Whether you are an expectant mother or a woman who plans to have children in the future, at some point one of the most important decisions you will make is whether or not you will breastfeed your child.
Breastfeeding is fundamental and can contribute to the quality of life and connection between a mother and her child. It's one of the reasons why Ashley Wright's journey through life and motherhood hits home for women who happen upon her site and become avid readers -- because it is a journey that is easily relatable from one woman to the next.
Ashley Wright is the mother and force behind Ms. Wright’s Way, a website featuring a timeline of her life and moments of others; a space filled with experiences, lessons, teachings, and laughter. She calls it a resource for all.
After a video of her engaging in pole dancing with her toddler daughter nearly went viral, Ms. Wright has continued to vocalize her thoughts on the importance of breastfeeding and self-actualization. During mass reports of indecency and violating protocol on social media, Wright has remained an advocate for natural feeding and has advanced forward in shedding light on the subject.
“Breastfeeding is deeper than just nutrition,” she says. “We continue to post, to build. Facebook taking me down for posts that obviously didn’t violate community guidelines doesn’t stop us from progression and ascension. It doesn’t stop us from sharing truth.”
And Wright is persistent in getting that message out, even if it means having to breastfeed a sleepy toddler during a speech at a convention.
"And when it comes to breastfeeding on stage, well, many people talk the talk, yet do not walk the walk. Yes, we are told often, "breast is best." They can read journal after journal, one pamphlet after another with an abundance of written text, however, people are not seeing it. They are not seeing how to incorporate this new stage of life into their current routine, without losing themselves. I’d like to think of Ms. Wrights Way as a resource of "'Yes, we can! Watch me!'"
Through national speaking engagements and public appearances, Ashley Wright has gained a massive following of over 135,000 followers on her Instagram account, mostly fellow mommies who aren’t afraid to pop their bosom’s out publicly. Through that alone, the need to stop the message–the truth–hasn’t ceased. In her interview with xoNecole, Wright delves into her personal need to share such an intimate moment with her daughter on social media, breastfeeding during a convention as the speaker, and of course, pole dancing and why she won’t slow down anytime soon.
Why did you decide to breastfeed your daughter, and more so, publicize your journey as a breastfeeding mommy?
I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed as a mother. I was made aware that this was something you do. Prior to having my own child, I had yet to see the act take place, yet I remember conversations about mothers trying to breastfeed or having breastfed for a certain amount of time. Being a fairly healthy consumer of foods, aware of nutrition, I knew this was what was necessary for my child.
When I decided to share my journey, breastfeeding was something that was a part of it; an everyday act. I didn’t see it as anything to hide and initially I wasn’t aware that public breastfeeding was considered indecent. To a pole dancer, with videos dropping it like it’s hot to the floor in a split and everyone cheering, the notion that breastfeeding is indecent, was essentially a joke to me.
The backlash on social media resulted in your Facebook account being blocked and shut down. Every time, you went back and shared additional footage of you feeding your daughter. Why were you adamant on getting this message of breastfeeding out?
I was adamant because I saw us as women suffering. I saw our babies suffering. I saw our whole family suffering. This was something that I can identify and relate to because I once was a person who suffered; sat in the suffering and didn’t even know I was suffering.
[Tweet "I once was a person who suffered; sat in the suffering and didn't know I was suffering"]
We as women–and I state "we" as I speak with the village and a multitude of other women who support Ms. Wrights Way–are aware that when you are not breastfeeding, nor supplying breast milk to a child, it is not ONLY the child that is being slighted. The mother, too, is missing what is so essential to her health as well.
It is no secret that postpartum depression is high here in the states. Even worse, the Black infant mortality rate is just down right SCARY. Part of balancing out the chemical makeup, the hormones in the woman’s body after birth is through breastfeeding. When a woman is breastfeeding, she is releasing oxytocin–the feel good hormone. Breastfeeding just doesn’t keep her physically healthy, as it contracts the uterus back in place along with reducing risks of major illnesses, it supports her mental and emotional health as well. It is a sacred act that is vital in establishing a healthy foundation for child and continued health for mother; for thriving and for survival.
Ms. Wrights Way isn’t solely about breastfeeding, which is why so many women, along with myself, fought to keep it up and running. My overall message is wholistic living, self-care, and love. I have stated many times before if you unapologetically love yourself, you no longer compromise the quality of care for your love ones and those around you.
[Tweet "If you unapologetically love yourself, you no longer compromise the quality of care for your loved ones and those around you."]
Have you ever received negative comments publicly in the street about feeding your daughter? How do you handle the attention?
Not to date. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t hesitate to say, “you gon learn today.”
Let's talk about the importance of Black Breastfeeding Week that passed (August 25-August 31). There's been comments that the need for the word "black" to be there is unnecessary. What are your thoughts on that?
The comments that Black Breastfeeding Week, emphasis on the Black, is unnecessary doesn’t strike a chord with me, nor does it surprise me, which is why I do not make statements debating, nor addressing them. I am completely aware of white privilege and racism as a system, so I am not at all urged to seek approval from many of my white brother and sisters who do not agree or become uncomfortable with BBW.
During this week, they (meaning my white brothers and sisters) can either support or state what they must. The focus is reaching those who closely resemble me. As long as my melanin brothers and sisters feel supported and encouraged to breastfeed, increasing the rates from what we have now, then I am happy. That is the focus and concern for that week; Not, who doesn’t get it.
You also received some national coverage of you pole dancing in your home with your daughter watching close by, and even picked her up at one point and continued on. What do you want your daughter to know about that moment given the negative stereotypes surrounding pole dancing?
I want her to know mommy loves playing with her and dancing with her, and will always make a conscious effort to be present with her, with us. I would like her to see that we are not defined by other’s opinions, nor should we feel shame from others, including shaming ourselves. I want her to see ME. All of me and know that I feel no reason to hide myself from her.
It’s just dancing. And it was you wanting to dance with your mother, with the pole or without it. That’s the beauty in being a woman; the great multi-taskers that we are.
What I love is that you continue to defy these norms with public breastfeeding and pole dancing. What do these things do for you, personally? Is there a sense of fulfillment that comes from partaking in these things behind closed doors or publicly?
Public breastfeeding is attending to my child and I, while we are out and about. Pole dancing is a passion of mine, a way to express myself through movement with grace and strength. When I am dancing, I feel understood and allow that movement to resonate with whomever, however.
Whether done at home or publicly (social media included), it is a projection of my freedom. And it most certainly is me feeling myself due to all the feel good hormones that are being produced during these acts.
I willingly share my life, in complete transparency and vulnerability to be light for all those who seek it, who need it. All are welcome to be lost in this love.
What will you tell your daughter about sharing those intimate moments with her publicly?
Intimacy doesn’t necessarily mean private and it is certainly subjective, depending on how one perceives/defines it, such as hugging, kissing etc. Breastfeeding my child is not a private act, nor is it an indecent one, yet I understand others may perceive it that way.
[Tweet "Breastfeeding my child is not a private act, nor is it an indecent one."]
In sharing our moments, I pray she will see and understand us being chosen to help guide and heal, sharing the power we possess to be of encouragement and strength to the people, to our village. An aid in a much needed shift during our current times of self-hatred, high racial tension, misogyny and artificial living. I pray she understands under my guidance, the importance of support, growth, and true connection through vulnerability and transparency, yet still respecting her boundaries. For one cannot love without being transparent and true with self.
Ultimately, I pray she continues to know mommy loves her and is doing the best she can with what she knows, at any given time. The sharing of our moments is a projection of that–to share love, life, and freedom for all.
As a parent and an avid user of social media, we're advancing as a society that's increasingly dependent on technology. But because our children will be raise in a world entirely different from ours, the need to be more protective than ever is real. By you documenting these moments of you connecting with your daughter, what do you think you're showing her about our bodies on the Internet?
I am showing her our bodies are amazing and we can do whatever the hell we want with it. It is yours to own, no one else. Honor it!
Your speech at the WIC Conference was focused on help and support systems, and you spoke about your own experience of "finding comfort in a WIC office." There's this longstanding stereotype of WIC recipients being unemployed women that are depending on the government. What was your experience like and what are some things they spoke to you about in regards to being a first-time breastfeeder?
My experiences with WIC as a participant, as well as, a partner in organizing awareness events, have been very pleasant. They have been extremely instrumental in building my knowledge and awareness on what breastfeeding is and looks like amongst our communities nation wide.
When I was a participant of WIC, they were adamant about breastfeeding and really excited that I wanted to breastfeed. The Breastfeeding Peer Counselor assigned to me, had nursed her children up to age two, so she was very supportive. It was her duty to inform me of what to look for in diapers, invite me out to peer groups to discuss, teach me nursing cues of when my baby wants me, and to always nurse on demand. She also informed me of proper nutrition and healthy foods.
What many are unaware of is, that WIC also provides food vouchers for many people who do work and have jobs. Yes, there are income requirements, yet, with the current state of unemployment and the high cost of living, I do not waiver on the message of reaching out for support. The last thing a person should have to worry about is food, and allowing shame and embarrassment to prevent them from seeking out available resources.