What have you heard about mental illness and its impact on Black breastfeeding? I recently asked myself this question, and outside of a few stories here and there about postpartum depression I’ve heard next to nothing. Although I’ve been searching for roughly the past year it has only been in the last short period of time is when I have learned anything about anxiety, depression or even bipolar disorder and how Black women navigate this when it comes to infant feeding — which I’m sure is the case for many of us — that we don’t know much.
What has been on my mind is that although there is a growing increase in the amount of information on breastfeeding, there aren’t many conversations on how this can be complicated by the presence of a mental health issue. Take depression, for example. It is widely known that many people who have struggled or are continuing to struggle with and/or are survivors of depression are generally on medications. If a woman is on one, two or even more prescriptions, how would this impact her — milk — its supply and otherwise? I know that this is a very rudimentary and general example, since there are many other complications. How is her self-image impacted on a larger scale from someone who doesn’t have depression? We know that self-image is one reason that impacts breastfeeding. Also, what about the links to other illnesses that depression generally supports such as anxiety? Monetary reasons for being with or without medication? Hospitalization? The additional complications of living in a society with a stigma on mental illness? The stigma among Black people? The ‘strong Black woman’ myth? Not being able to get out of bed? The list literally goes on and on.
I know that in my own mental health history it was a battle. Not that I needed someone to tell me something was wrong, but in 2004 when I was diagnosed with major depression and panic disorder I faced the incredible challenge of trying to get through each minute of the day; thinking about getting through each hour or even a whole day at a time seemed like too much of an obstacle. I know that the state I was in at that time would have had an undeniable influence on any breastfeeding relationship I would have had or attempted to have. Not only was I disassociated with many tangible things around me, but I was anxiety-ridden, weeping, afraid, sad, angry and lonely, feeling as if I was the only one in the world going through this. It was only after receiving professional intervention is when these symptoms lessened once I was placed on medication, but this still would have had some type of interference, I’m certain.
Myself and another Black breastfeeding advocate have decided to host a blog carnival with the hope of shedding some light on this neglected topic. We know and we understand that not everyone breastfeeds — regardless of what their mental health state is. But in this context we are looking for stories from people of African descent who have struggled with, are struggling with or are a survivors of a mental illness and who had to make a decision about how to feed a child and have been impacted by this — whether it meant they were able to breastfeed or not breastfeed. Or those who may have specialized knowledge about it. We also know that there are quite the diverse stories out there, including those who were able to exclusively breastfeed, supplement, use donor milk, exclusively bottlefeed or otherwise. As a Black lactation advocate, I believe that wanting to increase the numbers of Black women who breastfeed to increase our health and wellness becomes more complicated, when not everyone who can potentially breastfeed is healthy and well. And being born a Black woman in this society is itself a predisposition to these; facing racism and sexism and more on a consistent basis, is more often the cause of — however you choose to label or explain — mental illnesses — and their consequences. I can only speak for myself, but I hope that others will agree when I say that this area needs to be highlighted, in order to forge a greater level of understanding and support. So whether it’s postpartum depression, major depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or something else, I urge you to share your story and to join in on this important conversation.
WHAT IS A BLOG CARNIVAL?:
A blog carnival is an online action that aims to utilize the growing power of our combined reach on social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest) to jumpstart – and jump into! – a national conversation. This ‘BLACK BREASTFEEDING AND MENTAL ILLNESS’ blog carnival will have blog posts ranging from the personal to the political, in a range of mediums, from text to video. I will collect and publish the individual blog posts. The links to all posts will then be gathered into one overarching post that will serve to host and introduce the blog carnival (information taken from mom rising). Here is an example
HOW TO SUBMIT: Please submit through the link, or you can email it directly to: lactationjourney (at) hotmail.com.
PLEASE DO NOT FEEL you need to be a ‘writer’ in order to participate. Whether you consider yourself a ‘seasoned’ professional or not your voice counts! Bring your honest perspective, and you are welcome to be as personal, conservative or as politically-charged as you’d like.
- Your post! Can be previously published work, and there are no restrictions on length. You are welcome to use whichever format you’d like in order to convey your message, i.e. creative fiction/non fiction, article, poem, YouTube video, etc. Please note: If you decide to use a YouTube video in leu of a full-length post, include a paragraph or two explaining what your video will be discussing. This will be inserted into the body of the post. Here is an example. Please also include the url to your video.
- Post Title
- Your name and email address (or you can submit anonymously)
- A headshot (please make sure they are not copy written — and I will send you a consent form in order to use it).
- A picture to insert into your article. This is not not required, but often times posts containing images related to the post topic are shared more frequently around the social networking sites (please make sure they are not copy written — and I will send you a consent form in order to use it).
- A link to your website or blog (if applicable)
- A 2-3 sentence byline/’About Me’ (preferably in third person — he, she, they), and can include your Twitter @.
COMMENTS: Comments are maintained by Disqus. I suggest when your work is published here, you subscribe to the comments. To do this, navigate to your post (or any other that you’d like), and scroll down to the very bottom until you reach the ‘comments’ section. There, you will see two grayish links, which allow you to subscribe either by RSS or through email. By subscribing, you will be notified when someone has responded to your post, and you can make sure you engage your reader and answer questions, if necessary.
If you have any other comments, concerns, thoughts or questions at all, just ask! African American Breastfeeding
DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS is September 19th, 2014. The carnival will be published on Friday, September 26th.