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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.