Thursday, August 5, 2010
When I started blogging I began nosing around to see what other African American parenting blog and bloggers existed. I found a lot of wonderful blogs and fabulous bloggers. One of my favorites is Blacktating, a blog dedicated to African American moms and breastfeeding. As a strong advocate for breastfeeding myself, I know that the numbers for African Americans are lower than any other and I warmly beam for people like Elita (Blacktating's founder) who make efforts everyday to turn those statistics around. From the content to the icon, there is so much to love about this blog and I knew that I had to share this with all of my readers.
There is no one who can share the story of Blacktating better than founder, Elita, herself.
My name is Elita Kalma and I am the mom to my adorable brown baby, Miles, who will be 3 in December. Before I ever became pregnant or even contemplated having kids, I knew I would breastfeed. I was breastfed until I was 18 months old, so it always seemed like the logical and natural thing to do. Over the years, I recall the responses my mom got when people found out she nursed me for so long. Everyone was always so impressed and it was a source of pride for me. I definitely knew I wanted that for my children. Once I did get pregnant and researched the topic (I'm a librarian and don't really make any decision without doing a ton of reading and research), it really became a no-brainer. I knew I was going to breastfeed.
Having a mother who breastfed probably made things easier for me than it did for many of my peers. I had someone close to me who had "been there, done that," was supportive of my decision to breastfeed and was able to give me advice or assure me when things got tough. And they did get tough. My son lost a lot of his birth weight and was a slow gainer. He was peeing, but not pooping, so I was sure he wasn't getting enough milk. There were more than a few tears and more than a few times when I wanted to give up. Ultimately, though, breastfeeding was too important and I soldiered on until things started to click when my son was about 6 weeks old.
In the meantime, I spent a lot of time online seeking help from professionals as well as other nursing moms. I watched Dr. Jack Newman's videos to learn how to latch my son on properly. I scoured the Kelly Mom website for evidence-based information and found comfort in the forums there. One thing I noticed over and over again was that I was rarely hearing from other moms of color, even when I looked for them in the "African-American" section of the parenting forums. Where were the other black breastfeeding moms and how could I connect with them?
Starting The Blog
I decided to start my blog because I was constantly thinking about breastfeeding and looking for answers to my questions online. My hope was that maybe another mom out there, surfing in the middle of the night with a Boppy on her lap and a baby at her breast, might stumble upon my blog and find reassurance. Maybe she was ready to throw in the towel and I could help her hang in there another day. So when my son was about 4 months old, Blacktating was born.
How Far She's Come
In the last 2 years the blog and its readership has grown tremendously. It has caught the eye of industry professionals and connected me with other breastfeeding moms of color. Through other social media like Facebook and Twitter, I've met even more moms like me. I love that we are able to connect online and offer support to each other. I recognize that not everyone is as dedicated as I was to breastfeeding and it's very easy to give up when everything seems to be going wrong and bottle-feeding seems to be the easier option. I know that I am making a difference in the lives of women and their babies and it feels amazing. My goal used to be to just get people outside of my family to read my blog, but now my dream is to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and write a parenting book for moms of color who are interested in natural and attachment parenting.
I'm still nursing my son, although not very often. I always wanted to nurse for the recommended two years and have tried to gently wean him but he's not having it! Sometimes I wonder how long he can go on. The breastfeeding journey is always unique for each mother-baby dyad, but I never thought I'd be nursing quite this long. Although I am ready to be done, I know my son still needs this special time with me so I am just thankful that he is healthy, strong and so smart. He's never had more than a simple cold, where almost everyone else's kids we know have been on several rounds of antibiotics or in the hospital for serious illnesses. I know that I gave him the best gift I could by breastfeeding him and I wish every mom was able to do the same for her child.
Advice to Moms Considering Breastfeeding
The advice I would give to moms-to-be who are considering breastfeeding is to educate yourself before the baby arrives. Read breastfeeding books like The Black Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, So That's What They're For and Breastfeeding With Comfort and Joy. Even if you don't consider yourself to be particularly crunchy, grab yourself a copy of Dr. Sears' The Baby Book. There is a ton of information in there on the importance of breastfeeding and how to get a good start. Discard any of the advice that seems too extreme for you and your family, but don't discount it all. That book was my parenting bible for the first two years of my son's life! I'd also suggest taking a breastfeeding class, preferably with a lactation consultant or someone with a certification in lactation. Rally your support team and get them on board early as well. And of course, you can always contact me if you have any questions or concerns. I love hearing from moms and am happy to help as much as I can.
The Biggest Bonus of Breastfeeding
I'd like to leave you with one other thing about breastfeeding which is often portrayed as the biggest drawback to breastfeeding, but that I feel is one of the biggest bonuses. My favorite thing about breastfeeding is how it forced me to sit still and just BE with my baby. Having a new baby is tough and you feel like you're being pulled in a million directions. Everyone acts as if your life shouldn't change, but having a baby is a huge upheaval of everything you knew or thought you knew. With bottle-feeding, moms have the freedom to leave the baby with someone else from day one or to hand the baby off while they head to the gym or clean the house. When you're breastfeeding, you're forced to slow down some and just sit and relax with your baby. The bond between a breastfeeding mother and baby is unmatched because of this. Take this opportunity to concentrate on this new, wonderful being that has come into your life and don't worry about the dishes or the state of your living room. Just enjoy holding your baby, staring into her eyes, stroking her cheeks and kissing her head. And when she falls asleep in your arms, love drunk off of you and your milk, remember that these moments are what it's all about and take the time to savor them. No one else in the world can do that for your baby but you.
Thanks to Elita for sharing her story and for starting her blog!