If you’ve been following along my blog and social media, you would have noticed I was a nursing mom. August 1-7th is World Breastfeeding Awareness week, so this blog is dedicated to the start of a bumping self- healing process.
After having my baby, I was provided a pamphlet for breastfeeding support groups across the Birmingham, AL area. I knew from research that to continue to nurse outside the hospital, I needed support. I also had several distant mom groups who elected to breastfeed, so I knew I had help on many levels.
I attended my first support group, and I entered the room with my box braids, pottery barn diaper bag, and Kate Spade purse. I eventually realized my purse and diaper bag needed to be consolidated. I was also carrying a small infant and what felt like a 30-pound car seat. Not to mention, I live in Alabama, and it’s July. I entered the church building, and I immediately introduced myself and completed the forms.
During support groups, you sit for an hour to nurse your baby, and then the lactation consultant weights the baby. The first week Clark's weight was okay. The consultant mentioned he should weigh more but to keep trying and to put the baby to breast as much as possible to produce more milk.
For the most part, I attended these support groups alone, and I was always the only Black woman in the room. Within my virtual mom groups, we would share stories of nursing and how we were anxious about spilling breastmilk. I slowly began to share less once I realized Clark wasn’t gaining weight at the same rate as the other babies. The women would share their baby percentiles, and I would just say we’re great here.
Each week I would attend the support groups, which were mostly held at predominantly White churches. I would try to talk to the other women to make local mom friends. I realized a few of the women already had connections, so I just kept to myself and nursed my baby.
Around August, I started to feel very much alone, so I looked at my lactation pamphlet and decided I would try a new church to attend for the support group. This church was a well known predominantly Black church, so I knew for sure I would meet another Black woman. I walked in with my diaper bag, box braids, and car seat excited to meet some sistas. I saw a sign that this week was the end of vacation bible school, so I knew there had to be some Black folks in the building.
I walk in. I glanced around the room. The room was full of White women. I thought now what is wrong with this picture? These Black folks are out here about to set up the grill, and all these White women are in here nursing their babies. All I could do was laugh to keep from crying. Clark's weight was still not where they wanted it to be, but I knew I had a pediatrician appointment coming up, so I waited to seek medical advice. By this point, I was tired, and my husband was too. He said, “ Gretchen every time you come home from the support groups, you cry. Maybe you should stop going and just talk to your friends.”
By the time we entered the pediatrician office, I was so full of tears that I couldn’t help but cry to her. She asked Jerrel how I was doing and if we thought about formula. She said, “you need rest, and until you get rest, you won’t be useful to your baby.” I told her I didn’t want to give up. She replied, “then I need you to pump. Get on a pumping schedule. Pumping will help you to produce more milk. Pump, pump, pump and you need to eat more.” I hadn’t noticed, but my jeans were so baggy I couldn’t even keep them up.
What I didn’t know back then was that White people in the South set up food chains for people after they delivered their baby. They would talk about how much food they had stored in their freezer. In my mind, I thought, back home, the only time someone’s bringing by that much food it’s for a repass. We didn’t have people bringing us food, so Jerrel setup a Shipt account, and we stocked up on food so that I could have plenty to eat while he was at work.
I quickly started to gain more confidence, and any milk pumped, I would try so hard not to spill. I knew never to spill my Chocolate milk.
Nursing your baby is a beautiful experience, and once I got the hang of it, I knew I wasn’t going to stop until baby and I were ready. If you’re a nursing mom, hang in there, and seek help. Don’t hide or feel ashamed if the process isn’t going well. You’re doing great mama!!
Happy Breastfeeding Awareness week!!