*We've partnered with Babynes to celebrate new parents' feeding journeys, and share some feeding positivity to help you feed your baby in the best way you can.
The expectations to breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby can come from a variety of influences -- your family & friends, social media, and even yourself. If you breastfed your first baby, you may assume your next will follow in his footsteps; if formula-feeding was your norm the first time around, you may not even attempt putting your second baby on the breast.
But as Brandi Jackson, a doula and mom of two, can attest, every baby-feeding journey can be a different one, and a new opportunity to redefine what feeding with positivity means to you. Brandi struggled to breastfeed her first, but was determined to give nursing a second try with her new little boy. With support and inspiration from the mommy community, she succeeded.
Below, Brandi shares why breastfeeding empowers her, how social media is changing the feeding landscape, and why she believes that every mom should be respected and honored no matter what her feeding decision.
What did you envision your feeding experience to be like when you were pregnant? Did you plan to breastfeed or bottle-feed?
I didn't breastfeed my oldest kiddo, due to a lack of support. The second time around, I wanted things to be different. I was more passionate about nourishing my baby with my body. The more I researched, the more I became fascinated with the fact that I could not only bring life into this world, but I could sustain it with my own milk. Due to a breast reduction surgery that I had undergone at the age of 19, I wasn't sure if I would be able to breastfeed. I didn't know what to expect, given the circumstances. However, I wanted to breastfeed, and I was determined.
Where there times you wanted to throw in the towel on breastfeeding? What inspired you to keep going?
The hardest part of breastfeeding was the beginning. My nipples felt as if they were going to fall off! However, the saving grace that carried me through was my now implemented support system of other mamas cheering me on and encouraging me to continue.
Why do you feel it's important for you to breastfeed as a woman of color?
There is a huge disparity within the black community regarding breastfeeding, and because of this, the rates of infant mortality is up. Why are black women not breastfeeding? There are various reasons. History, socio-economics, racial biases within the medical industry, you name it. They all play a part. I breastfeed because I now realize that breastfeeding is truly amazing for my baby. I breastfeed because I can. I share images of me breastfeeding to show that black women do breastfeed, and to encourage other moms of color. Ten years ago, we didn't have Instagram. It could have been quite beneficial to look online and have access to photos of beautiful black women nursing their babes.
Social media can be a powerful tool. We are all looking for something/ someone to identify with. Breastfeeding is no different. Who knows, perhaps seeing those images of women who look like me could have given me the inspiration that I may have needed to continue nursing with my oldest.
Tell us about your feeding rituals.
I honestly do not have a routine. I allow my little one to feed on demand. That's what has worked for us. Because of this, I have found myself nursing in the car, while grocery shopping, even in the middle of my yoga practice. No place is off limits. Breastfeeding has become a part of my daily life.
How is breastfeeding a positive, empowering emotional experience for you?
For me, breastfeeding has been so very empowering. I can make milk. That's pretty amazing. I can not only nourish my babe with my breast, but I can calm him with my breast. Because of the amazing antibodies and anti viral properties in breast milk, I can heal my baby with my breastmilk. At the beginning, breastfeeding can be hard and tiring, but the benefits are so very worth it.
What kind of encouragement or advice would you give to a new mom struggling to figure out how to feed her baby?
In my doula work, I encourage all of my clients to follow their “mama gut." What does that mean? I believe that when we become mothers, there is a divine intuition that is birthed within us. If we listen to it, it will not steer us wrong. There are so many reasons why women choose to breastfeed. There are many reasons why women choose not to breastfeed. Perhaps there is a lack of support? Or there may be sexual trauma? Or perhaps mama simply doesn't want to breastfeed, and that's ok.
Breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, or supplementing doesn't make anyone a better or a worse mom. Our choices and bodies should be respected and honored. Listen to your mama gut… honor your body… By doing so, you become your best self, and therefore the best mom your little one could ever ask for.
Photography by Sarina Cass of Red Anchor Photo for Well Rounded NY. This post is sponsored by Babynes.