There is another article here on ESSENCE.com about Beyonce breastfeeding in public, written by my colleague Demetria L. Lucas. That column, along with several other articles and tweets, inspired me to write about my own experience with breastfeeding.
The hoopla around Mrs. Carter feeding Blue Ivy has reached such a groundswell that I would be remiss as the resident Mom Blogger not to say something. The NIP (nursing in public) incident instantly transported me back to my own struggles with breastfeeding each of my children. You should know that it’s not easy, nor does it come naturally for everyone.
I think the longest I managed to breastfeed was about five months. I had the nurses at the hospital assisting me, lactation consultants when I got home, plus friends and the like all providing me plenty of advice and “hands on experience” (not even kidding — the nurses will physically assist with helping the baby latch on). In the end, I either didn’t produce enough milk to sustain breastfeeding or my back-to-work schedule made it next to impossible to pump in between meetings, and alas, mama’s milk dried up.
With my first and second children I had a weighted sense of guilt because I couldn’t breastfeed them longer. I felt inadequate; I cried and I wondered what was wrong with me. However, by the time the third one came along, I was too tired to even stress myself about it, so I did a hybrid of breast milk and formula almost instantly. I just knew that as soon as I left the hospital I would be up all night with the baby and trying to take care of the other two. (For reference, they are all healthy, smart and vibrant.)
I say all this to say that being able to breastfeed your child is a natural, giving moment that only YOU can give to your child. It’s not sexy or salacious in any way (I couldn’t even think about my breasts differently at that time — they were just vessels). Frankly, some of the billboards in Times Square or the ads on TV are far more risqué than feeding your child in public. I do agree with using a cover for the comfort of people around you, but often times that is not the case. And I certainly think it’s weird to breastfeed 2- and 3-year-olds — I mean, the kid has incisors at that point!
If you are judging, you might want to ask yourself, what would you do if your child was hungry? You would do whatever you had to do at that moment to feed them. If you had a built-in sippy cup, why not use it? I applaud Mrs. Carter for doing what came naturally, but I’m sure she didn’t expect to be the new poster child for NIP and nurse-ins happening around the country. Additionally, I hope that more Black mothers will continue to try and breastfeed their children. I wish I could have longer — I would have totally whipped out my own sippy cup at the lunch table for my beautiful brown babies as long as I could have.
It’s a natural gift, if you’re able, and it’s a wonderful, nutrient-rich and loving connection between a mother and child.
Enjoy it while you can.
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