New Mom Calls Out the Breastfeeding Shame We Don't Talk About

Cierra A. Robison with children
Cierra A. Robison/Facebook

The moment I found out I was expecting my first child, I made myself a promise: Go easy on the Doritos, and give breastfeeding a try. Without knowing all the benefits, I figured breastfeeding was the thing to do -- so I did it, and thankfully I was also able to nurse my second child 16 months later. Never once did I doubt my ability to breastfeed or question whether it was the norm because I'm a woman of color, which is why this story about a NICU nurse who shamed a black mother for wanting to breastfeed is extremely enraging.

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Cierra Robison recently welcomed her precious twin girls into the world. The girls were born six weeks early and spent some time in the NICU, but rather than enjoying every moment possible with her preemie daughters, Robison says she found herself in a back-and-forth argument with the head nurse about her ability to breastfeed her babies.

... All because of the color of her skin.

More from CafeMom: One Big Way the 'Natural' Birth Community Is Failing Women of Color

"Once she [the head NICU nurse] found out I was going to be breastfeeding she asked, 'Now let me ask you a question ... why do you want to breastfeed?'" Robison tells PopSugar. She continues:

"I was completely dumbfounded. I asked her, 'Why WOULDN'T I breastfeed?' She then proceeded to tell me how only 8 percent of African-American women breastfeed and how there's a negative stigma due to wet nursing during slavery."

But wait, there's more.

After doubting this mom's ability to breastfeed due to a false statistic (the CDC actually reported an increase in black breastfeeding moms in 2008, moving from 47.4 to 58.9 percent) and backing it up with unfounded WTF slavery trivia (seriously?!), this wonderful head nurse proceeded to recommend Cierra give formula a try -- you know, because her premature twin girls obviously wouldn't be able to latch onto their mother's breasts.

"Also false, they both latched perfectly fine at 1 day old," Robison asserts to PopSugar. 

More from CafeMom: The Real Breastfeeding Support System Every New Mom Needs

Breastfeeding is hard enough without adding in discriminatory and ignorant comments that likely make an already stressed mom feel even more anxious. Cierra says she was "hurt" by this nurse's words and began doubting her ability to even give breastfeeding a try, which is extremely disappointing -- especially when the cause of her self-doubt was the very person tasked with providing new moms care and support.

Thankfully, Cierra found refuge on the Facebook page for Black Women Do Breastfeed, an online community that aims to break down stereotypes and make black breastfeeding mothers more visible. The group inspired this mother to not only continue pursuing breastfeeding, but also to share her story.

She tells PopSugar:

"[I] was in awe at all the other black women proudly nursing their babies. I decided to share my story because there's no telling how many women get talked out of breastfeeding be it because they're young, old, have small boobs, are single mothers, or for any other reasons. I don't feel it is right! Unless there is a medical reason not to nurse and ANY woman wants to, she should."

More from CafeMom: 15 Unforgettable Black Women Who Make Us Want to Stand Up & Get Something Done

Given the current climate of our country and how gently people walk on eggshells in order to avoid offending anyone -- or be written off as someone who always gets offended -- I get how easy it is to roll your eyes at something like this or assume it's no big deal.

But the conversation still needs to happen.

No woman should EVER feel like she's incapable of trying to nurse her child because of her ethnicity or any other category society uses to divide us. While there have been discussions as to why black women might be less likely to breastfeed, that does not mean we aren't breastfeeding.

It's time for all members of our community of women and mothers to love, support, and embrace one another -- and to speak up when f*ckery like this happens, so we can help empower every woman.

"I'm just happy that so many people are becoming aware of an issue we have in the black community," Robison tells CafeMom. 

"I just hope more moms realize that it is okay to stick up for themselves and to follow that maternal instinct. Oh, and of course to normalize breastfeeding."

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