Flipping through photos brings on a different ping than it once did. Something different, than I care to articulate on a daily level. Unless, it is a specific week, and I need to sort through photos to stand with Black Breastfeeding mothers. Looking at photos of River and Oak, the warm milk that connected us. The milk that I once used in attempt to cure my pink eye. The translucent milk that let down on a grey platform waiting from the train in Bushwick. And the milk that let down in a quiet corner on a vintage mint green arm chair in two living rooms. Speckled stained and holding the weight of my body and theirs.
It is a different kind of ping when it arrives just because you miss that stage of your children. It is another when life has morphed so completely, since. There was no specific map to the road of my breastfeeding journey prior that would lead me to take on such a task. There was a baby class we went to that talked about labor and breastfeeding. I remember, I was the only woman of color. We called his parents giddy after. Excited and bewildered. There was a lactation consultant provided by the hosptial. There was my mother-in-law with a tiny little blue composition book after River was born, helping me time my sides. I hadn’t known of a trick. That trick held off the obsessive thoughts if she was being fed enough.
There was also the chair in River’s room that was painted white weeks prior, as we prepped for her birth. It cornered me off and tilted me back just right. We got it at a church re-use sale I heard about through other parents. There was always a lot of hearing, head nodding and doing. That is how you follow a map, I say.
My nipples cracked with River, and peeled with Oak. Unfolded, like a colored fortune-teller game. After River there was WIC, with signs showcasing other black mothers. Asking and encouraging me to keep feeding. Another map, if you will.
The flipping doesn’t lessen the memories. The ping, like maps, diverge. One road leads to an exit. Another to some highway of thoughts and decisions. It is odd how one thing can lead to so many swerving by.
Last week I read that breastfeeding for black mothers is an act of healing. I’d have to agree. As much as it was a political act. And much of the pings lately also remind me of that. It allows me to celebrate my choice to heal and act in a minor and major way with both of my children. Though not at all easy. Though not at all without the help of many and much.
This week is black breastfeeding week, and here are some facts via soulful doula Latham Thomas, “CDC found that of infants born in 2012, 66% of Black women breastfed. While 75% of White women and 80% of Latinex women choose to breastfeed. Our foremothers wet-nursed this nation. And today, out of all ethnic groups, Black women have the lowest breastfeeding initiation rates at 64% and the shortest breastfeeding duration, around six weeks.
Not all black mothers have the luxury of staying home to nurse their babies on demand. But all black mothers should have the access to quality and culturally competent care and support to breastfeed and pump. They should have access to education and peer support groups during the perinatal period to help encourage breastfeeding success.”
You can hop on over to Black Breastfeeding Week to find out more to get involved and support this week.