Island Soul City Dreams

I love New York, but my heart has a Caribbean beat. It pulsates to the traditions of my people. Attuned to the rhythms of this City, I stay West Indian to the bone. I reflect. I analyze. I speak my mind. ~ I Keep it Irie ~

What’s The Big Sucking Deal?

My mother told me that I stopped “wetting the bed” when I was about nine months old. Apparently, I was so disgusted by the feel of damp pampers, that as soon as I “had to go” I cried up a storm. To this day, mommy swears no other baby was potty trained faster than her first-born daughter. But it would take her almost another year to wean me off breastfeeding. Apparently, I made up for all the time she didn’t have to change my diapers by clinging to her bosom for far longer than she would have hoped. From the stories she and other relatives have told me, I consumed enough breast milk to render me an addict. With such over indulgence, it’s a wonder I’m not now among the 75 percent of black adults in the US who are lactose intolerant.

My mother stopped breastfeeding me well over three decades ago and she proudly recalls that she often did so in public – just like millions of women throughout history. It is a natural occurrence I see whenever I’m back home in the Caribbean and even here in Brooklyn. I mean, what is so unnatural about a healthy lactating mother feeding her baby the milk her body created for that purpose? What is so bizarre about a mother breastfeeding her child when he or she is crying in hunger? Why should there be any discrimination in doing so in a safe environment – even if it’s in public? So what if for the first time Beyoncé‘s boobs garnered her attention for something other than being a sex symbol? I am left in wonderment by the stories this past week seemingly heralding her as the originator of public breastfeeding after she recently nursed Blue Ivy while at a restaurant.

Sure, I am aware of the 2010 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention citing that just 54 percent of black mothers breastfeed at all – furthermore doing so in public – in comparison to 74 percent of white mothers. I’m also cognizant of the fact that some mothers, including the well-publicized Houston mom have been ridiculed or embarrassed for attempting to breastfeed in public. And I have read about the Nursing In Public group (NIP), which has been canvassing for mothers to feed their babies wherever they choose. But to hear so-called experts expound on the issue – that Beyonce’s actions are “trendsetting” for all mothers across the US, is nauseating to say the least. I awoke today to one such “adviser” on the “Tom Joyner Morning Show,” preaching that what Beyoncé did was a significant moment in history for black women, that it must be applauded and that she should be seen as role model for mothers. The off button on my radio beckoned for me to conserve electricity. I obeyed.

I’m by no means a Bey hater; I think she’s the consummate entertainer of her era. And I’m saddened by the fact that too many black women prefer to nurture their babies with formula instead of breast milk. What’s worse, many of said women are from low-income groups and one might imagine, it’s cheaper to feed their babies the natural way. I also think it’s unfortunate that many of these women are not as knowledgeable as they should be of the health benefits of breastfeeding to both themselves and their babies. So yes, I’m sympathetic to the cause; more black women should breastfeed. But be assured, thousands of them are doing so and even in public without the endorsement of any superstar. Beyoncé breastfeeding in public? Seriously, what’s the big sucking deal?

~ I Keep it Irie ~

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6 thoughts on “What’s The Big Sucking Deal?

  1. I don’t find it to be that big of deal, but it is definitely a point for advocates of public breast-feeding (“See, even Beyonce does it!”) and it can also set an example for that other 46% percent of black women (or any other women, for that matter) that choose not to breast-feed. While I do feel like that decision should be a matter of personal choice, breast-feeding does have many health benefits, so I hope all the hullabaloo over Bey’s breast gives parents that are leaning toward formula a reason to reconsider .

  2. I totally agree with you Maquita, growing up in the W.I., breastfeeding was as normal as watching someone ride a bike, you never thought twice about it; those who were kinda shy about it just threw a washcloth over their boob, even while in public. It really baffles me how Americans have managed to turn something so natural into an act of horror.

  3. Rush on said:

    Great piece! Recently, I asked myself the same question.

    The American world, it seems, is far removed from what is natural, right and acceptable.

    • Thanks Uncle Rush.

      The funny thing is, I don’t hear that level of “disgust”, if any, from among people in my community or with whom I often interact. But it seems like the wider community (based on some media coverage), is certainly opposed to this perfectly natural act.

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