Dawn is a mother of four daughters — a 9 year old who breastfed for 26 months, a 7 year old who breastfed for 17 months, a 5 year old who breastfed for 28 months, and an 8 month old who is currently exclusively breastfed. Dawn is also a Certified Lactation Educator who enjoys sharing her knowledge and passion for breastfeeding. You can read more of Dawn’s thoughts at the blog she shares with her husband at Offdachainandouttadabox.
What motivated you to breastfeed?
I was motivated to breastfeed while I was pregnant, everything I read said “breast is best”. I also had two good friends that encouraged me to breastfeed while I was pregnant. I knew that I wanted to give my baby the absolute best.
What is the history of breastfeeding like in your family?
The history of breastfeeding in my family includes my grandmother who breastfed, my mother did not breastfeed any of her 3 children (she tried with her youngest, but didn’t have any support) and my sister had 2 children before I had my first child and she didn’t breastfeed them, but I am so proud that she is nursing her son and he will be 1 this month!
What was your attitude toward breastfeeding before having done it yourself?
Before breastfeeding myself, I don’t really remember even being exposed to breastfeeding. I definitely didn’t have an opinion, one way or the other.
What were the early days of breastfeeding like?
The early days of breastfeeding have been very stressful each time. I have had everything from no poops to a [newborn weight] loss of 1lb after 1 week!
What has been your biggest breastfeeding-related challenge?
My biggest breastfeeding-related challenge has been latch issues that resulted in [newborn] weight loss/slow weight gain in the early days after birth.
What has been easiest about breastfeeding?
The easiest thing about breastfeeding is the convenience and the automatic bonding. I also love the fact that breastfeeding can meet almost any need. My husband recently commented that with four children, he has never been awakened by a crying baby.
How has breastfeeding changed from one child to the next?
From one child to the next, I have become more confident about breastfeeding. Even during the challenging times, I always knew that things would get better. I am also now a professional at breastfeeding in public, without a cover! ;-).
How long did/will you breastfeed? How long exclusively?
I have breastfed my first three for an average of about 2 years each. I exclusively breastfed my first for 6 months and now usually breastfeed exclusively for 1 year.
Who have been your breastfeeding role models?
My breastfeeding role models have been mothers that I met when I joined Mocha Moms in Washington, DC. I was nursing my 3 month old and I was surrounded by women of color that were nursing toddlers! It encouraged me to nurse beyond the standard “one year”. My best friend from high school was also my breastfeeding role model.
How did you learn to breastfeed?
I learned to breastfeed by doing it. I did have the help of lactation consultants in the hospital, but I mainly just kept in mind “formula was not an option”.
What’s the best/worst breastfeeding advice you’ve ever received?
The best breastfeeding advice I have ever received is that for most breastfeeding problems, there is a breastfeeding solution. I also like “watch the baby, not the clock”. My current favorite is “before 1, food is just for fun”. The worst advice I have received is to supplement with formula to address weight issues when I had PLENTY of supply.
Have you experienced any negative reactions from others regarding breastfeeding?
I was asked to cover up while visiting a church when discretely nursing my first. I used the opportunity to educate and have used the experience to fuel my desire to break down the barriers that exist in the African American community. I also remember being in the hospital with my first, trying to nurse and a family member saying “She doesn’t want that!” I only used it as motivation to succeed.
Who has been your biggest supporter about breastfeeding?
My biggest supporter, by far, has been my husband. He is very outspoken about his support for breastfeeding and even wears a “Lactivist” t-shirt that says ” I play with my baby’s food” ;-). Our pediatrician, in DC, was also a huge supporter. She is from Ethiopia, so her perspective was very different than most Western doctors. I recently looked back at my first daughters weight history. Her weight gain was slow, but my ped never gave me any indication that there was a problem, nor did she ever suggest formula. She subtly had me come in for weight checks, but since this was my first, I just thought it was routine.
What is/was your breastfeeding routine like?
I breastfeed on request (sounds a little better than ‘on demand’) ;-). We are still breastfeeding exlcusively, so I breastfeed a few times during the day and since we co-sleep, we nurse throughout the night, but since I don’t have to get up or really wake up, it works well for everyone.
How do/did you handle separations from your breastfeeding child?
In the early weeks, my separations from my breastfeeding child are limited to 2 hour trips to the gym. I will leave some expressed milk with my husband, just in case, but I try not to miss a feeding. I usually take the babies with me everywhere for the first few months and really dedicate their first year to exclusive breastfeeding and don’t consider leaving them overnight until well into the second year (and then they are with Dad). I also have expressed milk in the freezer for emergencies.
Is there anything that you wish you would have done differently?
The only thing that I would have done differently would have been to avoid the initial engorgement that has led to my latch issues.
What would you say to a woman who is unsure about whether or not to breastfeed?
I would tell a women who is unsure about whether or not to breastfeed to explain to me why they wouldn’t breastfeed. Based on their responses, I would lovingly explain to them that there is no substitute for breastfeeding. It is so much more than a feeding choice, it makes you a more lovingly, responsive parent, it is essential to optimize the health of your baby and the benefits to the mother make it God’s intended way for us to nurture these precious souls.