Dajanay Robinson ("DR") is a Winter 2012-2013 SPB alumni. She and her husband took our Bradley Method® classes when they were expecting their first child. She agreed to answer my questions about her breastfeeding experience from the perspective of a woman in the black community.
Although I have mentioned this in other social media, I want to re-iterate that Black Breastfeeding Week is an inclusive event. While these questions are geared with an emphasis to inspire and promote breastfeeding in the black community, the campaign is designed for all women to celebrate Black Breastfeeding Week. We need to do everything we can to help our sisters in the black community achieve their breastfeeding goals.
A quote from Jessica Martin-Weber from The Leaky [email protected]@b articulates why all women can and should support this effort: "There is a significant racial disparity in Breastfeeding rates in the USA. Babies are dying because of it. From historical and health care perspectives, the inequality of Breastfeeding support for women of color is tragic."
Without further ado, here is our SPB interview with Dajanay about her first breastfeeding relationship. Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions and inspire other mamas, Dajanay!
SPB: When did you first become aware that breastfeeding might be something you wanted to do?
DR: I always knew I would breastfeed for some reason there wasn’t even a question. After all that is what they are for! As a child I remember my mom who didn’t breastfeed for very long but went through great lengths to NOT give me formula. I’m not sure if the concoction she came up with was kosher but she refused to give me, in her own words, “the chemicals that were in formula”. I am in no way knocking any formula feeding moms. My mom had something against formula and it’s just something that has stuck with me.
SPB: Tell me about your breastfeeding journey - how long have you been breastfeeding? Did you have any difficulties; if so, how did you overcome them?
DR: My breastfeeding journey started off kind of rocky but I was determined; and in the end my perseverance was worth it. We had to start off using a nipple shield because my little guy’s mouth was too small and he couldn’t latch properly to my nipple. I knew that the sheild was something that I would eventually want to get rid of because I didn’t like the fact that there was a layer of plastic between his saliva and my nipple potentially blocking the a major benefit of breastfeeding; the nipple has receptors that detect and sends signals for my body to produce things that my baby might be lacking. So I immediately sought out the help of our friendly neighborhood International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (“IBCLC”) Debbie Gillespie and she was able to get him latched without the nipple shield. The rest was up to us and due to laziness on both of our parts it took some time! My husband had to step in one day and “hide” the nipple shield and I remember going crazy, frantically looking for it and begging him to give it back! It was then he let me know that he had actually thrown it away! So we had no choice but to stick to the fight! By his 3-month growth spurt he latched a lot easier on his own, probably because his mouth got bigger. He didn’t have any nursing strikes or teething issues but my problems didn’t end here.
Going back to work reared its ugly head and after numerous bouts of low supply due to not having time to pump; and building it back up to it dropping again due to stress; and then me stressing out more to build it back up. My breastfeeding journey has unfortunately come to an end much to my son’s and my dismay. I did however make it to the 1-year mark. My goal was to let him self-wean but it did not go as planned. My job as a groomer wasn’t a very pumping-friendly position. I recently quit my job to stay at home and re-lactating has crossed my mind, but I’m not sure if I’ll have the support of my husband to do so.
SPB: Did you face any of these barriers? If so, how did you handle them?
DR: I did not face any of these barriers personally, but I agree with the quote whole-heartedly. We as black women don’t have any role models and the “mammy” stigma has huge hold on us. I am a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority incorporated, and I’ve had more than a few of my sorors ask me why I was still breastfeeding. This was even when my son was still a little baby! It just hurts me to know that people so close to me could be so misinformed to all of the facts and the wonders of breastfeeding. This quote and my experience have fueled my fire to become a lactation consultant and an advocate for all women, but specifically with an emphasis on women of color.
SPB: Did you have any role models from the black community that inspired you?
DR: There is a lack of role models in the black community. As I stated before my mother didn’t even breastfeed me for very long. I don’t know how my decision to breastfeed was so easy, but as I stated before there wasn’t even a question. I just hope that one day the void can be filled and I hope to have a hand in filling it. Maybe black women are a little more private about their choices and that’s why I can’t think of any. I may be biased, but I definitely think it is something that should be shouted from the rooftops; and that there should be more awareness so that women are making more informed decisions. I have recently (just this week) come across a Facebook page called “Black Women Do Breastfeed” where the tagline is “making the community of black breastfeeding moms visible.” This page has 33,042 likes and this is where I would like to start and get involved in helping to fill this void.
SPB: Did you experience any opposition from your family or friends? If so, how did you respond to them?
DR: I didn’t really experience any opposition. More so, I got a lot of questions, which I was very happy to answer and educate people. I am a very strong-willed person so any opposition I may have felt just fell by the wayside. I, of course, got the, “how long do you plan of doing it?” The, “isn’t he’s too big?” and lets not forget the, “are you going to give it to him when he’s old enough to ask for it?” I was simply unbothered by these questions and I just answered them honestly.
SPB: Did your husband face any opposition about your choice to breastfeed? If so, how did he handle the naysayers?
DR: No he didn’t. His biggest thing was making sure I covered up which was hard sometimes with an active infant. Now that we’ve stopped breastfeeding I know he would have a hard time with me wanting to re-lactate just because we finally got our bed back to ourselves.
SPB: How has your experience affected you - would you consider yourself an advocate or a resource for other women?
DR: I hope to be an even bigger advocate and a resource for other women. I have already been one for my circle of friends and I want to expand that!
SPB: Tell me about your goals going forward in regards to breastfeeding.
DR: Going forward I plan on breastfeeding all of my future children until they self-wean and nothing is going to stop me.
SPB: What words of advice would you offer to other women in the black community who want to breastfeed?
DR: You can do it and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! Breast is best and there is so much evidence-based information that supports this fact. There is biblical evidence: the bible references breastfeeding 24 times without shame. There is evolutionary evidence: our milk itself changes and adapts to whatever our child needs. So no matter what you believe one fact remains the same: the primary function of a breast is to produce milk and breastfeeding is what we were created to do.
Other SPB posts in Support of Black Breastfeeding Week:
Breastfeeding Cafe Blog Carnival
Breastfeeding Awareness Month
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