Free the n[egative and sexual connotations associated with women’s breasts]!

I almost did not write this post. Seriously. I have learned so much about breasts in the past 2-3 months and I thought about keeping it all to myself. After all, if society wanted to talk about certain subjects they would be discussed, right? Eh, probably not. The fact that I began to open my laptop, randomly thinking about this topic, and realized that I have no authentic pictures of women I know breastfeeding is sad to me. Heading straight to google did give me the advantage to select unique images that I thought were beautiful. I was pleasantly surprised to find a few of these images because they (effortlessly) highlight numerous breastfeeding methods that overlap in many cultures. Western culture doesn’t really shed light on the subject of breast. Unless the content is sexual, It’s abnormal to entertain this topic in most of my social circles unless it’s someone criticizing theirs (or someone else’s).

It all started when a family friend, Tamara, created a Facebook post about how it’s (basically) impossible for her to carryout day to day tasks without wearing a bra. It went from me asking simple questions to an almost three day crash course about breastfeeding. I mean we covered everything from Mother’s Milk tea to pumping on airplanes (which I still have a few questions about lol). It seemed that she put emphases on the need to be consistent when breastfeeding (if able) and the pain of a plugged milk ducts or mastitis. Some ways to alleviate the latter would include rest, lots of fluids, breast massages, warm showers and baths. I read that your ducts can be plugged or blocked due to constant, rapid weaning, tight clothes, exhaustion, and missed or irregular feedings. This internet quest for information led me down a road of many paths and I came out with even more questions. When in doubt as to where to began, I typically research the traditional practices of my maternal (and paternal) ancestry: Indigenous Peoples, Native Americans or American Indians. I read that in indigenous (and other) cultures animals like puppies, baby bears and fawns, aid with women’s plugged ducts by suckling. Members of these cultures live in harmony with animals in their communities; viewing them as sacred and treating them like family.

As I continue to search the web I started to look up topics that were at the top of my lists of wonders. Simple searches about “Traditional Breastfeeding Methods” led to me reads about grandmother’s (all over the world) taking on roles during times when the mother is absent. There were books about grandmothers breastfeeding their grandchildren from the early Modern Period to articles recently covering a modern version of this scenario . Most of these stories come about as a result of a financial crisis. The mother of the child died, left for employment or there was a spike in the demand for milk (due to another child being born) and a decrease in supply. Medical literature used to explain these cases include words like will and physical stimulation.

BREASTS. I have been living with these things for a while now. Over a decade. Why did it take me so long to find out the depth of breastfeeding? A major portion of the answer to this question is unknown (and probably will remain that way). However, I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that society had a role in my lack of interest in this subject. Up until last year, I wore bras for almost every occasion (even sleeping). Why? I felt ashamed to have breasts. Coming from a family filled with women (my mother has 7 sisters and seemingly endless nieces) I was constantly conditioned to “cover up”.  I could never understand how men have breasts but they aren’t taught to be ashamed when the weather breaks and they decide to cool down. As I got older, I could subconsciously hear myself when trying on outfits saying “I need to put on a bra with this”.  Then one day, I realized that I shouldn’t be ashamed of nature. We were taught to “cover up”or “always have a few good bras”. Did you know that there are health risks associated with wearing bras? Apparently breasts gain no benefit as a result of being denied gravity. So not only are my boobs without a bra is normal, It’s quite healthy too.

The only other woman who gave me some of the 4-1-1 early on was my mom. She let me know that I was breastfed up until I bit her. So I’m gonna assume that I was around 1 or 2-ish. Im pretty grateful that my mother had me later in her life. At 35, I feel like she was more mature about decisions regarding her children.  I am fortunate that she breastfed me at all. I know that black mothers are less likely to breastfeed (in comparison to white mothers). She has always expressed the importance of us breastfeeding our babies. My sister’s started to breastfeed my nieces and nephews but breastfeeding was influencing their weight too much. So they did what was best for them and switched the children to Similac. OH! Don’t forget about healthy milk alternatives, like hemp (THC free) milk or formula.

Random Youtube channels like HausOfColor taught me even more about the art of breastfeeding. She even offered additional resources which includes international support like La Leche League. Taken directly from their website, their mission “is to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother”. Another intriguing resource that LV (the youtuber from Haus Of Color) provided was  Topics of discussion here range from preparing yourself to breastfeed to weaning your little one. Pretty cool, right?

Recently my friend, Kristen gave birth to baby Ida. She is my personal mom plug right now; aka I’m sure she’s used to me asking her about a thousand questions every other day (I’m a firm believer in breaks lol). A few months ago, I spent at least 30 minutes scanning her and her husband’s registry. I wondered how could they possibly know everything that they would need to even start researching the needs of their little one. As time progressed, I found myself becoming aware of the fact that most lessons are learned afterwards. As women we are already personally equipped with the pathway that allows our offsprings to nourish themselves properly. Did you know that breastfeeding can reduce the risks for certain allergies, diabetes, obesity and asthma? What about the studies that children who are breastfed have reduced risks of infections? These are all facts that I am just amazed over. Listening to Kristen’s synopsis on the book she was reading about breastfeeding was pretty cool. Simply because everything that is happening to her body or that she was reading about depicts only a slither of beauty within the human body. She’s explained breastfeeding as something that you do when you can. It’s all about listening to your body.

In all honesty, I can’t say that I can write about listening to my body without the phrase imposing a slight twinge of doubt over my capabilities as a (modern) human. Did you know that breastfeeding women can pump every 90 minutes, 2, 3, and (at most for infants) 4 hours? That makes me wonder, “when do new moms sleep, eat or dare I say it .. have a moment to themselves”? I can definitely see the pressures to breastfeed and by no means wrote this article telling anyone what to do. Some things are still slightly up in the air for me like when do you stop breastfeeding a baby? or how? When is it too soon for the bottle? (apparently if introduced too early, a baby can refuse its mom’s breast). How can you have a life of your own while breastfeeding is a lingering thought. I can see the guilt of wanting to provide for your baby as a woman. I think the most important lesson that breastfeeding taught me is that the mom has to be her best in order to be her best for her child. I’m grateful for this exposure to the wonders of the breast/breastfeeding. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. I’m always learning. So this doesn’t stop here for me.

                     xx, Charisma



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