Since May is the month of honoring Mothers and the Maternal figures in our lives we decided a great Mom to honor as May 2012 Breastfeeding Mother of Color of the Month would be a very special "Mom" to us here at The Abiyamo Omo Society, Rita "Mu Shemsu-t" Stewart. She has been our guiding force and strong advocate throughout our journey and, of course, she is a huge breastfeeding advocate. We thank her for her love, advice, guidance and embrace of our work and organization. She is not only a blessing in our lives but the lives of so many as a Life Coach and community activist. Read her story and you'll be surrounded by inspiration.
Rita "Mu Shemsu-t" Stewart
Executive Life Coach - Owner Master Force, Inc - Specializing in Leadership and Community Education
Your children and their ages
Rute' 34, Tia 28 and Zekur 16
How long did you breastfeed?
I breastfed the youngest child until he was 2.5, the oldest until he was 14 months and my daughter until she was 18 months.
How did you know to breastfeed?
I lived in LeMars, Iowa when my older two children were born. During my prenatal care I was introduced to an organization called La Leche League. They provided information on what I needed to nurture my breast while I was pregnant and then later coming to the hospital and my home supporting me with lactation.
Please explain to us your overall breastfeeding experience.
Breastfeeding was an instinctive choice for me because I wanted to provide my children with the best possible immune system as well as insure they didn't struggle with obesity which was a huge issue in my family. I used breastfeeding as a time for me to bond with my children while at the same time practicing breathing and relaxation for myself. My older two children did not use bottles or pacifiers, while my youngest only took one bottle a day when I returned to work when he was 3 months old. At the time, his father was an at-home-Dad for the first 3 years of his life.
How were you inspired by your breastfeeding experience?
I am still inspired by my breastfeeding experience because, for the most part, my children have stayed healthy their entire life. We had no emergency room experiences when they were growing up because their immune systems were high. We also did not do vaccinations for them either. They were raised as vegetarians with all of them having about 5% body fat to contend with. They are physically beautiful and healthy. And all three (3) of my grandchildren have also been breastfed by their mothers.
Were there any obstacles you had to overcome during your breastfeeding experience?
The obstacles that I had to overcome mainly tended to be with my Chicago family when I came home to visit. There were always people teasing me whether it was with my family or from observers in public. LeMars was a child friendly community where breastfeeding was part of the norm, so I became rather comfortable whipping out my breast anywhere to nurse my children. When I would visit Chicago there was always a bit of a to-do with folks asking me to step into another room or turn away. But I didn't let that deter me very much. I would throw a blanket over my shoulder and keep nursing. However, I became very aware that the culture of family and children was not incorporated into the mainstream thinkers in Chicago.
How do you think being a Mother of Color effects your breastfeeding experience?
Medical school teaches from the prospective that most patients are of Caucasian matter, therefore very little is studied or applied to the existence of melanin in our bodies. Subsequently, the darker you are the more melanin you possess. A lot of the medication and vaccines given to our children run counter to the melanin we have in our bodies causing many adverse affects. This is now part of the genocide we are experiencing in our communities. It therefore becomes my responsibility to be very authoritative about the well being of myself, my children and my family because Western Medicine is not designed to forward our wellness. Breastfeeding then becomes the first approach to implementing this theory, the second is high quality nutrition and water. As mothers we must get back to the establishment of well being in the home. We are the first ones to loose in the battle of life, just like the depiction in the movies.
What are some of the ways you inspire other mothers to breastfeed and get the word of encouragement out in the community?
I inspire others from the mini blogging that I do on my Facebook page. I also teach a class called, "The Spiritual Path of Parenting" which discussions many of the practices I spoke of above. In my own family, I have advocated breastfeeding consistently and many of the mothers did choose to do so even if were only for the first 6 months. I will do more with this as time moves on.
Rita "Mu Shemsu-t" Stewart lives in Chicago but works with people all over the world as a Life Coach. Her passion is working with teenagers and healing communities through meditation, workshops and motivational speeches. Mu Shemsu-t has a blog radio show http://www.blogtalkradio.com/mushemsut and an eBook called "Patiently Waiting for Nothing". You can also follow her on Twitter @mushemsut.