I’m not usually an advocate of silence. In fact, the opposite is true, and I’m most often hell-bent on speaking up. Talking about it. Speaking for it. Or against it — whatever it is. Injustice. Inequality. Racism. Homophobia. White supremacy. These are just a few subjects that are always rolling from my mouth and in my writing. I don’t regret speaking on those things, and especially how they intersect the realm of breastfeeding.
What I’ve noticed since I’ve been in conversations with women who have breastfed is they seem to share similarities in their breastfeeding stories. Mainly, that it really hurts at some point — usually in the beginning. I’m recalling the conversation with the sistah from Chuck E. Cheese — the one who asked about Black women as breastfeeding advocates in Washington State. When she, the other lady and I first began talking about nursing, she said she tried to feed her first child but it just hurt too much and couldn’t continue. I’m almost embarrassed that I chimed in when I told her breastfeeding usually only hurts if a baby is not properly latched. Hey, that’s what all the books I read said. Babies are usually not latched properly if they don’t have as much areola inside of its mouth as possible (and not just the nipple), have nipple confusion from exposure to bottles and pacifiers, are stressed out from mother’s stress, ill, and countless other reasons. Maybe I was just paranoid, but felt like she gave me a wtf look, or could it have been a look that I provided information she never heard of before? Well, whether this was new information or she thought I was crazy, this highlights the issue I have with books. Now, I know plenty of women who have nursed children. My sister, for example, nursed seven boys, and I saw how it hurt — at least in the beginning. And I have talked to others who have said the same thing. Could they all be attaching the baby incorrectly? It’s possible. But even after several successful breastfeeding scenarios?
Needless to say that was a moment of awakening for me for a few reasons, but instead of harping on myself and feeling like a complete ignoramus, wondering how I could have possibly even gone there — telling her about her experience and breastfeeding endeavor, I’ve decided to allow that incident to teach me a lesson in listening and learning. And instead of offering my armchair advice, I’m going to sit back and keep my mouth shut — on praxis, that is. I will continue to be an advocate, but I’m going to take in information and ask more questions. Learn from them. At least for now — until I get more formal training under my belt. I do believe sometimes silence can be golden, and in these opportunities with mothers, can provide a source to learn what has shaped their experiences, what obstacles they faced, why they didn’t nurse, stopped or continued, and how this information can assist others. If someone happens to ask me a question or two, I’ll happily speak up, but for now I’m going to sit in the area of silence and use that as a space to progress.