Something that is so natural, a gesture that is meant to connect a child to their mother, to nurture, to feed, to comfort, has become such a highly criticized event in our country recently. It seems that everyone has an opinion (even those who do not have any children) on how a woman should feed her child. To cover or not to cover. How long is too long? Whether or not a woman should breastfeed in private or public.
How did breastfeeding become such a mess?
I will foreshadow this interview with this: if you find yourself uncomfortable seeing a little boob, go ahead and turn the other way. Believe me, Ashley Wright and Shannon will not mind. Ultimately though, I hope this interview gives some powerful insight to those who find themselves on the fence about breastfeeding. Just remember, we all did it once upon a time. Go ahead and hug your mothers.
Ashley Wright joins us to share her platform, Ms. Wright’s Way, and why she is a major player in the advocacy for pro breastfeeding.
Black Moms Blog: Hi Ashley! Thank you for sitting down with Black Moms Blog. You are one of the most beautiful and controversial advocates for breastfeeding. What propelled you on this path?
Ashley Wright: Thank you so much. There are so many factors that play into this path turning into my purpose and now this budding brand. Yet if I have to choose on what started this advocacy, I would have to say me just sharing my thoughts, feelings and stories on Facebook free of shame, which in turn attracted others who wanted to live courageously, especially those who breastfeed.
BMB: Being a mother definitely awakens a fire in most of us. What all does your brand, Ms. Wright’s Way offer?
AW: Ms. Wrights Way offers a space of encouragement, healing, inspiration and love; truth.
It is a brand, a village of compassion, courage, bravery and authenticity. It is a blueprint of my life shared to unite us as people, for growth and awareness. And the beauty of my brand is that it resonates with people differently and serves whatever it is they need at the time.
BMB: I became familiar with you a couple of years ago when I saw a photo circulating on the Internet of this badass mommy at the beach doing pole aerobics while breastfeeding. It was you! I reposted the photo and it was met with mixed reviews. Most of my audience was very supportive. How do you deal with the negativity that comes your way?
AW: I don’t deal with the negativity. It doesn’t serve me. At times I will find myself being petty, entertaining myself by questioning those who shame me. However, it is not something that stays with me once I log out of my social media apps. I understand that everyone is just processing as best they can. I don’t take it personal at all.
BMB: I think that others fail to realize that you are a “real” person by some of the comments I have seen posted on your Instagram page. Recently you uploaded a video sharing a very genuine moment of weakness you were having about the struggles of being a single mother. So many people were touched by your message of needing encouragement. What provokes you to be so transparent with your audience?
AW: The reason I am so transparent with my audience is because I have no desire to obtain nor entertain false connections, nor am I ashamed of who I am. As you said, Ms. Wrights Way is my life; it is me.
And How do I grow, connect and build with a village who cannot see me; truly see me… The woman that I am… The mother that I am.
We cannot feed nor uplift one another if we are too busy pretending and living behind a mask. How can you truly be inspired and receive my messages, my lessons, my love, if I am trying to throw a blanket over your head. The process, is such an integral part of the lesson. I can easily tell you all kinds of things. Yet, how do you apply this information, this awareness, this truth, if you do not see me actually living it? The transparency is a way to completely show someone, that yes it is possible and I am not just blowing smoke up your ass.
BMB: There is so much truth in that statement. I believe your honesty and transparency is really was has propelled you so far in your advocacy. People are drawn to the rawness of your platform. Even still, breastfeeding can be so intimidating, especially in our community. What advice would you offer for the breastfeeding Black mom?
AW: I would tell her breastfeeding is so cool. That trusting her body and her baby will take her family to places of joy she has yet to experience. And that however I can support and serve you, please reach out and I most certainly will do what I can.
BMB: I read in your Yahoo article that you come from a very conservative Christian family. What is their reaction to your breastfeeding journey?
AW: Ahh, I see you have been following me for a while! Well as you can see I am a very confident, direct individual and my family does not say much to me about it. I know that at one point they had some reservations about it and have expressed such with little side comments when she hit around 6 mos. Yet, they are not at all interested in debating with me about it.
Im assuming my wit, my tenacity and my “stand up for your rights” type attitude, just has them in a space of Ashley is going to do what she wants.
However, they come to my breastfeeding events and praise me as a mother; even on camera in my most recent documentary with Discover Channel International. With Shannon being three years old, and them being so proud of her development, social skills and health, it really is not a big deal.
BMB: I am laughing a little bit right now because your personality is so strong. I can almost picture the dynamic held between you and your family. Beautiful, yet strong. Loving but very direct. I imagine that is necessary in your advocacy as well.
I breastfed my daughter, Kamryn, until she was 6 months old. I honestly found it hard to keep up with it because I was not properly educated and did not feel support when it came to breastfeeding. Do you believe that there should be more in place for pregnant mothers when it comes to educating them about the pros of extended breastfeeding?
AW: I absolutely believe that there should be more in place for pregnant mothers, especially in regards to breastfeeding and allowing a child to self wean. I do believe that my page has been a resource for so many mothers and I am always being tagged and mentioned at conferences, meetings, house meetings even between couples and now mentioned in a few Thesis papers and college classrooms, when discussing feminism and breastfeeding culture.
To be a mother of color, demonstrating power as a nurturer and a sensual woman, I truly believe that the shift we desire in breastfeeding/parental/community support is here, is growing tremendously. I know for certain I am doing all that I can to ensure of it.
BMB: Your beautiful daughter, Shannon, just turned three years old! Have you thought about how long you will allow her to breastfeed?
AW: Girllll, Crazy right?! I have a three year old. The thought of how long I will breastfeed Shannon occasionally crosses my mind when I read comments or If I am holding her in my arms and she asks for which boob she wants. And then just like that I am onto something else. How long I will breastfeed her is not really a concern of mine, because I know if at any time I don’t want to do it anymore, or the relationship is no long mutually desired, it will end. Simple.
BMB: What overall message would you like to convey to your audience as to why it is you do what you do?
AW: I share because it has been put on my heart to, as a chosen vessel to help heal and restore balance. Shannon is a healer. We either are a part of the problem or a part of the solution. So may all look at my page and feel joy and know, yes you can.
BMB: Where can people find you to follow your journey?
AW: Facebook: www.facebook.com/MsWrightsWay