In honor of Black Breastfeeding Week, I have a confession to make. Well, make that two.
First confession: I am still breastfeeding my 2 ½-year-old daughter.
Second confession: I’m kind of over it.
I know some moms out there are thinking, “Why in the world is she still nursing a toddler that old? Give her a cup!”
And other moms are thinking, “How in the world can she be ‘over’ the special bond that is extended breastfeeding?”
I know. I know.
The theme of this year’s Black Breastfeeding Week is “Revive. Restore. Reclaim!” I’ve been thinking about that a lot. It can take on many meanings, but for me, it means it’s OK for me to admit to the world, yes, I’m still nursing my toddler. And it’s also OK to be honest with myself and say, I’m almost ready to stop. That may not be your journey, but it’s mine.
My Breastfeeding Journey
I’ve been either pregnant or nursing for more than six years now. It became important to me when my son was born and had to go to the NICU for breathing issues. I wanted to give him the best possible start.
It wasn’t always easy, but I stuck with it for 2½ years until I got pregnant with my daughter and my doctor recommended I stop because of my history of miscarriage.
Back then, I wrote a blog for Black Breastfeeding Week about how special breastfeeding was for me and my son, how I didn’t want to wean, and how vital I thought it was to show other moms — particularly black moms — that we do indeed breastfeed.
That’s all still true. I am still proud to be a black breastfeeding mom. Black babies are 15 percent less likely to have ever been breastfed than white babies, according to the CDC, and I want to do my part to be part of the change. I know that some black moms still have bad feelings about breastfeeding because enslaved black women were forced to be wet nurses to slave owner’s children.
I want to show other black moms by writing, by sharing photos and resources, that our babies need mother’s milk, and that there are people, organizations, and Facebooks groups out there to support them.
I’m even an accredited La Leche League leader now because I wanted to offer more black representation in a mostly white organization. In a recent virtual LLL meeting, a black mom messaged me privately to say, “Great to see another sista on here!” and I was happy to see her, too.
This summer, when white allies were looking for ways to help the black community, I suggested they donate to Uzazi Village, a KC nonprofit that works to decrease black infant mortality and helps black moms who want to breastfeed. Uzazi Village taught me about side-lying nursing and babywearing, two things that saved my life as a mom who works outside the home.
Breastfeeding My Daughter
All that being said… my daughter. Lord, help me. My baby girl is cute, feisty, demanding, and NOT really affectionate.
I keep nursing her for two reasons — cuddles and COVID-19.
My firstborn was (and is) a cuddle bug. He loves to snuggle and love on me and my husband. My baby girl, on the other hand…. She will only snuggle with us when she’s sick or she wants something. Namely breastmilk. My husband wants so badly to be able to rock her to sleep, but no. She only wants mommy at bedtime.
She doesn’t sleep through the night routinely, and I am exhausted. Her latch isn’t always the best either; I just power through at this point. We nurse mostly in the evenings now, and sometimes, it’s just hard to carve out the time and patience to sit and nurse when I’m trying to get my son’s pajamas on and read books to get him ready for virtual kindergarten.
But, I’m not about to wean her in the middle of a global pandemic. Pandemic or no, the World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend continued breastfeeding for children up to two years or beyond. Our pediatrician even recently told me it was good that she still had breast milk as an option.
You guys, the big thing is, though, I’m really afraid she’ll stop crawling into my lap. That’s when I get all my hugs and kisses in before she starts tugging on my shirt and saying, “Please?” with those giant, beautiful eyes.
I know there are books for night weaning; I know because, like I said, I am a La Leche League leader and I have weaned before. But sigh. She’s my last baby. And even though I’m tired, sooooo tired… I’m just not ready to give up the cuddles.
Everybody’s breastfeeding journey is different, and like I said, this one is mine. If anyone out there reading has questions and wants support, please reach out. I still think breastfeeding is beneficial and awesome, and I am here to help. I just might need some coffee first.