Black Breastfeeding Week with Tatiana
Originally posted on Mina in partnership with Medela.
It’s Black Breastfeeding Week, and in celebration of all the amazing Black parents providing human milk to their little ones, we’ve put the spotlight on one of those parents to hear her perspective and lived experience.
We spoke with Tatiana about the importance of support in her breastfeeding journey as a Black breastfeeding mother that’s seen the different sides of feeding her little ones. She has a sweet 10-year-old boy and an adorable 9-month-old girl. She started both kiddos breastfeeding journeys at birth, but didn’t have the same support system with her first baby as she did with her second. She found that her feeding outcomes directly reflected the support she received.
Now, it’s a success to simply feed your baby, and however that happens -- we’re here for it. Every parent and every baby has a different story. But we also know that there are a ton of incredible things about breast/chestfeeding, and we want to cheer you on whether you’re at the point where you’re just starting to think about breast/chestfeeding your baby, or if you’re straight-up in the throes of doing it now.
Tatiana grew up knowing just two people in her life who provided breast milk to their babies, and distinctly remembers her family thinking it was strange to nurse into the toddler years. She didn’t know anyone that nursed their baby past one year. With her first child, she had limited support, and the lack of it started in the hospital. Her son was given formula without her knowledge or consent soon after he was born. Tatiana continued to supplement with formula throughout his infancy and after eight months, she decided it was time to quit nursing altogether (not an uncommon story).
Years later, when pregnant with her daughter, she was invited to Chocolate Milk Day, which is put on by Dr. LaVonne Moore’s Chocolate Milk Club. Tatiana was impressed with the strong community of Black parents aimed at helping other Black parents achieve their feeding goals. She was interested in what they had to say about breast/chestfeeding and all the amazing things about human milk. Most importantly, she was drawn in by the support she felt. It was an amazing and beautiful community of people.
After giving birth to her daughter, Tatiana met with all the right people: a lactation consultant, a nurse, and a WIC counselor, but nothing was working. She remembered Dr. Moore and reached out for help. Dr. Moore came to her house, made her feel safe by asking permission to touch her breasts, showed her different positions, as well as what a successful latch looked like. She helped Tatiana achieve what she desperately wanted— to feed her sweet little babe.
That interaction was the catalyst to finding the support of others. Tatiana became close with many breast/chestfeeding women and an energy of “breast is best” started to be a part of her mindset and lifestyle. She saw Black women who were so passionate about feeding their little ones human milk, they did all the things possible to achieve their feeding goals. She watched her friends return to work and spend time and energy to pump milk for their littles, or parents who tandem fed their toddler and newest little baby, or those who accessed human milk banks when they weren’t able to provide milk for their baby.
Those experiences and friendships were a far cry from Tatiana’s experience growing up. She described the lack of knowing and observing breast/chestfeeding people throughout her life as a barrier to her first breastfeeding journey. Once she saw and experienced others doing it successfully and passionately, she was all in.
Going through such different experiences with her two kiddos, and her advocacy for breast/chestfeeding peer support groups, made us want to learn what tips Tatiana would give to others starting their feeding journeys. Here’s what she said:
I would encourage other parents to try breastfeeding for at least two weeks. That’s the hardest part usually, and after that point, I remember thinking it wasn’t actually too bad.
I would also say to get support, hands on support from someone if you can. I had a nurse and a lactation consultant that tried to help me in the hospital, but we didn’t connect at all. There was also a lactation counselor that was able to meet over the phone, but I needed more support. If you don’t find the person that can support you, don’t stop trying, you’ll find them. Where there’s a need, there’s a way.
Find support in a group. Do an internet search or put out a social media post for Breastfeeding support for Black women. Keep looking until you find a place that you fit. My mom didn’t breastfeed, so I didn’t have that hands on support. When I found a community of like-minded women that were there to support me and I could also support, it was something that made a big difference. Community is everything in this. With my son, I knew there was something else there, something else for me. I just didn’t know how to get there. The support of others showed me how to get there. It was something that really helped me.
Connect yourself with others. I’m close with many Black breastfeeding women; not all of my friends breastfeed, but many of them do and advocate for it. I’m also close with many different breastfeeding advocates, and feel like if I have a question, I can reach out and they’ll be there for me with an answer or research to share.
That’s another thing. Researching what breastfeeding does for the emotional connection between you and your baby, as well as all of the health benefits of breast milk, has made me realize what I can give or provide for my baby. Once I read all of that, there was no way I was going back. I couldn’t not breastfeed my baby. Look into those things for yourself so you know the benefit of it.
Tatiana is such a great parent to both of her kiddos. She worked incredibly hard to reach her feeding goals throughout each journey, but it was the support of other like-minded parents and advocates within an amazing community that helped her to keep going.
She’s not alone in either of her stories; there are roughly 80 percent of parents that initially want to breast/chestfeed their little ones, but only an average of 30 percent that end up continuing past 6 months. The disparity gap between initiation and duration of breast/chestfeeding is greater for Black parents than it is for White parents. That’s just one of the reasons to take this entire week to look at breast/chestfeeding with such an important focus.
Kimberly Seals Allers breaks all the reasons down best in her article, “Top Five Reasons We Need Black Breastfeeding Week.” Awareness brings an understanding which helps build connections and avenues for success. It’s like Tatiana said, she knew there was something else with her son, she just didn’t understand how to get there.
That “how” begins with support. The support of a lactation consultant you connect with. The support of a partner, friends, or family. The support of others through a group dedicated to parents succeeding in their feeding goals. After you feel supported and loved and full, you’re able to feel more equipped to “do this” (no matter what the “this” is). There are some amazing groups to check out in your search for the right support.
Mocha Manual by Kimberly Seals Allers
The Moms’ Room by Medela
Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association
Supporting moms along their breastfeeding journey
This article was sponsored by Medela as part of their ongoing work to celebrate Black Breastfeeding Week. Learn more about the disparities impacting breastfeeding success across the United States here: https://www.medela.us/breastfeeding/supporting-moms