This week, we're celebrating and honoring Black Breastfeeding Week by sharing the stories and breastfeeding journeys of some of our own EmDo Community Members. Today's post comes from Ayana, who shares a recent reminder of the importance of dedicating the time to recognize Black Breastfeeding in a public way.
A few weeks ago, I was at the park with my then 4-week-old daughter. We sat under a tree in the only shade available while my son rolled around on his skateboard.
A young African American woman with two young children joined me in the shade. Her infant son was just three days younger than my daughter so we quickly began comparing notes, sharing anecdotes, and offering advice.
After some time, both of our infants began to fuss. I draped a light cloth over my shoulder and nursed my daughter. The woman next to me called out to her partner to wrap up what he was doing because their son was hungry.
She looked down at him lovingly and said, “We’re leaving soon. I can’t feed you out here.”
I felt so hurt for both of them – the baby because he was visibly hungry, and her because she didn’t feel it was comfortable or appropriate or an option to feed him outside, even though it was just the two us under the tree.
I didn’t know what to do to support her in that moment without over stepping my bounds or sounding self-righteous so I let her handle the situation in the way she felt comfortable – to go home to nurse her infant.
Should I have offered her another wrap (I had a few in my diaper bag) to make her feel more comfortable? Should I have pointed out to her that women walk through the park and nurse their babies all the time?
Perhaps I missed an opportunity to support someone on their breastfeeding journey but in the moment, I was reluctant to interfere. So many women in my circle of mothers breastfeed their children openly, freely, and without inhibition.
I temporarily forgot that there is still significant discomfort and trepidation about breastfeeding in some communities, especially amongst young African American women.
The overwhelming benefits of breastfeeding are undisputed while at the same time, the ability to do so is still sometimes met with seemingly insurmountable challenges that can vary widely between ethnic and socio-economic groups. It is important to continue to build support networks and resources that speak to a range of culturally diverse communities in order to make them more widely accessible, consumed, and beneficial.