My Breastfeeding Advocacy Doesn't Mean I'm Against Formula Feeders

Amy Keyishian

Nurse-InI can’t get enough of the story of Afrykan Moon, the Detroit mother who was harassed for breastfeeding on a bus. Anyone who knows me knows I’ll nurse my kids anywhere, and I have zero patience for people who say they “don’t want to see that.” Hey, I didn’t want to see butt-crack popping out of low-rise jeans for the last 10 years, but nobody was throwing Jessica Alba off a bus for feeding her child. (Though I doubt she takes buses.)
I was so inspired by the video Moon made that I emailed with some of the women in the Black Mothers Breastfeeding Group, and saw great pictures of African-American moms and their daughters (and future breastfeeders?) at a nurse-in protest. It made me cry (not that hard to do these hormonal days, but still). I feel so proud -- and haven’t felt this galvanized to support a cause since college.

I’m well aware that some women can’t breastfeed, and others choose not to for reasons that only need to make sense for them. Your baby, your choice. What bothers me is that breastfeeding is not a valid choice for so many women -- either because their jobs don’t allow pumping, or they just don’t have the emotional and cultural support they need.
So when I say I feel galvanized, energized, and like I’ve finally, after so many years, found a cause I can wholeheartedly get behind again, my intention is not to crap on anyone who uses formula. Hell, I had to supplement when Penelope was nursing. My intention is to make sure that every woman who wants to is given the chance to breastfeed.
For me, it was a given: I had maternity leave, I could be near my baby when I needed to be, and I had the financial resources to take the time to be with her. I know other women who had to be at work within a week or two after delivery, or who didn’t even consider breastfeeding because they didn’t know anyone who did it.
And there does seem to be a cultural element to all this. When I was in the NICU with Penelope, I heard every superstition and old wives' tale on the planet. Supposedly, Latina women have an easy time nursing because their diets contain milk-enhancing legumes. Of the black women I saw caring for their babies, only one was planning to breastfeed. I didn’t ask why. But in a world where black women feel the need to douche more often and little black girls think dolls that look like them are ugly, I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that some black women might have a hard time having faith in their own bodies and trusting their own power to feed their babies.
Just a theory.
At any rate, last Friday, there was a nurse-in at the SMART station in Detroit (SMART is their city bus system). CafeMom member MamaChicx4, who recommends the CafeMom group Breastfeeding Moms of Color, was there and said, “SMART said they didn’t mind that we sat in front, and even provided a bus with the air on for the kids and babies who may have gotten too hot.” She describes Moon as a “breastfeeding guru” and says, “I am honored to call her a friend.”
Most importantly, she says, “The object of the nurse-in was NOT to get the driver fired. We wanted her and all the staff at SMART to be retrained. The driver was just plain nasty. She let her personal opinions and belief about breastfeeding in public take over instead of doing her job.”
Does that sound like radical activism, or just common sense? Hmm, maybe it’s both! All I know is, I wish I could take a coast-to-coast nurse-athon before Abby weans. Who’s on my bus?
Would you have attended the Detroit nurse-in? Do you feel energized by nursing moms speaking out? Tell us in the comments!

Image via ClickOnDetroit

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