It’s the 9th year of Black Breastfeeding Week and we are grateful to speak with NyJa Carter to celebrate. This year, the theme is The Big Pause: Collective Rest for Collective Power. This week #BBW21 honors the need for rest. We hope to inspire you to create #BBW21 events that speak to the power of rest in our lives and movement.
The Washington, DC area is full of amazing moms: working moms, stay-at-home moms, single moms, moms of multiples, foster moms, adoptive moms, etc. We want to highlight some of those moms like NyJa Carter! Each month we feature one special mom as the mom of the month. Know a fellow amazing local mom here? Nominate them here!
Meet NyJa Carter: August Mom of the Month with a highlight on Black Breastfeeding Week!
NyJa Carter is doing it all! She is married to her college sweetheart and a #boymom to two amazing IVF babies: Lennox is 2 and Lance is 2 months.
She is currently a stay-at-home mom, but her passion and focus is Minority Maternal Child Health. NyJa has a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation Services-Mental Health from the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore and a Master’s of Public Health from the University of New England.
To bring together her passion and education, NyJa started a brand called Nubian Nurtures that focuses on breastfeeding, Infertility (shining a light on IVF & IUI in the black community) and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
NyJa is also working on her IBCLC (Lactation consultant certification) so she can be the representation that the Black community needs to increase breastfeeding in our culture. We are grateful to celebrate Black Breastfeeding Week with her.
Here is our Q&A with NyJa Carter about her breastfeeding journey and Black Breastfeeding Week:
What do you feel are the most important reasons for breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding has three major beneficial components and that’s the emotional benefit, health benefit and financial benefit. The emotional benefit is the physical contact that mama and baby receive from one another. It helps the baby feel secure, warm and comforted when they enter the world. Skin to skin contact boosts oxytocin levels which also helps breast milk flow.
It can decrease postpartum depression and stress the mother may have dealt with otherwise. Not to say that if you do not breastfeed that you will be diagnosed with postpartum depression or become stressed, but studies do show that breastfeeding decreases the chances of those two mental health issues.
The health benefits with breastfeeding are simply that they support your baby’s growth, brain development and lessens their chances of having allergies or common colds. It provides the ideal nutrition that a baby needs in the first 6 months of life. Breast milk has high protein, low in sugar and loaded with antibodies to help the baby fight off viruses and bacteria.
Financially? Well, breast milk is free. Pumping takes time and almost every insurance provides you with a free pump. Making it easier for mom to share the work of feeding while still giving their baby breast milk.
How has breastfeeding your children impacted your life?
Breastfeeding my first son was rough because he was born with a humerus fracture in his right arm. It took 6 months to fully heal so it took time to be able to fully get the hang of how to hold him during feedings. I went through a lot of guilt if I didn’t feed him exclusively because I think I was trying to make sure he wasn’t thinking about the pain in his arm or think somehow that I was the cause of his pain so I didn’t introduce bottle feeding until 8 months. But it allowed me to understand more in depth the value of breastfeeding because Lennox healed so fast and till this day has not gotten sick where he was so out of commission he just wasn’t himself. My two month old came out in 20 minutes and immediately latched so it was a breath of fresh air to not have to deal with any broken limbs.
Breastfeeding has been a gift in my life. It has given me my purpose in life and that is to educate other women on the benefits of such a natural act. It’s helped me understand why my ancestors, nana and mother did not breastfeed and why I made it my purpose to do so. It has taken up a lot of time in many instances throughout my days and weeks, and sometimes made me feel like I couldn’t do anything else but pump or breastfeed, but once I got the hang of it and understood that I was doing what is best for my child, I stopped being hard on myself and it made me get excited about doing it past the recommended 6 months. I breastfed my first son for 14 months and my newborn is exclusively breastfed currently.
The black community has specific issues that affect breastfeeding rates, did any of those affect your decision to breastfeed?
I wrote my thesis for graduate school on Breastfeeding among African Americans in lower income communities in the United States, and one of my main points that I focused on was the generational curses of breastfeeding. A long time ago, Black women were known for nursing. In fact, slave owners used and purchased black women as wet nurses for their own children, often forcing these mothers to stop nursing their own infants to care for others.
My great grandmother had 4 children and my grandmother had 7 and neither of them breastfed. The reasons were because it was looked upon as “poor” if you weren’t able to afford formula. That meant that you had no choice but to breastfeed, therefore it was a negative act rather than a positive. Then I moved to South America and saw a different story. Women were so open about feeding their children by way of breastfeeding that they don’t even cover up. Their grandparents and elders promote breastfeeding and provide resources and support to do so. Therefore, I knew when I had children that I wanted to break my family’s curse in believing that breastfeeding isn’t a good thing or that it’s not beneficial for my children.
How do you encourage other black breastfeeding persons in their journey?
I started a brand called Nubian Nurturers (@nubian_nurturters) that will provide lactation support and maternal health advocacy to women of color. I am currently studying for my lactation consultation certification (IBLCLC) and have previously and currently helped mother’s in my community with lactation. I have participated on panels for the Colour Me Confident Organization during their annual women’s month event, recorded and provided an essay for Letters to a Black Mama for Mamatoto Village and hosted a Live for District Motherhued discussing breastfeeding and infertility — just to name a few.
Can you share some difficulties you had on your journey?
Because I was an IVF mom and have PCOS I was told that I may not be able to breastfeed because of my insulin resistance and all the hormones that had been injected into my body during my IVF journey. When I had my first son he entered this world not breathing and had to be rushed up to the NICU so I wasn’t able to latch right away. It took a week for me to get the hang of it and learn correct positions that were comfortable for the both of us since he had a humerus fracture. We both ended up fighting through it and getting the hang of it 2-3 weeks after birth with the help of a Boppy and nipple shield and we knocked out 14 months of breastfeeding together!
How have you/will celebrate Black Breastfeeding Week?
I will be celebrating by posting knowledgeable information on my Nubian Nurturers page, attending the annual Boobies in the Park with District Motherhued, helping some moms-to-be with purchasing the best breast pumps and bottles in case they choose to bottle feed with breastmilk instead of exclusively breastfeeding.