A Rare Breed: A Black Woman's Breastfeeding Story

“Can I get some?” the teenage boy shouted. He must have noticed my confusion because he followed it up with, “I saw you feeding your baby in the center of the mall.” I smiled from embarrassment and tried to hold my head high even though forty of my newest friends were staring back at me. I continued to push the stroller while I searched for the nearest exit that would take me away from the prying eyes at the food court of my local mall.

Thirty minutes prior to my “friend’s” comment, I had breastfed my two-week old baby in the center of the mall. I didn’t want to breastfeed in public, but after running to the bathroom and being greeted by the smell of stale urine, I did what I had to do: put a receiving blanket over my girly bits and gave my baby nourishment.

I am a black breastfeeding mom and it seems like we’re a rare breed. From the moment I discovered I was carrying a little one, I made the decision to breastfeed. Sure, I heard about the benefits of breastfeeding (enhanced development and intelligence, a stronger immune system, etc.), but my sole reason for breastfeeding was because I wanted to bond with my baby and also because it felt like the most natural thing to do. Cavemen never used bottles or fed their children formula, so why should I? I reasoned.

Sadly, our “advanced” society is not designed to accept breastfeeding. When I informed the hospital of my decision to breastfeed after my daughter was born, it seemed like the system was set up for me to fail. My daughter dropped weight (like most babies do) after our initial stint of breastfeeding (before the actual milk came in). The hospital quickly tried to get me to supplement with formula.

At first I resisted, but then they employed a fear tactic. “Your daughter has lost almost 10% of her weight since she was born,” the nurses said. So, as a new mom who wanted the best for her newborn, I made the decision to supplement. When I saw how fast the milk poured from that bottle and how easy it was for my baby to suck that artificial nipple, I never touched that poison (i.e. formula) again.

The nurses weren’t happy with my decision. They continued to remind me of her weight loss and kept bringing bottles of Similac to the room, but I refused them. To be honest, I began to wonder if the hospital received a kick-back for getting moms to feed their newborns Similac. Were they bedfellows? I asked myself when I saw the totes branded with the Similac name that the hospital was quick to give away.

Thankfully, my milk came in within three days and replaced the colostrum (a yellow substance full of antibodies) that a woman’s breasts first produce. Without going into too much detail, I had to use a nipple shield (a piece of pliable plastic that a breastfeeding mom can put over her nipple) when I first started breastfeeding.

A couple of weeks later, when I tried to wean my daughter off the nipple shield, we had the hardest time. I spent many a night crying because the breastfeeding thing just wasn’t working for me. But I persisted, and thank God I did because now it’s the easiest, most convenient thing in the world. There are no bottles to clean, no formula to prepare. The greatest benefit of all, though, is the feel of my little girl’s nose nuzzled up against my breast. When she leans in closer to wean, I can’t help but look at that beautiful face and know, from the core of my soul, that I made the right decision.

T.C. Galltin is the mother of one, a freelance writer and the author of the forthcoming novel Zaire’s Place (which has nothing to do with breastfeeding) about three women whose lives converge at a domestic violence shelter in Baltimore, MD. Zaire’s Place will be available this summer from All Things That Matter Press, as well as Amazon.com. Until then, you can find her on Facebook (/TCGalltin) and Twitter (@TCGalltin) or you can e-mail her at tgall50@hotmail.com.

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