In honor of Black Breastfeeding Week (August 25-31), MomsFirst is proud to introduce you to a participant that has gone above and beyond for her daughter.
Rayleenah Saleem is an extraordinary mom. With a glowing smile, Rayleenah tells the story of how the birth of her daughter changed her life. As a sophomore in high school, Rayleenah found herself pregnant. Faced with the decision keeping her baby, she decided to follow through with the pregnancy even with fear creeping inside her. “It was worth it even though my life would have been easier without her. I was doing a lot of things I wasn’t supposed to do. She changed me for the better. It is a blessing in disguise.” she said.
Not only is Rayleenah a mom, but she also managed to earn her GED, she works from home and has been breastfeeding her 22 month old daughter Noureyah since she was born. After being referred to MomsFirst by a friend, Rayleenah found the benefits of the program to exceed her expectations. Getting one on one support from her Community Health Worker, Jennifer Reuter from MomsFirst's Adolescent Component at the May Dugan Center, has proven to be a wonderful experience. “I felt very proud of how strong she was and adamant she was when it came to giving her child only breastmilk,” said Reuter.
The relationship that Community Health Workers like Jennifer build with women make it easier for them to open up and feel empowered to take charge of their health. “I tell her things that I feel like she has more experience in. I am definitely trusting of her, I love her.” said Rayleenah.
For many moms, getting the support they need from people they can trust is difficult. The MomsFirst team works hard to build trusting relationships to provide this support. For breastfeeding mothers like Rayleenah this support makes the choice to breastfeed much easier. “I had no other option. I’ve seen my mother and sisters breastfeed. It came naturally. I was breastfed by my mother for two years.” said Rayleenah. Even though Rayleenah was educated by hospital staff about breastfeeding, she still had strong support from her mother. “There is nothing that they could tell me that I didn’t already know. My mother told me everything. She was really my backbone.” she stated.
Breastfeeding is a rewarding experience but it does not come without challenges. Jennifer is proud of Rayleenah for her dedication. “Breastfeeding is a hard challenge for anyone but especially for a teenager trying to balance everything in life with breastfeeding”, said Reuter. Some challenges moms may encounter include breastfeeding in public, balancing breastfeeding while working, deciding when the time is right to discontinue breastfeeding and practicing self-care.