The physicality of being a woman can be challenging — because our bodies are both sexual and functional, many of our body parts have dual purposes and we are often made to feel ashamed for that. The situation gets even more challenging when a woman is sexually abused, and becomes a mother later on. The emotional challenges of giving a child access to breasts, stomach and other sensitive body parents can be overwhelming.
Actress Tisha Martin Campbell recently spoke out about being raped at age 3 and how that affected her ability to breastfeed her first child;
It would affect me with breastfeeding my children. I didn’t want to with the first one because I felt like I was going to hurt him. You know, that kind of thing. It’s surprising how things kind of pop up out of nowhere. I didn’t know why I felt uncomfortable doing that. I didn’t want to do it, and I felt like it was a lot of pressure for me to do it. Finally, the pediatrician was like, “Can you just stop trying? Because the baby can see your angst.” So I took the pressure off of myself, and it was easier to do it with my second child because I knew what it was then.
The percentage of black women who breastfeed is lower than white and Hispanic women. And while there are a number of reasons for this including lack of hospital support, lack of education and strenuous work schedules, sexual abuse might be another reason to consider.
In an article for Babble.com, mommies who have suffered abuse share how challenging things like co-sleeping and breastfeeding can be;
Tonia, a mother of two small children, tried to breastfeed her first child but found it very uncomfortable. She was abused by an older relative as an adolescent and while that isn’t the only reason she didn’t enjoy breastfeeding, it played a big part.
“I breastfed my daughter, but the sensation of nursing and having to give my body over so completely and constantly was extremely unpleasant for me, ” she said.
Tonia planned to breastfeed her second child as well, but right before he was born she had second thoughts.
“Just the thought of doing it all over again, and this time with a 19-month-old [to take care of as well], made me so anxious that I broke down crying one night and decided I would be going straight to formula.”
She’s happy she made that decision, and is now very passionate about parents being able to choose how to feed their babies without any judgment.
Of course there are mothers who are able to breastfeed with little to no issue after suffering sexual abuse, but it does help to be aware and sensitive to mommies who may be struggling.