I began writing about my breastfeeding journey in February 2020. That year marked the start of this blog and the third year of my journey. I recall laughing throughout the years because there was no way I could have predicted that I would last beyond six months given our challenges. My body is amazing and I am forever grateful that it allowed me five and a half years of nurturing my daughter.
The start of our journey (2017) had its issues. I had a traumatic birth, a premature baby with a low birth weight, a low milk supply and latch difficulties. I remember the emotional toll during the first few months despite being fully prepared for the journey. Preparation was an understatement because I read books and researched online yet nothing could prepare me for our particular challenges. I felt like I had failed my daughter because our experience differed from all that I had prepared for. I recall the sleep deprivation of having to pump around the clock so that she could have expressed milk (recall that she could not latch). I was the food supply and my baby was solely dependent on me to figure it out. Those around me questioned my dedication and could not fathom why I hadn’t given up. My journey was far from what I thought I was signing up for but somehow we kept on going.
June is here and I am excited to celebrate Pride! This month you’ll notice tons of Pride Parades and other celebrations taking place across the nation. There is a rich meaning behind the need to celebrate for a month, however, it does not mean that injustice has disappeared. The ongoing pursuit for justice and equality continues every month of the year and throughout June. I urge you to learn more about the history of Pride and the significance of it being celebrated in June. In true Maziwa Tribe fashion you’ll find resources below along with links to definitions throughout this post for further reading.
Recently I had the pleasure of being a guest on the SPILLED MILK PODCAST for season two! This podcast is hosted by my good friend, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), Mrs. Kendra Shelby. She is doing phenomenal (and I mean phenomenal) work in Chicagoland to support women and families through pregnancy and postpartum. Click HERE to learn more about her work!
I have spoken about my journey throughout this space and getting to year five is monumental. I wrote about it last month (click HERE) and provided several links to the science which supports my rationale to keep on keepin’ on! This podcast is the perfect compliment because Kendra asks the pressing questions that everyone wants to know. Was the journey always easy? Why keep going? What do others think? Is it uncomfortable? What does it look like at age five? Does your child lift up your clothes in public to nurse? We talk about it and then some! Listen to our conversation below to get a better understanding about what breastfeeding entails at age five!
Several months have passed and I last checked in during the holiday season. Happy New Year! Happy Black History Month! Happy Women’s History Month! Daylight Savings Time is here and today is 313 Day (shout out to Detroit). It was 70 degrees in Chicagoland eight days ago (sadly it snowed two days later) which lets me know that Spring is slowly approaching. I took a brief hiatus from writing and so much has happened since December. In my time away my blog turned two and my baby had a birthday. I am now the proud mommy of a five year old; a five year old that breastfeeds! We are still going and there is no immediate need to stop now.
The holiday season is here and can cause an interruption to your regularly scheduled routine—time off from work, winter break for children, day care closures, holiday festivities, and the list goes on. These temporary changes can also interrupt your breast / chestfeeding routine. Science tells us that breastmilk production is supply and demand—essentially the more milk you remove the more your body will produce (source). Let’s explore ways to keep your breast / chestfeeding routine on track in the midst of a temporary interruption to your routine.
I am eagerly anticipating the countdown to January 25, 2022! On that day I will officially have a five year old! I am a mixed bag of emotions because the day also marks my fifth straight year of breastfeeding. It feels like she was just born and we were struggling to find our breastfeeding rhythm (we had our share of challenges). The calendar says five years but somehow time has paused. My internal clock tells me that we were discharged from the hospital yesterday, however, reality says that I am five years into my motherhood journey. I am excited to report that our breastfeeding challenges no longer exist! My baby and I are truly in sync with no end in sight if she has her way! Stay tuned.
Here are a few of my takeaways. Enjoy and share with a friend! 💙
Creating a Gratitude Jar can be a great way to savor memories, celebrate events and honor where you are in the moment. Take time daily to write what you are grateful for onto slips of paper and place it into your gratitude jar—do so several times per day if you wish! A gratitude jar can bring about appreciation for self, celebrate strengths and bring about a sense of connectedness. If you are a pregnant or breast/chestfeeding person consider adding details about your journey to your jar. This could be a cool method of chronicling your experience!
Recently I had the pleasure of being a guest on the SPILLED MILK PODCAST hosted by my good friend, Mrs. Kendra Shelby. Kendra is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and is doing phenomenal work in Chicagoland to support women and families through pregnancy and postpartum. Learn more about her HERE. She is a pure blessing and I am grateful that our paths have crossed!
Within the podcast we unpack the ins and outs of perinatal mood disorders and counseling. We both get real about our pregnancy journeys, birth plans that did not go according to plan, adjusting to a newborn and the aftermath. We are both in the field and doing the work that we were born to do, yet we both had challenges along the pregnancy / birth journey. We seek to normalize the conversation, be transparent about our experiences and provide you with tools to move forward.
Many have asked about the impact of the covid-19 vaccine on pregnant and breast/chestfeeding people. It is totally understandable that parents are concerned and have questions. I am a nursing parent and I had questions throughout the pandemic and as the development of the vaccines were underway. Trust that all of your questions are valid! It is imperative to ask questions to get the reassurance that you need to make a decision about the vaccine. I always stress the importance of obtaining answers from knowledgeable individuals equipped to provide evidence-based answers rooted in science. Opinions (we all have them) are awesome, however, this is a dynamic where facts matter. Please speak with your Primary Care Physician, Midwife, OB GYN or other medical professional to obtain accurate information tailored to your medical needs.
Today marks the birth anniversary of the Peace, Love & Breastmilk Monthly Subscription Box. Year #1 is officially in the books! The idea written on scrap paper in March 2020 is reality and I couldn’t be happier! I am excited to continue bringing breast / chestfeeding necessities to your doorstep without you having to step foot outside of your home!
I look forward to this week annually because it is a week to salute Black Breast/Chestfeeding parents. I always eagerly anticipate the unveiling of the theme in the weeks leading up to August 25th. The 2021 theme, The Big Pause: Collective Rest for Collective Power, honors Black Breastfeeding and the power of rest as a revolution for our communities (refer to photo). The theme is fitting for the steps required to restore our minds, bodies and communities as we continue to provide nourishment to our little ones.
Last year we were in a different space and the call to action was to revive, restore and reclaim our breastfeeding experiences. I wrote about it extensively here. An entire year has passed, yet systems and outcomes for Black parents and infants remain the same. Black Breastfeeding Week is still needed because racial disparities in breastfeeding rates have yet to be eradicated. We are also still in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic which adds additional complexity to an already complicated dynamic. Two factors—the current reality and our collective need for rest—can exist simultaneously because the work can be exhausting. We are tired!
“Don’t pick up your baby too much because it will spoil them.”
“Feeding your newborn too much spoils them.”
“Let them cry it out. It will teach them how to self-soothe.”
“Breastfeeding your baby will keep them attached to you and they won’t like anyone else.”
“You don’t have to respond every time your baby cries.”
How many of the above statements have you heard? To spoil or not to spoil is the million dollar question. Many people have varying opinions and usually their input is well intended. Initially I was receptive to unsolicited “wisdom” from others because I was a first-time mom. Over time I grew annoyed because my thought process is rooted in the understanding of human development. The above statements negate science, human development and an infant’s cognitive ability. Contrary to popular belief; it is impossible to spoil an infant. Here’s why.
We are half way through the month of May and I cannot let the month pass without acknowledging Mental Health Awareness Month. I am happy that an entire month is dedicated to highlighting the importance of mental health. In my world mental health is placed onto a pedestal on a daily basis. I will continue to speak about it and its importance to overall health every opportunity afforded to me.
March is National Social Work Month! I am 11 years into my social work journey. I wasn’t always a social worker. In my previous life I was a Packaging Engineer. Packaging was a major that I stumbled upon while attending a week long summer camp at Michigan State University (Go Green! Go White!) while in high school. During that week I met two individuals that would help me to make the transition to college two years later. One person was a MSU student and we would exchange several handwritten letters via mail (long before cellphones, social media and texting existed) where she would answer all of my questions related to college. The other person was the director of the summer camp. She held a Ph.D and I recalled being in awe at her education and her willingness to mentor me upon my arrival at MSU. I am still in contact with both of them some twenty-five plus years later.
Lesson 1: Connections, friendships and human interactions have meaning. Positive life long connections are a necessity and help to bring light to everyday situations.
On February 11, 2020 I posted my first blog post introducing myself. A blog was on the to-do list for ages and I recall being extremely proud of taking the step. Those who know me know that I have always loved reading and writing. My high school English teacher (we are still in contact) taught me how to write a properly cited research paper. I credit my parents for my love of reading because our home was always full of books! The library is one of my favorite places and I hope to visit again in 2023! We’ll see what the future holds.
So much taking place in the world which gives me a variety of topics to write about. Today I am choosing to practice exactly what I preached in my April 1, 2020 Emotional Self-Care post. I am making the deliberate choice to control my self-care narrative.
Today is January 16, 2021 and I am nine days away from having a four year old. The time has flown by quickly and it feels like we were just discharged from the hospital. Her birthday, January 25, also represents the fourth year of our breastfeeding journey 🎉🏆!!! We had challenges immediately following birth and I would have had unpleasant words for anyone on January 25, 2017 had they told me that I’d still be nursing my daughter four years later. To utter such words would have been the ultimate form of disrespect resulting in the end of a relationship! At that point in time we lived life in three-hour increments and it was asking too much of me to even focus on the next day.
The holiday season can bring on a variety of emotions. November marks the start of events that seem to keep rolling throughout December and into the New Year. The end of the year is compromised of work potlucks, increased family and friend obligations and festive gatherings that seem to last forever. Fast forward to 2020 and those colorful festivities of yesteryear have been replaced with more life altering challenges than we can count.
Tuesday, November 3, 2020 is a day that many have anticipated. So much has taken place in the last few days and waiting on the outcome feels like an eternity. No surprise that it has stretched well beyond Tuesday. COVID-19 has impacted life itself and the election is no exception. If you are like me you are glued to the television and switching between news channels. For many the end result is a matter of life or death and the luxury of checking out is not an option. Families and communities have and still are being ravished by COVID-19. The pandemic didn’t mysteriously disappear this week despite minimal news coverage! Trust me when I say that the pandemic hits you differently when you have the experience of watching the funeral of someone you know via Facebook live. Recall that children still remain in cages, violence is incited nonchalantly and white supremacy is readily condoned. Human lives are at stake and I refuse to take it lightly.
While pregnant I read every book I could get my hands on that was related to birth. I am an avid reader so reading books was the norm. The internet and social media spaces catering to birth and breast / chestfeeding were was also my go-to sources. I was armed with information and the text made breast / chestfeeding look easy. Certainly I thought I had it covered between the detailed descriptions, footnotes, the diagrams and links to further reading. I was the expectant mother that clicked on the links within the links to see what else I could discover.
This week marks Black Breastfeeding Week! Revive. Restore. Reclaim! is the theme for 2020. In my June “Breathe, Thrive and Grow” post I wrote that I planned to tackle the systemic racism and implicit bias connected to Black breast / chestfeeding parents during my Black Breastfeeding Week post. As I began writing I decided that this post would take a different turn because I do not have the mental capacity to discuss systemic racism. Instead I want to detail my personal thoughts on the 2020 theme and ways that each word can be put into action.
UPDATE September 1, 2020 — The Peace, Love & Breastmilk Monthly Subscription Box is available. Please click on the links below! 💙
I am eagerly preparing to launch the Peace, Love & BreastmilkMonthly Subscription Box on September 1, 2020!! 🎉✨🎁 The time has flown by and it’s hard to believe that it is weeks away! The idea written on scrap paper in March 2020 will soon become reality. I am excited!
I am blown away at how quickly 2020 is flying by. 2021 is on the horizon and the future remains unknown. What I do know is that breastfeeding remains a constant in my household and is celebrated daily. It is a way of life for me! I am mommy to a nursing toddler, I wear cool swag to normalize breast / chestfeeding and I frequent circles where lactation is discussed regularly. I always look forward to the month of August because the month brings awareness to the rest of the world. August starts with World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7) and ends with Black Breastfeeding Week (August 25-31). Breast / chestfeeding is in the spotlight throughout the month and I couldn’t be happier!
I am writing this on the heels of my May 27, 2020 post titled, “Exhausted.” Lots of changes have taken place in communities across the nation since my previous post. Several posts remain in “draft” status as my intention is to remain on task by discussing all that has taken place during the month of June. Our nation is currently in the midst of a movement. In the words of National Radio Hall of Fame Inductee, Joe Madison, “the difference between a moment and a movement is sacrifice.” Salute to the foot soldiers on the frontline of the movement while the nation is in the middle of an active pandemic. You are indeed making a huge sacrifice as COVID-19 did not magically disappear. Your activism is needed. I see you. I hear you. I support you.
I have a few posts that are in draft status. Today I am straying away from them for a moment to address the here and now. No cool pictures. Nothing fancy. Not today. Here goes…
In my March 24 post I discussed elements of self-care to assist with navigating the pandemic and doing away with media that one may deem to be disturbing. To save you a bit of time here is what was written.
New and expectant mothers (parents) experience a variety of changes—hormonal changes, physical changes, changes in lifestyle, changes in sleep patterns and changes to the daily routine. Pregnancy and birth can be an exciting time and it may also bring about unexpected mental health concerns. Let’s face it—bringing forth new life is stressful. The love for the newborn does not erase the sleep deprivation, isolation, added responsibilities and the inability to partake in self-care. Talk about an emotional roller coaster that seems never-ending! Unlike a roller coaster at the amusement park, this ride can last well after the first year following birth.
“Maternal mental health disorders typically occur in what is called the perinatal period. This includes the prenatal period, or time that a woman is pregnant, and the postpartum period, which is the first year after the baby has been born.”
The title says it all in this case. Parents with infants and toddlers may find themselves nursing frequently with no end in sight. I am one of those parents (raises hand)! As I am writing, my three year old has asked for milk for the hundredth time. She switched it up by using the Baby Shark melody (“I want my milk do, do, do, do, do, do…”) this time around. Someone, please send me a lifeline asap.
In these instances I am forced to revert back to what I know about breast / chestfeeding. It is natural for our little ones to choose human milk. The breast / chest represents safety and a sense of security to our little ones. The request to nurse isn’t always about hunger. The following diagram lists a variety of reasons why our little ones nurse.
We took inventory of our most recent blog entries and noticed that they have one thing in common—COVID-19. This is no accident and certainly isn’t by chance. This virus has invaded our daily lives and there is no turning away no matter how hard we may try. We deliberately took the approach to focus on self-care, mental health and wellness these past few weeks. This particular post has sat in “draft” status for over 10 days as it is a painful one to tackle.
Our hearts go out to the entire world as we are all figuring out how to navigate this new normal that does not appear to be subsiding in the near future. To those that have lost loved ones; to those on the front lines; to those battling symptoms in isolation; to those who are asymptomatic with no insight about the battle ahead of them; to the essential workers; to family members awaiting to hear news about their loved one’s prognosis; to birthing parents who were forced to give birth alone without support — We speak your name.
Emotional self-care is caring for your emotional needs by identifying what you are feeling and moving forward in a way that honors yourself and those emotions. Self-care is one aspect of life that you can control in the midst of so much that is out of your personal control.
You have the power to choose how you indulge in self-care and when you indulge in self-care. Remember, you control your self-care narrative!
Maziwa Tribe wants to take a few moments to send a sincere thank you to everyone navigating this new normal. As stated in our previous blog, life has a way of taking unexpected twists and turns. Changes are made as new information becomes available and we have all had to be flexible in our daily dealings. Next steps are out of our control but patience and vigilance is a must.
A focus on mental health is an absolute must. The last few weeks have certainly given us a friendly reminder that life can take unanticipated twists and turns. The magnitude of this global pandemic has certainly taken the nation by surprise and the bulk of it still remains out of our personal control. Many states across the nation have stressed that citizens remain indoors to avoid spreading the virus. The State of Illinois is currently under a “shelter in place” order. For many of us this equates to working from home, engaging in distance learning, communicating via electronic devices and only venturing outdoors to obtain necessities. A new normal is underway and will likely impact how we function and conduct business as a nation post COVID-19.
We want to ensure that information related to COVID-19 and breast / chestfeeding is compiled in one location for convenience. This is a challenging time for everyone as the nation was taken by surprise at the magnitude of this global pandemic. There are more questions than answers at this time and changes occur daily making it difficult to decipher fact from fiction.
A common theme found throughout the resources below is the recommendation to continue to breast / chestfeed throughout an illness. Breastmilk is magic and there are several studies which prove that it is key in helping babies to remain healthy and free of common illnesses.
I am a mother, social worker, therapist and lactation counselor. I never envisioned that lactation would become such a major aspect of my life following the birth of my daughter in 2017. The books I read throughout pregnancy made breastfeeding look relatively easy. By no means did it look comfortable; but it certainly looked relatively easy. Latch the baby on after birth and life goes on. Simple… Simple was not my story but for now I will spare the details. Let’s just say that I focused on one hour at a time in addition to living my life in three-hour increments. We were the little engine that struggled for a variety of reasons.