Images and text by Tamika Brawner.
My name is Tamika Brawner. I am a 31 year old mother to a 14 year old girl, Ikaia, and 11 month old baby boy, Malakai (Mali). I did not breastfeed my daughter 14 years ago at all. I was young and I didn’t know anyone who breastfed their baby, but I was determined to give my son mama’s best and breastfeed him.
While I was pregnant with him, I read up on everything. I followed mommy blogs, I researched other’s experiences, read up on all the pros and cons, looked into any and everything that could go wrong and I felt ready.
As soon as he was born, I wanted to lay him on my bare breast and let him find his way just like I’d seen another newborn do on a YouTube video, but as soon as he came into the world he had to be whisked right away because he’d swallowed meconium during labor. I didn’t get those first few moments with him. I wanted to remain hopeful about my intentions but the emotions of new mommyhood had me seriously starting to feel discouraged, my plans were already starting to derail.
Once he and I were settled in the hospital room, I began to nurse him. I’d heard so many horror stories about nurses not being supportive of breastfeeding and trying to push formula on you, that I was almost afraid of what they’d say to me. I was hesitant and shy about doing it at first but wanted to forget all of that, focus on the fact that he was my baby and it was my choice and do what should feel natural.
From the beginning, my sister was my biggest cheerleader. She had breastfed her 3 daughters, and she supported and encouraged my desire to do the same for Mali. She came to stay with me for a few days after I came home with the baby. It’s like I had my own live-in lactation consultant :). My husband was very supportive and I began to feel very comfortable in my role as nursing mother.
All in all, Mali and I have had a pretty smooth nursing ride. Aside from him being latched a little off in the beginning, meager supply issues when transitioning back to work, and a few snide remarks from my circle, we’ve gone through, thankfully, pretty unscathed. Just this past weekend at a family function, Mali pulled at my shirt to get to his milk (him signing for milk every time he wanted to eat lasted about 2 weeks), and my grandmother commented “that’s when you know it’s time to get him off the breast.” I just responded, “now that he can express to me what he wants, I should take it from him?” And that was the end of that conversation.
It’s been 11 months, I am planning his 1st birthday party and I am still nursing him. When I was pregnant, I had hoped to make it to a year. Now, in the full swing of it, I’m shooting for 2 years. I get a little negative feedback from people when they hear I will be nursing past one year. “What’s the point of doing it so long?” “Don’t you think he’s getting too big for that?” To me, he’s still just a baby. My baby. I’m just glad that I am more secure in my choice than I am concerned what others think is best for me and my family. I am so grateful I was able to do this and continue to.
I feel so blessed to be the nourishment, the provision my son needed to live and grow. This experience is amazing. I feel powerful and beautiful having been able to breastfeed my child. It saddens me to see women down other women for nursing. I am a modest woman and tend to discretely feed him whenever we are in public. But the injustice other women face due to nursing in public makes me want to live more out loud with mine. I nursed with my boob over my dress just yesterday in IHOP. I almost wished someone would say something to me. It would’ve been an unlucky day for them. I hope no one ever disrespects my right to feed my child as we venture into year 2, but TRUST, they’ll wish they hadn’t. Mali and I are ready for them!
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