A couple months ago, an article that came through a facebook feed about breastfeeding among Native American women caught my eye. But before that, for some strange reason I had been thinking quite a bit about breastfeeding already. I say this is strange because although I have been around the ritual most of my life with family and friends and though I consider myself a very involved othermother to my 12 nephews and 3 nieces, I don’t have any children of my own, and as of now, I don’t see this changing — save maybe for adoption down the road. I don’t think these thoughts came about as a premonition or a period in my life where I was becoming maternal and was fantasizing about having a baby. Not at all. But for some unknown reason they were just there.
Like most things about me, breastfeeding was heartfelt. What I mean by this is when something meaningful or illuminating is going to happen or soon become revealed, my heart will pick up a signal and begin searching it out, feeling it, and I can feel something there, but will have absolutely no idea what it is all about until later when it is ready to reveal it to me. That it what happened here. I had become almost consumed with the idea of breastfeeding and didn’t know why. When I began reading more about breastfeeding, I began to see there was a lack of breastfeeding as tradition among Black women.
I have always been a ‘Breast is best’ kind of girl since I have been around this for just as long as I can remember, but when I started to really look and see the disparities that is when I knew why I was drawn here. I know there are plenty of awesome Black women out there who breastfeed their children — my grandmother, my mother, my sisters, and my friends were some of them! And I also know that there are also plenty of awesome Black women who don’t. I also understand that breastfeeding is an area that I know has a lengthy list of benefits and some complications and regardless, every mother wants the best for her child. But in my mind, the numbers are too low when health issues and an array of disparities in Communities Of Color are too high.
For me, being able to equip myself with the proper tools and information to help end these disparities as well as actively participating in the tradition — being able to answer questions and actually show someone how to properly breastfeed — someone who may become discouraged or who may otherwise not choose this route, is the reason for my heartfelt participation.
I am also doing quite a bit of research along the way with the hopes of gathering as much information as I can that will help me with my studies and the communities I will be working with.
This is a journey. It is not simply a task where I learn the steps of attaching an infant to its mother’s breast. That’s the easy part, I’m sure. I am hoping to explore this area via a holistic approach — examining cultural traditions, ritual, language, and all aspects of infant feeding and nurturing through the various ways it is expressed and experienced. My dream is to help create and maintain a positive atmosphere for Black women and all women who choose to participate in this wonderful, healthy tradition, and to encourage other women and men to advocate this area — especially those ‘non-traditional’ ones who, like me, do not have children, and who are often seen as not needing to concern ourselves with this area, to join in.