Meet Dania Delone, one of Lincoln's culturally diverse CBEs
How old were you when you breastfed your first baby?
The first time I breastfed I was only 14 years old and a sophomore in high school. Shortly after giving birth to my daughter La’Shai, I was asked if I’d like to try and breastfeed her before they took her to the nursery. So I did.
I did not breastfeed her again until a few hours after my milk came in, which was early the next morning. By then I was extremely engorged since La’Shai was born around 9 am the day before.
I wonder now as an adult about the way I was treated in the hospital as a teenager. I wonder if I had been older if they would have encouraged more skin- to-skin contact? I also felt as though it was their choice as to when and how long MY baby could be in my room in my arms.
If I had been given my baby earlier, I think I could have begun to express some milk. Instead I left the hospital engorged.
Was anything hard about breastfeeding the first time around? Where did you find support?
The hardest part about breastfeeding my first baby as a teenager is that I didn’t feel as if I had the support that I needed. I was a teenager at that time so it wasn’t like I had a network of women my age to rally around.
Looking back I am surprised that I breastfed my first baby. My mother breastfed, but other than that there weren’t very many examples for me to learn from. I was a teenager and breastfeeding wasn’t something that was a normal practice, or anything the kids my age wanted to be a part of, or even witness. I feel that it really takes a lot of courage, dedication and effort to breastfeed your child no matter who you are.
The biggest support I had at the time was my from mother and Vicki, who was my Lamaze teacher, and also worked at MilkWorks. One part of Lamaze is to talk about the natural order of life: Breastfeeding! Vicki shared a lot of useful information with me and ultimately was the one who brought me to MilkWorks and encouraged me to never give up! I’m very grateful for all of her support; it made a world of difference.
What was it like breastfeeding your next two children?
I have breastfed two other children since my first baby. These experiences have been very different, partly because I was no longer an inexperienced teenager. I have more knowledge and a vast support group! I experienced infertility between my first two children and they are 10 years apart. So when my second child was born, breastfeeding was very significant to me and I wanted the best of everything for my son. I breastfed him for almost 18 months longer than my first child.
My third child was tongue tied. Which meant that his tongue could not extend far enough and the strand of tissue underneath needed to be clipped in order to prevent future speech impediments and potential latching issues. I do feel that this may have caused a few issues within the first days and week.
I also found out that I was producing so much foremilk with my third baby that my hind milk (which is the fattier milk) that your baby needs wasn’t getting to my baby. He was not gaining weight so we had to weigh in every three days for the first month of his life. In the end, YES I can say it has been different breastfeeding my next two.
With my second and third babies, I have friends who also breastfeed their babies. A lot of them will call me for advice as they say that I’ve been breastfeeding for so long. With my first baby, I did not have any friends who breastfed their children.
As a teenager, we are heavily influenced by social media and all the images of what a young woman should resemble. I don’t know any teen moms who felt that their pregnancy was a glorified event in their life, so in a way why would they want to give or provide their child with something that typically or at least at our age was a symbolic image of “motherhood,” which we were too young to understand or appreciate?
Not everyone was on a level that I held myself to. I grew up and understood the new life I had set forth to provide, others looked at their gift as a burden and adding breastfeeding at that age would be out of the question.
What do you think makes it hard for moms to breastfeed today?
I think there are so many reasons why it may be easier for some moms and much more difficult for other moms when it comes to breastfeeding. I had three children and all three experiences have been different and some better than others. I can’t say that one of them has been any easier than the other. For me it’s all depended on the different life circumstances and my personal preference and the support I had.
Sometimes it can be the smallest things that make breastfeeding easy or that make it one of the hardest things ever! For example, how often your baby eats, to where you are when they are hungry, to having a comfortable place to feed, the noise in the area, how stressed you are, how comfortable you are holding your baby. After breastfeeding two babies, and currently breastfeeding my third, I can still say it all really just depends on you and your baby.
The breastfeeding rate for African American women is lower than for some other moms. I think this may be because a high percentage of African American moms are either single moms, or live in poverty. Both of these can limit their positive exposure to other breastfeeding moms and keep them from learning how to breastfeed. Or they may be a teen mom, like I was, and do not feel they have the support a woman needs or deserves.
Moms also have to deal with the need to return to work and the ability to have time to pump in their workplace. Staying home for a longer period of time with their newborn babies is not something that’s just handed to us or we’re so commonly blessed with. African American teen mothers I feel are at an even lesser advantage. Not only are they now ripped from their education but put into the position to fend for themselves and provide for their young.
I’ve always felt if a teenager is getting pregnant what support does she have that point, honestly? Do we really think that after she gets pregnant that she gains an abundance amount of support or confidence? We need to take our blinders off and look at it from a generational standpoint. This is a continuous cycle. Honestly, what example do they have to learn from?
Why did you become a Community Breastfeeding Educator?
I stopped by MilkWorks to weigh my third baby and Ann Seacrest approached me. After we spoke for a while she shared that there was going to be a new project that would serve breastfeeding moms in the community.
To me this was incredible. It turned out to be something I have been thinking about and needing for myself all this time. As we finished our conversation she asked me one of the most honoring questions I had been asked to this day. She asked, “Would you consider being one of the community breastfeeding educators?" And without a hesitation I said, "Yes."
Now I am honored to be part of MilkWorks and supporting my community of breastfeeding mothers. I want to use what I've learned and pass on my experiences to other woman who may need a little extra support during one of the most critical times of her life and the life of her newborn.
I think the most rewarding thing about helping other mother’s breastfeed is being able to hold the power that helps fuel a future! I’m a person with a big heart. In this day and age it’s rare that you find the experience of helping someone as rewarding as the time and effort you put in to it. In so many ways I feel that this project has provided me the opportunity, as well as all the other women in the group, the opportunity to not only connect, but to relate to a group of woman that we hold a personal connection to. We all strive to belong to groups in our society, but why not strive to be a part of something that can help define who you really are and the character that you are pouring into our world!
What is the community of moms that you most hope to impact as a CBE?
I have embarked on a new journey with Lincoln Public Schools’ Infant and toddler and parenting programs. I will spend time in our high schools, as well as take part in the one on one home visits with some of the teen moms. This relationship with LPS and their teen/parenting program is a special one to me. At the age of 14 I became a teen parent and the support was slim to none. I was blessed to have been introduced to a woman who has been very influential throughout my adolescent years and into my adulthood. Her name is Shari Hutchinson! She worked with my daughter and me when I was a teenager. Today she is still doing this for teen moms here in Lincoln. I really like that I am able to bridge a connection between the importance of breastfeeding and early childhood development and that I may be able to impact the lives of young women (and mothers) in our society.
What is one thing that you would say to moms if you knew they were seeking support or reassurance when it comes to breastfeeding their baby?
One thing I would say to a mom is that the process of breastfeeding is just that: a process. No one is a winner or loser, this is not a race, it’s just a beautiful journey that you and your baby will embark on together to benefit the current and future lives of each other. Give your child the best you can and know that it’s more than doing nothing at all!
What else would you share about you and your passion for breastfeeding and your work as a CBE?
I couldn’t stress the importance of Support. I want to give a huge shout out to my husband, Darren. He has been my leading source of encouragement. He has also grown into a breastfeeding advocate. He constantly tells me that I am the best mom in the world for what I do (breastfeeding) and he loves to tell others and show others how much smarter and advanced his children are because I breastfed them. He continually tells me to put breastmilk in our food or making sure I give him his shot (of milk, of course) daily.
Breast milk has been a natural cure in our home. Our oldest has eczema, which is an extremely dry skin condition. We have spent thousands of dollars trying to treat it, and one day I decided to use breast milk on one of her flare ups. It worked, it actually worked!! The flared area reduced in size and inflammation, the only side effect she said was that it was a little itchy.
I also found a group on Facebook and they are called Black Woman [Do] Breastfeed. This is one of the most encouraging support groups I have found that dives deep into the enrichment of African American women. They hold their organization to a few standards which I’ve listed below. As an African American woman, I am dedicating myself to the same values and standards.
- Eliminate stigma against breastfeeding in Black communities
- Educate Black communities about the importance of breastfeeding
- Educate Black families on the elements of breastfeeding
- Support Black breastfeeding families on their breastfeeding journeys
- Increase the visibility of Black breastfeeding families in our communities
- Improve the rates of breastfeeding in Black communities
Thank you, Dania! Lincoln is lucky to have you as a Community Breastfeeding Educator!