According to NPR, only 13 percent of mothers manage to exclusively breastfeed for six months (the recommendation for baby’s health). I am lucky; of my three children, I breastfed the older two for over a year and a half, and my daughter is four months old and we are going strong. My breastfeeding journey has not come without struggle, though. Cracked nipples, thrush, milk blebs and all have greeted me with each child, but I have been determined each and every time. And while it hasn’t always been easy, for me (and them) it has always been worth it.
So please, for the love of God, stop asking me when I am going to give my breastfed baby a bottle. I don’t know what makes people think they need to express their opinions, but from the time I first ventured out with her in public somewhere other than a doctor’s office, someone has asked me, “You haven’t started giving her a bottle yet?” Did I mention she’s only four months old?
I’m sorry, did I forget my nipples at home? What could she possibly get from a bottle that she can’t get from me when I am sitting RIGHT HERE with her? No, I don’t give her a bottle while I am with her because I don’t need to. And there are plenty of ways to bond with baby that don’t involve you feeding them. So come up with something else, please.
On the rare occasions that I have left her, she thankfully has taken a bottle with no problem. But there are so many things to consider when introducing a breastfed baby to bottles. Nipple confusion is a thing. Then we have to learn pace feeding. There’s finding a bottle that baby won’t reject. We’re not just winging it over here. These things aren’t as simple as you would like to make them seem! And quite frankly, I am more concerned with keeping my own mental health in check than worrying about how the slight possibility of you seeing my nipples is going to make you feel. I have already had to learn enough about this new human.
Should I even begin to talk about the challenges that Black women face breastfeeding? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black women struggle to breastfeed successfully because they return earlier to work, receive less information about breastfeeding from their health-care providers and have less access to professional support. To top it off we’re dealing with the traumatic history surrounding slavery and being forced to breastfeed any and everybody’s babies. So now you’re shaming me about wanting to feed my own child? Mmmmmm couldjafuckinnot? Thanks.
Additionally, more WOC are the primary breadwinners in their homes and forced to return to work sooner (thanks to the crappy maternity leave in the US.) Paid maternity leave is often too short for mothers to stay with their babies long enough to establish breastfeeding. We are also more likely to experience complications antepartum and postpartum. This causes us to use some of our paid benefits before baby is even born. I went back to work with my second son when he was only SEVEN weeks old. I was thankfully afforded the flexibility to pump while I was at work, but often did so in my car. Because …hello…. many workplaces are not equipped with a proper pumping room nor do they care. And even then, as a then 27-year-old, Black mom of two working with other millennial women of color, some of the conversations that I had surrounding breastfeeding were crazy. I actually had a coworker tell me was not breastfed because it “felt gay.” Oh hello, typical over-sexualization of Black bodies.
All this is to say, as moms, we already have enough obstacles to overcome. We are already in our own heads about breastfeeding. We’re worried about if our baby is eating enough and if they are gaining the correct amount of weight. Then we’re constantly thinking about what we are eating and how it is effecting our milk supply. Should we take fenugreek? How much Body Armor is actually safe to drink? Do I have mastitis or just a clogged milk duct?
This breastfeeding gig is hard. I don’t need any commentary from the peanut gallery. Especially comments that contradict my long term goals.