Real Parents, Real Talk… on Breastfeeding: Dominique Drakeford
In honor of Black Breastfeeding Week, we’re interviewing a few moms to gain a better understanding of their experiences with breastfeeding and motherhood as Black women.
When Dominique Drakeford, environmental educator, advocate, and sustainability thought-leader, got ready to welcome her son into the world, she envisioned a birth that echoed her values and commitment to a holistic, sustainable approach to life.
For her, that meant an unmedicated home birth surrounded by family and her support team. What she didn’t anticipate was that this would all occur two weeks after her baby’s due date…following six days of inactive labor and 30 hours of active labor…and would involve a nearly 9-pound baby!
“Labor was not as expected. Although I tried really hard to let go of expectations, there certainly were a lot of surprises,” she remembers. “But this intense but beautiful collaborative experience re-grounded and unearthed my ideals around sustainability gave me a new definition of love…his birth was nothing short of a blessing and the experience gave me a reimagined hope as a Black woman!”
Her son, Sage’s middle name—Masego—is a Tswana name that means blessing (Tswana is a Bantu tribe in Botswana and South Africa), reflecting this sentiment.
And just as Dominique always wanted a vaginal home birth, she had her heart set on breastfeeding from the get-go.
“I knew I wanted to breastfeed in anticipation of pursuing the most holistic and sustainable approaches caring for the baby as possible,” she says. “Additionally—without ever truly understanding what it took to breastfeed—I always thought it was so beautiful."
Shortly after Sage’s arrival, Dominique’s doula helped him latch properly. “I was so excited he did,” she says.
But just as labor came with surprises, there have been some surprises with breastfeeding too.
“The entire experience was a surprise to be honest,” she reflects. “I think the biggest surprise for me is that I had to make a very conscious effort to enjoy the bond, process, and journey. It’s not easy by any means and I think for me to continue in a positive fashion, I have to be intentional about the energy I give to it and put through it.”
In addition to navigating some initial pain in the first month (thanks in part to sore nipples from pumping to try to naturally induce labor), Dominique is also learning to read her son’s cues to navigate supply issues.
“Sometimes I do feel like my supply may be low. I had one night recently where I didn’t have any pumped milk, and Sage was really frustrated while feeding. It seemed like perhaps I didn’t have milk or milk wasn’t coming out quick enough,” she recalls. “It was around 10 p.m. and my fiancé and I were desperately trying to find an open store that sold formula. He ended up falling asleep, and we didn’t need formula, but it inspired us to always have a backup plan in case of emergency!”
Based on the unexpected turns her own journey has taken, Dominique wants other new parents to know that everyone’s breastfeeding journey looks different.
“There are so many combinations of self-care, healing, and helping with milk flow that go into it. There are also so many ways to feed your child that include milk from the breast. As amazing as I think it is to feed my son from my breast, there are so many other ways that moms feed their babies and that should be acknowledged. We should continue to create and nurture a community that is inclusive of various choices, lifestyles, and levels of access,” she says.
And though Dominique was initially struck by the beauty of the process, she hopes others know that breastfeeding is hard work, too.
“I just want to tell breastfeeding moms to be gentle with themselves, especially since there’s such a lack of transparency with what it takes to breastfeed. It’s beautiful and the striking images you see on Instagram are beautiful, but it can also be a process and not super fun and easy for everyone.”
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