Tag Archives: breastfeeding

“Mother is Worthy to be Praised”

This Memorial Day Weekend I went to see Dance Africa at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.  As usual, the dances were amazing.  What stood out to me most, though, wasn’t the dancing at all.  Through the clapping, shouting and audience participation, I noticed the stretchmarks on one of the dancer’s bellies.  Things suddenly began to move in slow motion for me, almost like when Maria and Tony see each other at the dance in West Side Story.

I realized that I was watching a mother, and suddently felt some cosmic connection to her.  I began to wonder whether her children were in the audience, how old they were, or if any were possibly sharing the stage.  I wondered how she was able to find time to do something so magnificent with herself while conducting a family.  I wondered whether or not she raised her children, or if they knew how talented their mother is.

At the end of the show I stood in applause. Of course, the round was for all of the dancers, musicians and singers who graced the stage.  There was, however, a special beat in my heart in praise of the woman I had identified as a mother.  I’m sure she wasn’t the only mother on the stage.  In fact, the audienced was sprinkled with mothers holding small – and not so small – children.  If I was surrounded by mothers, what made this one so different?

During a time where it’s almost impossible to watch television for an hour without a cocoa butter or other stretch creme commercial promising to help women either prevent or erase their stretch marks, I found it amazing that this mother proudly bore the marks of her birth(s).  Just as waist beads, hair style, or jewelry denote status and rites of passage for women in traditional African cultures, so, too, do stretch marks. 

Watching this mother’s belly flap to and fro across the stage brought me back to the precious moments immediately following birth where a woman bonds with her baby face to face for the first time, and took me to the moment that I observe in so many women when they realize their bodies have undergone an amazing change; she not only birthed her baby, but she birthed her motherhood as well.  So, I stood and clapped that Monday afternoon in praise of motherhood.

These last few days I’ve been in reflection mode.  In reviewing both business and personal goals, the one thing that keeps coming back is the Yoruba proverb that’s the inspiration for my doula practice:

Oria bi iya ko si, iya la ba ma a bo

There is no Orisha like mother, it is mother who is worthy to be praised.

Praise mothers.  Praise them for the weeks they carry and nurture their children in waiting.  Praise them for the sleepness nights they endure for so many years of their lives.  Praise them for the decisions they make that often leave them holding the shortest stick in the bunch.  Praise mothers, simply because they are worthy to be praised.

Preconception Planning

We often tell mothers to treat their bodies well while pregnant, but what about women who are trying to conceive (TTC)?

This article from MayoClinic.com has some great information about getting your body ready for pregnancy, but there is so much more to consider!

In my mid twenties I was the take-out queen.  I ate frozen pizza at least 3 nights a week, and delivery or drive-thru the other 4.  Cooking was a rarity that occurred on special occasions, and I thought the lettuce that came on my burger was a sufficient vegetable substitute.  For breakfast I’d have a roll with sausage, egg and cheese, or a bagel topped off with cream cheese – if I had breakfast at all.  I’d drink 3-4 cups of black coffee throughout the day, and eat a ton of sweets.  I didn’t think that I was doing that much harm to my body, because on the outside I looked healthy.  Oh, and did I mention I smoked?

As a part of my spiritual journey, I learned to take better care of my body.  I started cooking more often, and even brought my own lunch to work.  Bringing healthy snacks saved me from the drive-thru by giving me something to eat on the way home from work, and the temptation to stop became easier to resist.  And then I discovered free-range and organic food…although I continued to smoke.  Quitting was a tough battle to fight.

Now, when I cook, just about every meal has at least one vegetable, and often it’s a leafy green.  I stopped shopping at big chain supermarkets so my sweet tooth wouldn’t cry out for attention at the turn of every aisle.  I would say that 90% of what we eat in our house is organic, we don’t keep soft-drinks around, and the majority of our sweets are homemade.  It’s definitely not easy to eat healthy in African-American communities; not because people don’t want to, but because there are simply no healthy choices available.  Fruit stands are sometimes far and few between, and those that exist often have fruit of sub-standard quality.  Grocery stores don’t sell free-range or organic, and there are more fast-food joints (owned by outsiders to the community) than bookstores or libraries.  I was the fast-food queen in my twenties, because that’s all that I knew.  If I didn’t have a car, I would be stuck shopping at major chain supermarkets that are within walking distance with very little choice for whole foods.

Why am I ranting about supermarkets and diet?  It all goes back to what we learned as children: you are what you eat!  Eating healthy, staying hydrated and getting exercise are key to getting our bodies ready for the miraculous task waiting ahead.  If you’re TTC, the planning is so much more than charting fertility and falling in love with baby names.  The healthier you are, the better your conception chances.  The healthier you are, the healthier your pregnancy and subsequently your baby.  Don’t wait until you find out that you’re pregnant to get your body together; do the research and holistically prepare.

When my wife and I decided to start TTC, I became meticulous about my diet.  I’m not the biggest fan of pills, so I do admit to not being so great about taking vitamins.  However, I use herbs and try to eat well to give my body what she needs.   Here’s what I eat just about everyday to give you an idea:

Breakfast – oatmeal & almond milk

Snack – fruit

Snack – mixed nuts

Lunch – Soy yogurt & granola, or left-overs, and fruit

Snack – fruit

Dinner – starch, poultry or fish & vegetables

and TONS of water throughout the day.

and I quit smoking!

Not so bad, huh?  It just takes a little planning to treat your body well.  There have definitely been days when I rushed out of the house without enough snacks to get me through the day, and reasoned that stopping for fries wouldn’t be so bad (that is, until I read this article about fast-food decomposition).  But, most days I’m pretty on point.  With perinatal mortality rates where they are in the United States for Black women, we can’t leave anything to chance.  It’s never too late to get it together, but please get it together.

The Importance of Breastfeeding: a Traditional Yoruba POV

In planning my childbirth education classes, I’ve been reading every book that I can get my hands on.  One of the few books I’m reading at the moment is Ikunle Abiyamo by Ṣ. Ṣolagbade Popoọla and Fakunle Oyesanya.

When it comes to traditional African practices, we often get the “what” but not the “why.”  The what, in this instance, is breastfeeding.  We know that many African mothers breastfeed until their children are toddlers.  We know that the research and recommendations tell us to exclusively breastfeed our babies for their first six months of life, and to continue to at least their first birthday when possible.  We know about the developmental and nutritional benefits to babies who are breastfed.  What better arguments could be made?

…Ifá says that a child who fails to suck the mother’s breastmilk will find it extremely difficult, if not totally impossible, to have the type of spiritual elevations comparable to those of his/her colleagues who had the benefit of sucking their mothers’ breastmilk – 172

This is written negatively, so let’s flip it and make it plain and simple: Ifá says that a child who is fed breast milk will find spiritual elevation with ease.  I think that’s amazing!

So what?  For starters, families raising their children following Yoruba traditional religion (and variants, Lukumi, Candomble, etc…) take the spiritual lives of their children very seriously from the moment they are born.  Mothers may undergo rituals to ensure the well being of the baby while still in the womb.  Some families will whisper prayers into the baby’s ear welcoming her into the world for having traversed a safe passage (from Orun to Aye, Heaven to Earth).  Some families will consult with a priest through divination to have a better understanding of the child’s destiny and to choose a name that befits the child.  We want the best for our children, and that includes what’s best for them spiritually.

It’s no mistake that sexual intercourse is discouraged in Yorubaland (and probably elsewhere) for as long as a mother nurses; we don’t engage in sexual activity when we’re involved in spiritual work.  Our vital life force energy (aṣè) changes, it shifts and divides when we share intimacy, so the aṣè must be preserved and enhanced to be effective.

Yoruba traditionalists (and variants) have quite the challenge maintaining an ancient lifestyle in our modern world.  After all, Yoruba traditional religion isn’t just “what you do on Sunday,” it’s how we live everyday.  Sometimes we forget that our bodies truly are our temples, and how important our spiritual energy is in everything we say and do.

Now what? Formula boasts of being able to be nutritionally just as good as mother’s milk.  Until they can figure out the chemical makeup of spiritual enhancement, I’m not convinced.