Monica Haywood is a researcher by nature. When she became pregnant with her daughter, she read all of the baby books.
She read about prenatal vitamins, proper nutrition, prenatal appointments, etc., etc., etc.
“I wanted to do everything right,” Haywood says.
Sometime during her second trimester, her focus narrowed in on breastfeeding. She was familiar with the stories her mother told about breastfeeding her, but she wanted to know more. Haywood attended La Leche League of Louisville meetings and scoured websites for infant feeding information.
She felt prepared and laid out a plan to breastfeed her baby for three months.
“Little did I know, the journey was slightly different,” she laughs. “You can read, read, read, but be prepared to pivot on things that you may have read about.”
Baby Noelle was born in 2017 and instead of breastfeeding for the planned three months, Noelle and Haywood nursed for 34 months.
Haywood says that while exclusive, natural-term breastfeeding was sometimes challenging like balancing her baby’s needs and self-care and managing other people’s perceptions mostly, breastfeeding created a sense of empowerment and bonding.
Haywood shared another connection with Noelle through her love of books early on.
“She was only a couple months old and my husband and I were reading books to her,” she shares.
“[Reading] helps with language development, and we also thought it was important to find books that she could relate to… characters that look like her and that can relate to her experience,” Haywood continues.
She found that most children’s breastfeeding books were geared toward weaning, but she was looking for something that celebrates the breastfeeding journey, something that could capture what she and Noelle were doing.
And when she couldn’t find it, she created it. Haywood wrote Noey Loves Nursing, a colorful book that commemorates her nursing journey, celebrates a diverse character, and educates and brings awareness to extended breastfeeding.
“I wish I could get it in the hands of every breastfeeding mother!” Haywood exclaims.
The book is highly admired by younger readers including her daughter who Haywood says is really excited by the book.
Another young reader, Blake, shares his reading of Noey Loves Nursing @readingwith_blake.
“When I saw [the video], it literally brought me to tears,” Haywood says. “It’s just awesome.”
Before COVID-19, Haywood enjoyed sharing Noey Loves Nursing at in-person gatherings like LLL Louisville’s Live Love Latch during National Breastfeeding Month and Healthy Children Project’s International Breastfeeding Conference. She’s also shared her story with local WIC offices.
This summer, Haywood adapted to Zoom and Facebook Live events to celebrate Black Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month with her book.
Haywood looks forward to the United States Breastfeeding Committee’s (USBC) National Conference in 2021 where she hopes to bring her mother and Noelle– three generations sharing their breastfeeding journeys.