Philadelphia, PA – Normalize Breastfeeding Tour
I touched down in Philadelphia just in time to celebrate Black Breastfeeding Week with one of our local chapters. If I were to tell the stories behind HOW we plan these tour stops that would be another blog in and of itself! I “met” our Philly admin, Jabina Coleman, CLC (Certified Lactation Counselor) when we were introduced on Instagram earlier this year. We hit it off immediately. I deeply admire her ambitious support for breastfeeding moms in Philadelphia. She was serious about bringing this tour to her city. She even started started the local chapter of Normalize Breastfeeding in Philadelphia! The Mayor also participated in #idtNBF16 this year, which resulted the publishing of a proclamation in support of the 2nd International Day to Normalize Breastfeeding! Little did I know that only a few blocks down the street lived my best friend, Cynthony Dench, from high school. I stayed with her for the weekend and we rode the train almost everywhere that we needed to go. It was pretty cool to have such easy access to this big city.
On, Friday morning (Aug 19), I was multi-tasking (like crazy) trying to meet my deadlines for a huge project that was in process. We rode the train to the Concourse where Cynthony left me to head to work. I shopped for a bit, then headed back to her place. I met her back at the Comcast Building for lunch. I have to say it was pretty amazing. And the view was breathtaking to say the very least. I was excited about our evening plans to network at the UPPN event that Lorraine Aldridge, another close friend from high school, invited us to. It was so nice to get out and network especially since I didn’t have my kids with me. The night was great. Me and my girlfriends from high school were having a wonderful time together. We went out for some sushi and then some coffee before heading home to attempt to rest before the big event the following day. It was amazing being in the same city as my closest friends. It was also exhausting since it was so difficult to sleep when we really wanted to stay up and chat! We have all been friends for almost 20 years.
Saturday was here and the event prep was going great until I misplaced my friend’s extra house key and simultaneously realized that some of the Normalize Breastfeeding shirts that were rush ordered were to be shipped to Lorraine’s house on the edge of the city. She drove home to pick up the shirts, Cynthony was on her way back home to lock up behind me, and I was on my way to the train heading to 30th Street Station. I was stressed out for no reason at all! The shirts arrived on time and Lorraine picked them up and brought them to the event.
Interestingly enough, Lorraine was the first peer, let alone (black) woman in real life, that I had ever witnessed breastfeeding in my entire life. She was also the very first mama that I ever photographed for this project. She introduced me to world of breastfeeding and the amazing thing that is nipple cream! LOL, I remember the first time she tried to explain to me how soothing the cream would feel when she put it on. We would laugh at all of the little things that made breastfeeding worth trying.
Here she is at 30th Street Station asking her daughter what she remembered about breastfeeding. Once we started the event everything ran smoothly. 30th Street Station was beautiful! It was amazing to see all of the mamas bring so much cultural and breast milk delivery diversity to the table.
In honor of Black Breastfeeding Week, we added an additional group photo at both locations for all of the black mothers in the group.
Certified Breastfeeding (Bilingual) Counselor, Liz Chang of Pretty Mama Breastfeeding, LLC, joined us to show support for all of the mamas who came out to be photographed even though she is no longer nursing her son. This is her story:
“From the very beginning when my husband and I decided to start a family, we started educating ourselves because we knew how important it was for us to learn more about maternity in the USA and breastfeeding. We were very new to the whole world of having a baby because it was our first time as parents. I always loved breastfeeding but felt a strong, intuitive and powerful desire to know more when I started having conversations around it with my family and with my mom. My mom told me how she breastfed me and how she breastfed my siblings. I remember being around people in Colombia, where I am from, and seeing breastfeeding completely as a “no brainer”. It is like you were drinking a glass of water. Breastfeeding is that normal. In my family and in my cultural background, that’s what women do. We don’t question it. We just do it because that is what is embedded in our culture. The same was for my husband’s family as both he and sibling were successfully breastfed. They were ready to support me in any way possible. When my son was delivered I had problems with breastfeeding. At the start my baby wouldn’t latch, and I was searching for help, and it was not given to me.
We went back to the hospital to see the Lactation Consultant, but she couldn’t pick out what the issue was. She gave me an SNS, nipple shields that were the wrong size, and told my husband and I that a large number of babies simply do not ever latch. She didn’t explain to me what the reason was that this was happening. Not knowing, I of course followed her directions and that became chaos in my house. Not only was I sore and he was a big baby, yelling and screaming, but I had no professional support. How was I supposed to know that he was a tongue tied baby? That experience was so frustrating and so alarming that it inspired me to get more educated and to help other women. That has been my inspiration—my baby, my situation, and seeing that it happens every second across the country. That is why women quit breastfeeding so quickly. After a month and a few days of searching and calling many local and non local breastfeeding professionals, we finally found someone to help us. And the minute that she came we discovered that my baby had a tongue tie. She sent me to an ENT and that ENT cut the frenulum and that was the end of my problem. My baby latched on like you wouldn’t believe and the pain that I had on my breast for the longest time was gone immediately. Feeding my child out of my breast felt like I was in heaven. Breastfeeding allowed us to build a very strong emotional and physical bond. There are simply no words to describe it. ” – Liz, Pretty Mama Breastfeeding, LLC
“My son was born premature at 31 weeks and 4 days weighing 2 lb, 7 oz. He did not have the strength nor the reflex to suck at birth. He spent his first two months of life in the hospital. I pumped diligently, day and night, to provide him with all the benefits that only mama’s milk can provide. His nurses would give him my breastmilk via a feeding tube, until he became strong enough to practice and learn how to breastfeed. The first time he latched in the NICU was magical– suddenly, a light bulb went off and he just seemed to know what to do. He became more efficient and stronger in time, and I learned to trust the process despite an unusual start. We learned to breastfeed together, one day at a time, and it continues to be one of my greatest joys. He is now 12.5 lbs and thriving. Breastfeeding Elias and helping him to grow is the most amazing thing my body has ever done.” -Emily
“I’m a single mother of boy/girl twins who are currently almost 22 months old. I have been nursing since day one. It has been a huge struggle for me, but I’ve made it with support from a friend. I returned to work 2 months after they were born and had to pump. Pumping was not my friend. It seemed like I was pumping all the time, I would have to get up overnight to pump just so they would have enough for the next day. I was trying everything to increase my supply. I stuck with it, my babies are now thriving and I’m so happy I stuck to my guns.” -Jennifer
“I started breastfeeding in the hospital after birth and it was not easy, but I am so thankful for the nurse who helped me. Feeding became easy and I think it is very healthy for my child. It also gives me a chance to eat healthy because I know everything I eat he also eat. The bond we have is so special. People look at me crazy when they see me breastfeeding in public, but I think they are just uneducated.” -Sherrita
“My breastfeeding journey has been nothing but amazing! I have a supportive spouse who was breastfed as a child and remembers his mother breastfeeding his sister until the age of three. I have prior experience with breastfeeding my oldest son Iain who is now 14. He breastfed until he wad 18 months old. This experience has been different due to being a member of several support groups on social media with tips and feedback. My youngest son baby Iain is currently 2 1/2 years old and is still breastfeeding! He was born premature at 34 weeks and struggled with his latch due to a lip and tongue tie. However, his tongue was corrected and things have been smooth ever since. I worked with a lactation Nurse at Penn Hospital who was excellent she gave me tons of tips and also fitted me for my flanges so I would have a perfect fit while pumping. I had to pump every hour and a half in the NICU and breastfeed the baby every hour to help my milk come in. I was able to bring my little one home after three weeks in the NICU and once we came home I was back to being a pro. I love the experience. Every chance I get I’m supporting other mothers on their journey to breastfeeding. I’m currently the founder of Philly Moms Do Breastfeed, a breastfeeding mommy support group.” -Cheresa
I had the wonderful opportunity to document a mama using a supplemental nursing system to feed her baby donor milk and fo while she established her supply. This is her story:
“As a midwife, I knew breastfeeding could be hard, but it never occurred to me that it would be this hard. Weeks of toe-curling pain, agonizing over a tongue tie release, a bout of meningitis, and finally being told my 7 week old was hungry. Devastating anxiety washed over me. I was lucky: my husband and friends rallied around me. Two friends started pumping just for us. Now my baby eats mostly milk from my breasts. I pump multiple times a day, supplement at the breast with a Lact-Aid and occasionally give bottles of pumped milk and formula. Some days I’m angry that this is so hard. Some days I am scared that this will end too soon. Today, I am grateful that my baby boy wanted to nurse and hope he will tomorrow too.” -Sheila
We finished up and made our way to the train that would take us to the UPenn Love Park Sculpture. On the way, it was nice to capture something that Philadelphia moms can relate to: breastfeeding on public transportation.
When we arrived at the LOVE sculpture it was perfect!
I knew it would help to get our message across:
regardless of how you feed your baby
all that matters is the love between you!
“I am absolutely honored and blessed to have the opportunity to exclusively breastfeed my three children. I breastfed my 6 year old son and four year old daughter for 2 years. In addition, I am currently breastfeeding my 9 month old son! There were quite a few women in my life who breastfed their children;which motivated and encouraged me! Not to mention my husband and I were convinced it was the best and only way to feed and nurture our children. I am very thankful for the support from my husband and the Birthcenter. During my quest of breastfeeding I’ve always tried to encourage and support other moms along the way! Breastfeeding is so amazing and we are made to nurture our precious gifts!” -Akesha
“My Rai was born at 34 weeks and 2 Days. A feeding tube was placed because she wasn’t sucking. By the fifth day in the NICU she was eating from the bottle but not breast. I exclusively pumped for 3 weeks. Week 4 on a Tuesday I was determined to get Rai to latch. She cried, I cried. After 4 hours of starting and stopping Ms Rai began feeding from the breast. We’ve been going strong ever since.” -Tanqueray
“I have breastfed 3 of my own babies and wet nursed 5 of my own babies. All with different experiences. I gave birth on Sunday July 5, 2015 at 9:59am to Zaion Aiden weighing 5lbs 7oz at 37wk 6days. I was induced to to HBP. My baby stopped growing at 32wks and they never told me and they was watching him the entire 32wks via US. His latch was off and he was so small I had to use a nipple shield for a little bit. I stopped using the shield after 3wks and just nursed him ( oh it was painful) I endured the pain for 3mos not knowing what the issue was. I tried to give him a bottle he refused. I may have bought every expensive bottle on the market for breastfeeding. Until on day I joined a group on Facebook and came across the word tongue tie and lip tie. I began doing so research on them. We had every symptom reflux, mastitis, massive oversupply ( donated to 5 mommies) pumping 56oz a day and nursing on demand. Clogged ducts, nerve damage. I quickly set up an appointment to met with an IBCLC to confirm his ties. We did that but I decide to simply work on his latch and I did. Yet he had slow weight gain and my hand was forced to get them revised. We did so twice the second only three weeks after the first and it didn’t help he still not gaining so that wasn’t really the issue.
We nursed on demand his whole life while supplementing now with pediasure ( dr orders ) and very Little table food my Lil guy is 13 months and I’m proud of our journey. I have thrown myself into research and look forward becoming an IBCLC, a doula, and a midwife. I am currently a Correctional Officer and I have been on unpaid medical leave. I did return to work briefly as a pumping mama, expressing milk every three hours for my baby. My supervisors were very open to allowing me to do so. Sometimes as Correctional Officer we are the forgotten Law Enforcement Officers. I love what I do and just feel so grateful that pumping was never an issue at work. I want to be a voice in my community and help normalize breastfeeding. I want to be the face of normalizing breastfeeding in the city of Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania.” -Thelma
Meet Jabina, admin of our local chapter for Normalize Breastfeeding in Philadelphia. This is her story:
“My name is Jabina Coleman, I am a mother of two beautiful children a 12 year old son and 2 year old daughter. I know, what was I thinking! My babies are 9.8 years apart and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Although always interested in breastfeeding after having my son, and returning back to school to finish my undergraduate degree. I didn’t have the support I needed to successfully breastfeed him. Fast forward, about 10 years later, I delivered a healthy baby girl N. Mae on April 22, 2014. N.Mae, did skin to skin and latched on within the first half hour of life-of course she did, her momma is a Certified Lactation Counselor who teaches breastfeeding classes.
We exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life. At 12 weeks of life we had an in home nanny take care of her while I returned back to work. Returning back to work was one of the most challenging obstacles in our breastfeeding journey because I did not like to pump. It was messy and I could not keep up with keeping all the parts together and sterile. Although I work in a baby-friendly institution, with my own office and refrigerator, I could not stand pumping, which decreased the amount of breast milk available to her during the day. N. Mae was then given formula 1-2 times a day while I was at work and nursed in the morning and evenings. This went on until she was 11 months. At 11 months I began to introduce hemp, coconut, and almond milk. All of which she refused. Since one year of life N. Mae continues to nurse in the morning and evenings and all day on the weekends! N. Mae is 2 years old and continues to nurse and although I am exhausted on some days, I can’t image what life will be like when this breastfeeding relationship ends.” -Jabina
This lovely mama was our only mini session for the day. Her boys had lots of energy and were pretty excited once they realized that we were going to be taking pictures. Here is her story:
“The first time my son latch on to my breast he was a champ at nursing. Mommy on the other hand had no clue on how to properly hold him up or how to unlatch his jaws of life without him clamping down on my nipple. I also was feeding him every two hours leaving him latched for hour at a time. By day four my nipples were raw and bleeding I started giving him formula when I could not bare the pain of latching because I had no breast pump and hand no knowledge of hand expressing. By day 6 he had nipple preference and no longer would take the breast, I had stopped formula at this point because I had a breast pump now so I exclusively pumped for 5 weeks until one day I skipped out on pumping to take a shower while my little guy napped and he woke up screaming for his bottle. I jumped out the shower nipples leaking and he actually grabbed my breast and latched onto my nipple by his self. I was shocked and amazed! We have been nursing champs since its now been two years. We are not weaned and not trying.” -Melissa
On Sunday morning, I had the rare opportunity to capture someone so full of beauty AND strength: a breastfeeding jiujitera. This mama not only devotes her time to her family, but she also trains Brazilian Jiu Jitsu several times a week. Her four year old nursling is familiar with these surroundings, and even when mom is “wet and gross” that doesn’t stop her from requesting a quick sip of mama’s milk when she needs it!
“She’s my third, after tandem nursing twins for almost three years. This time around, it felt so special and relaxing to be just breastfeeding one! We had some rough spots – I got mastitis at 1 year and developed an abscess that needed surgery. That was partly due to working and the time pressures of my job making it hard to pump, and partly because I practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and had an injury to my chest. Never thought about weaning, though. This time around, I’m going to let it come to a close gradually, in its own good time. She’s my last baby, so I’m feeling very aware of how fleeting and special these moments are.” -Ann
Sponsor A Participant
Human Milk News graciously sponsored our tenth Philly participant and helped open the five scholarships available to moms in financial hardship. Human Milk News shares content and thoughtful opinion focused on the marketing and commoditization of human milk. Human Milk News is curated by Jodine Chase, public relations and communications consultant specializing in issues and crisis management news analysis.
You can collaborate with the #NBFtour to Sponsor a participant or Sponsor a City!
Thank you Philly mamas for nursing in public and helping to normalize breastfeeding!
Special thanks to all of the #NBFtour collaborators for helping to make this tour great!
Sarah Carp, 1st grade Teacher (3)
Kristyna Cleek, Studying for IBLCE (1)
Greater New Orleans Breastfeeding Awareness Coalition (1)
Nurse Nikki, LLC (1)
The Badass Breastfeeder (2)
Human Milk News (1)
Laura Corsig, IBCLC (1)