate a portion of the sales to this project. Because it's about a lot more than selling a cute shirt on the blog.

I love the reason why this project came to be and I love Hector's words:

Destigmatize public breastfeeding. Educating Men. Empowering Women. Our goal and mission statement is simple, we need to normalize breastfeeding once again.

What are your thoughts/experience/feelings about breastfeeding?

Loca About Leche

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Today Yery shares one of the things that makes her loca: breastmilk. You've heard me talk about breastfeeding but here's an account of someone that has been exclusively pumping for six months (and counting). These days it seems like everything I do is tied to my milk supply. That's right; I am a human milk machine. I have a living breathing life that depends on me and this milk my glands produce. And yes, I know there is formula available to those who can't or choose not to "nurse" but that would be too easy for me. Not only am I giving him breastmilk but I am pumping said milk.

Even BEFORE I was pregnant with my son I just knew I would be breast feeding. The whole notion was romanticized by hormones and people who swore their bond with their child is unbreakable because of breastfeeding. Of course I wanted to be the best mom ever and it seemed breastfeeding would help me achieve this title SO I wanted in. Then he was born.

He didn't come how we planned of course. We had a water birth planned and ended up having a C-section. My dreams of laboring and then putting my boy to the breast were shattered. Our OB made sure he was not taken from me after he was born but he was way more interested in everything going on around than latching on. A couple non-sessions with a few lactation consultants coupled with me seeing how strong his suckle is and fearing for my nipples led me to pumping exclusively.

In the beginning I had to supplement with formula, another direct hit to my new mommy ego, but I was determined to give him breastmilk, even if I lost all my senses in the process. I pumped every 3 hours, even when it hurt, even when I was getting 2 oz after pumping for 45 minutes. I began talking to myself, setting alarms to remind me of something I needed no reminder of- Pump! Pump! Pump! You have a house full of people here to see and spend time with the baby? Who cares? PUMP! Your baby is crying because he wants to be held? Tell Daddy to hold him while you PUMP! Your breasts itch like you have Ebola? Use that very thick stuff that barely helps at all and PUMP!

With all this pumping, slowly my milk production improved. As I began to make more milk I also began to obsess about how much milk I was making. Keeping track of every single drop pumped, comparing it to how much he drinks daily, adding more pump sessions to increase how much milk I make. These days I have a pretty good schedule set up. I've found a second pump that takes away some of the hassle of traveling with a pump to work and my boy is on some solids so he is easy on his demands of milk. Now on to obsessing about starting my freezer stash.

Why do I obsess you ask? I obsess because that's what WE do, us Mamis. We obsess over skin, hair, clothes, food, runny noses, milestones, sleep and YES POOP too. I am an overachiever. I found my thing to obsess about EARLY in my motherhood career and I am going to be the BEST Breast Milk Obsessor EVER!

~~~

I am proud that Yery is in a good place with exclusively pumping. Although she claims she obsesses about it (and y'all, I get to hear a lot about her boobs), she is just doing what we all do: taking care of our babies in the best way we know how and to best of our abilities.

The Great Debate

I have read a great many blogs and articles lately about nursing. And it's starting to piss me off! I don't believe you should judge someone's decision to nurse or bottle feed. I don't believe that you need to blurt out your very personal explanation as to why you are doing what you are doing WITH YOUR KID to a stranger.  I have had friends who wanted to nurse but couldn't. And they have happy, lovely kids. I have friends that never even wanted to try it and it doesn't make them any less loving toward their child. BUT I do feel that, while a lot of people talk about being judged for bottle feeding, those same people turn right around and make judgements about nursing! You are doing the same thing that you claim scarred you and made you miserable. Why? Does it make us feel better to bring someone down? What is it with us women not accepting one another and lifting each other up?

I can say that I received slack from people about my decision to nurse. So I guess we're all being harassed by others. But it was MY choice. I stand by it.  I stand by the time that the frog princess nursed and my decision to self-wean.  It is MY body and it is MY child.  The same applies to all women who choose to bottle feed.  I wish I could start a movement to stop all the judgement!

As long as a baby is loved, I don't care how you nourish it (and neither will the baby). It is unfortunate that as mamis, we're running around feeling bad for our choices as if we don't have enough on our plates. I am sincerely sorry that mamis that don't nurse (for whatever the reason) feel judged or somehow made to feel like they are less than other mamis.  But don't sit on your high horse and think that you can judge me for the way that I chose to provide sustenance just because someone did it to you.  What ever happened to do undo others as you'd have them do unto you?

Can we make a conscious decision to stop the judging?

It is sad to see that women don't encourage, compliment or nurture one another more often. This world would be a different place if we did.

Dwindling Superpower

Or...Weaning 101.  It's happening. I saw it coming this month. Between the stresses of every day living, the hustle and bustle of work and the passing of mami, my body has decided it can't do it all. And so, my milk is drying up. I would like to thank chocolate in the organic whole milk as well as Silk's Very Vanilla Soy for helping me find a happy medium with the frog princess after weeks of failed attempts (not wholehearted ones, mind you). This is what Kal-El would feel like if he ever went back to Krypton (if it hadn't disintegrated and all). No superpower. Normal. I now have no ability to nourish another life. No ability to comfort in that same way. I am officially a normal mami. Although it doesn't happen overnight, in the last few days I've noticed my body shutting down the milk production. Both last night and this morning, I went to nurse and while there was initial success, it wasn't the same. I cannot describe that feeling. Though I've always known I'd stop nursing (I knew that eventually, I'd have to as my friends have already started teasing me about nursing her til she's 15 years old though she's only 15 months!), I've also always known that it would be hard and that there would be no way for me to prepare for it. Last night, it felt foreign to me to be holding a bottle during our nighttime routine (though she holds it for herself, I feel like I should be doing something during that time so I tried to assist with the bottle holding duties).

I am sure the frog princess is having a better time with this than I am. Though let me tell you, she will take her bottle but has put it down in favor of attempting to undress me so that she can get to the good stuff! I thought that by the end of this weekend, the milk store would be closed. It didn't happen but, I know it's around the corner. And a new chapter of my life will be opened. It's not all negative. There are things I am looking forward to. Not wearing pumping bras is on TOP of the list. Not having to sneak away for 15 minutes during the middle of the day while praying that no one asks "where were you?". Being able to wear whatever top I like and getting back to dresses that aren't open front are also on the list. And let's not forget, not having a child attempting to rip your top off as if it was Spring Break in the 90's all over again. But still, the exchange is not equal. The bond that I have felt throughout these 15 months has been incredible. The Man is happy though he will never understand all of the benefits that cannot be put into words or all of the sorrow that comes with no longer nursing. But, such is life. I carry with me tons of cool memories (and tons of painful ones). And if I get the chance to do it again, you bet your ass I will! I will now transition from "I Make Milk, What's Your Superpower?" to "I Once Made Milk and I Can Do It Again!".

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go sit in a corner and cry over non-spilled milk.

Confessions of a Toddler Mom

I think I must’ve missed the email. Because I have no clue as to what the hell is going on! Last week, I go through my junk mail to see my weekly baby update from BabyCenter.com. Why was it in junk mail, you ask? Because even Google is confused as to the subject line. I have a baby. Google and I both know that. This email says something about your “toddler”, week 1. Huh? Come again?!

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Confessions of a Skinny Bitch

Confessions of a Skinny Bitch

I am a skinny bitch. I mean let’s call it like it is. I’m the chick you give the evil eye to when you’re at the gym (if, let’s say, I still had my gym membership). I’m the girl whose friends call her skinny bitch to her face and think nothing of it. I’ve always kept my mouth shut about being thin. Apologizing, without knowing , for the way I look. I avert my eyes when someone speaks about weight feeling as if I should take blame for someone else’s battles with their body. That’s about to end.

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I Make Milk, What's Your Superpower?

I really want a t-shirt with that message. I think I deserve it. But then again I feel that the t-shirt should say so much more (but who would read it and would there be enough material?).

My mother did not lie to me about giving birth. She told me that it would hurt. But that you always wait for the bigger wave and it never comes. That you actually want it to hurt more because you know you are one step closer to seeing your child and that when you do, all the pain would be worth it. She was right.

Mami also did not lie to me about breastfeeding. Her exact words: it'll hurt more than labor. Really, mami? I mean come on. EVERYONE has heard of labor pains. I have watched countless movies illustrating this. Not ONCE have I seen anything on television that shows this breastfeeding pain that you're talking about. I dismissed the statement though it was filed in the back of my head.

Enter the day of labor (details on this later). My child is set upon my breast where she roots and finds what she is looking for. Success! Maggie, my doula, loves it! She has been preparing me for this. All looks well. Except...

It kinda hurts a little. When I get up to my room, I know JUST what to ask for. After all, I have done my research. "Can I get some Lansinoh?" I asked the nurse. "Already?" she said and looked at me with the side-eye. I said it with so much determination that I know the look on my face said "I know what I'm doing, okay?" I'm sure the nurse laughed on the inside and thought, "she won't last."  Well, I wish I could find her and tell her HA! But, I digress.

Where was I? Ah! The pain, yes. The next day I was visited by the lactation consultant who caught me while I was nursing. "Oh you are doing great!" she said. And I'm thinking, hmmm, really? Because it hurts a little more. "The latch is good and she looks like she's getting colostrum". I feel successful yet sore. She then proceeds to tell me that my child will go into this thing called "cluster" feeding that I'd never heard of. The only thing I know of that includes the word cluster is not a good thing. Well, that should have been my first clue.

I applied the cream and continued to nurse. Did I mention that my boob was bigger than my child's head? Okay, I should mention that now. My boobs were glorious and shiny and full of nutrition. I'd done good. But my nipples were killing me. Was I doing something wrong? No! The lactation consultant said nothing about wrong. She said good! She even did magic by taking my nipple and showing me that colostrum was coming out (prior to this I was doubting the whole "there's food in my boob" bit). I did hear, several times that if it was hurting then something wasn't right. But since she said everything was okay I just kept going. Through the pain.

Fast forward to four nights after the birth. I'm home. I think I have this down. My nipples are SCREAMING at me. I imagine they sound like New York City construction workers on a hot afternoon in Manhattan when they are behind on a project. My boobs are the size of cantaloupes. It hurts when I even think about latching her on. But I keep nursing.

The man was upset because he does not like to watch me in pain. His words were something like: I had to watch you go through 40 hours of labor, I can't take watching you suffer every time you feed her (because Lord knows that the words "it hurt me more than it hurt you" would totally apply here, right? Enter appropriate sarcastic look on my face...now!).

But he doesn't understand. I think, "this is what my body is made for". This is what I was meant to do in the same way that I always thought my uterus would hold a baby. I am severely hardheaded. It's a condition and I am afraid it's genetic. Meanwhile, I am starting to pump. The man thinks I should sleep more so he wakes up with the child in the middle of the night and let's me sleep. Pretty great, right? WRONG! I would wake up in such pain from my boobs being too full that I didn't know what to do with myself. I'd have to get up, put the contraption together and then pump. That takes a lot more time/energy than latching a leech, I mean, child onto me.

I find the local chapter of La Leche League. One of the leaders calls me back after an email. She tells me the one thing no one else had (other than my mother). It hurts. She also tells me that it's probably going to hurt for 6 weeks. Really? SIX WEEKS?! I want to sue all the movies I've seen where a mom has lovingly put her child on her breast and continued on with life as if she wasn't feeling that the child was going to pull her nipple off, spit it out and continue nursing. I also want to beat all of my friends that have kids until they feel the same pain that I do. But at least I hear this. I watch YouTube videos on latching. I attempt to do what they do. I continue to lube up with Lansinoh.

Three weeks later, after shedding tears that could've filled up my roman tub I call Maggie. Maggie berates me a little for not having contacted her earlier and gives me a name. She says "this woman is the best". And I think, I don't know if she can fix this. I contact Pat, finally. See, the baby has been gaining weight just fine up until now. So it must be me. The first miracle: she calls me on a Sunday. The next, she sounds as if this is okay and not as if I am a weakling and perhaps doing this wrong. When I go see her, Pat informs me that the child is not latching on properly and has only been grabbing the nipple. Even when she does latch on right, the fact that I have so much milk makes her latch off so that her tongue can control the milk flow thereby making her grab on to the nipple which is causing me pain (thanks to the hot chocolate my mom's been making me drink (more on that tidbit later)“ and the fact that I've also been pumping it seems that I was making enough milk for twins!).

Pat manhandles me (and didn't even buy me a drink!) and seamlessly grabs my child's head and just plops her on. I think is that child abuse? I mean here I've been all delicate with the kid and Pat grabs my boob and her head and just BAM. If she doesn't latch on right (the baby, not Pat), she simply puts a finger in the side of her mouth and off she comes only to be latched on again. I watch in awe and wonder if Pat would consider coming home with me. I didn't want to ask because at this point I feel like an emotional wreck and am concerned someone will Baker Act me and then who will I nurse in the mental institution and will they let me pump in there?

She sends me off with some great information and a little cream that she conjures up in her office. Turns out I had a little yeast on my breast and it was causing the pain and some cracking (yeah, did I mention I had cracked nipples?!). Thankfully, the baby didn't have thrush. However, it meant that it would take a while for my nipples to heal. The thing is, you don't stop nursing while they do (at least I didn't. See hard headed statement above).

Throughout this time, mami kept giving me that look. You know the one. But it's different now. It's not just "I told you so". Being the great mami that she is, the look said, "I told you so, but I wish I could make you feel better".

So you see, I think I REALLY deserve that t-shirt. It would say:

I Make Milk

(It caused me a lot of pain (and my mother said it would), I needed a lot of support (thank you Pat for feeling me up and making me a better lactator), I'd totally do it again and plan on telling ALL THE WOMEN I can the truth about boobs as nutritional elements)

What's Your Superpower?

At work, I pump twice a day. Though for a while there I was only doing it once because I'd get caught up in the day and oh, let's not forget the mami brain. Then when I called Pat and wondered where my milk was going her first question was: are you pumping every 2 to 3 hours? I think she's had this conversation before. My office mate and best bud (let's call her Robin) sits back-to-back with me at opposite ends of the room and gets to hear the melodic err-err-err of my Medela Freestyle when I pump. She likes to make fun of me and tells anyone who listens that I am milking. The best giggles out of her come when I am in the middle of pumping and someone knocks on the door and proceeds to turn the knob immediately after (why do they bother knocking, I ask?). We have a lock, but she still thinks it's hilarious because then I have to say: "give me a minute!"or lately because hello?! It's been months and YOU know when the door is closed I am busy I say, "I'm pumping!" But my revenge is sweet. Through my sophisticated Jedi mind control, whenever she hears the pump and if she hasn't gone to the bathroom in the last 10 minutes, it makes her want to pee. But I don't let her out because I am pumping so she has to wait until I am done (15 whole minutes!).

Ten months later, I can't imagine not nursing. I rush home to make the early evening feeding. In turn, she waits for me (even if she's just eaten an hour before). She will latch on correctly and will look at me while giving me her hand to kiss. Every once in a while she latches off but now, she does it to smile up at me as if we share a secret. And then that pain suffered through the first 6 weeks of her life all of a sudden seems worth it (until I am ovulating and then I am reminded of the pain and wonder what the hell I was thinking going through all of that for so long!).

I have conference calls while strapped to my Medela Freestyle, my nipples look like chewed up gummy bears and I'm STILL Mom Sexy!

(A big happy blogoversary to The Mommyologist!)