Race, Breastfeeding & Mental Health

Posted on Posted in blog carnival

Struggling with the title of this post. I am trying to explore the instance of how my race affected my Breastfeeding journey when it became apparent I was depressed.

I have always struggled with the image of the archetypal “strong black woman”. More so when it comes to my mental health. In my experience, depression strips you of your power. How can you be strong, if you have no power?

For me, I kept depression at bay until I couldn’t anymore. I went through my teens, struggling never asking for help though I needed it. I went through childbirth and it was mothering Ethan that made me face up to my illness. I couldn’t do it anymore, I couldn’t get out of bed that Sunday morning. Black women don’t tend to crumble… Or do they? I wouldn’t know, I sure haven’t seen any around. I am a minority in my community though, have always been. Race didn’t really cross my mind when it came to Breastfeeding, I just knew that’s what I wanted to do.

Photo 20140831000735-2Breastfeeding Ethan was my loftiest goal, after birth didn’t quite happen as I wanted so naturally, I was worried about the implication of getting help from the dr. He was 8 months at the time.

Thanks to resources around me like the Breastfeeding Network’s Drugsline & Lactmed, I decided that It was okay to take my antidepressants & Breastfeed my son.

Photo 20140831000735

It wasn’t an easy decision, I was very anxious in the early weeks but I saw no change in him so I continued, thus getting better everyday.

Over the years, I have written about my mental health on my blog. I always feel so naked & vulnerable when I do. A part of me wants to be the woman who shatters the stigma surrounding being black & depressed, whilst the other part wants to hide away.

I think it’s partly my introvertedness & mostly my African mentality of not ‘airing your dirty laundry in public’. How will other mothers know they are not alone though if we don’t share?

Ethan & I’s Breastfeeding journey lasted for 33 months. I’m so glad I could give him that inspite of my health. As I write this, I’m 9 weeks away from beginning another journey with my 2nd son, knowing that right after birth, I will be taking my first Sertraline Pill since March. I have managed through out using Mindfulness based CBT but I know I’m a better mother on medication. That is the bitter pill I have had to swallow.

imageLucy Benton is a poet, blogger who lives on the Sussex Coast of England with her Husband, Son & a cheeky Cat named Charlie. She is passionate about Breastfeeding & Gentle Mothering. She blogs at The Princess Poet Blog

This post is part of the Black Breastfeeding and Mental Illness: Struggling with & Surviving blog carnival.

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