Janel Vee tells mothers they’re doing just fine

Janel Vee breastfeeds her infant daughter outside at a bus stop.

This article is a part of the Normalizing Breastfeeding in Michigan Series with the Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association. Preview the full series. 

All of the mothers in Janel Vee’s family breastfed their children, so when Vee became pregnant with her son at 20 years old, she knew she wanted to breastfeed. She tried, but he wouldn’t latch and Vee didn’t know how to remedy the situation. “I didn’t know how to latch him on. I didn’t have the experience of actually nursing him, so I pumped to feed his milk.” Vee pumped for four and a half months.

Five years later, when Vee became pregnant with her daughter, she wanted to try to breastfeed again. “I was so determined to latch my daughter on because I wanted to give her that. I felt like I gave up with my son and I didn’t want to do that again.”

Janel Vee breastfeeds her infant daughter outside at a bus stop.

When six months pregnant with her daughter, a nurse from the Maternal Infant Health program recommended Vee attend the Breastfeeding Club at Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association (BMBFA). BMBFA is a nonprofit in Detroit, Michigan, that supports Black families by reducing racial disparities in breastfeeding. The Breastfeeding Clubs are held twice a month allowing mothers to gather in a shared space to share breastfeeding stories, resources and support.

Vee attended her first club and has been attending ever since. “Every time we had a meeting I would come in with different questions each time. I would do my own research. I was looking up which pump is best, which bottle to use. I was really, really, really determined.”

Janel Vee breastfeeds her infant daughter outside at a bus stop.

Breastfeeding hasn’t always been easy. Vee remembers what it was like to breastfeed her daughter for the first time. “I’m not even going to pretend like this whole thing has been rainbows and butterflies. The first week it was so hard and, like, my breasts were so sensitive, my nipples were so sensitive, and I had this hungry baby just chomping away. And I dreaded feeding her. It wasn’t easy at all. It gets easier, though.”

"I really just tried my best. It had been five years since I had a baby and I really wasn’t all that confident with the way that I breastfed my son."

Vee is thankful she has a supportive network of friends and family. She lost her confidence when she breastfed her son, but since connecting with BMBFA, she is proud to be an advocate for other mothers. “I advocate for it so much. So since I’ve been comfortable with it, I talk about it just about everywhere, on social media platforms as well.”

Janel Vee holding her baby girl closely to her chest. Baby has a nook in her mouth.

Vee has a goal to breastfeed her daughter for a year. She has since returned to work — at the same facility where her daughter attends childcare — which helps. She’s approaching nine months and still going strong.

Vee often answers questions and concerns of worrying mothers. If there is one piece of advice that Vee finds herself telling other moms, it is to stop worrying.

"Just stop stressing about it. Don’t stress at all. You’re doing fine."

Janel Vee holds her infant daughter in front of a bus at a bus stop.
W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

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