"My sister got me breastfeeding. I saw how easy she had it, no bottles, no formula. When her first baby wouldn't latch, she pumped milk for him to give him the immunities till he latched.
"Breastfeeding's easier after you get going. At night, you don't have to get up. We keep her in a bassinette by the bed, and I pull her into bed with me, nurse her and feel close, then put her back. It's a sweet time."
Erica Mason, 25, of Charleston, is a WIC breastfeeding counselor for Valley Health. Her mother, Annette Mason, nursed her, and Erica nursed daughter Jazmin.
"Back when I was nursing my daughter, I didn't have a car, so I carried her with me everywhere. I got so good at breastfeeding in public, sometimes people wouldn't even know I had a baby.
"I kept her completely covered in my Moby wrap, strapped to my body so my hands were free. I could even shop while I was nursing her. When she got hungry, I'd adjust her to where she needed to be, and I'd be walking down the middle of the mall, shopping bags in either hand, nursing away. Nobody had a clue.
"Older women noticed sometimes. That's all. Us breastfeeding moms, we're so modest and discreet, sometimes I think it keeps people from getting used to it. They don't know a breastfeeding mom just walked past them.
"Comparatively few black women breastfeed. I've thought about that a lot, because we have health problems it could help with.
"It's not a simple question. Years and years ago, in slavery days, a lot of African women had to nurse babies for their masters. A stigma got attached to it. And people think it's what people beneath you do, that you're poor and powerless if you breastfeed. Generation after generation, those ideas get engrained until we can't really say what's going on.
"My mother's family couldn't understand why she wanted to breastfeed me. They said if she wanted to know about breastfeeding, to go ask the hippies. She read books and called the LaLeche League.
"As a coach, I try to help mothers look clearly at the pluses. I try to dispel myths they may have heard. But it is a very emotional decision, with a lot mixed into it. Sometimes fathers don't want the woman breastfeeding, the 'that's my playground' kind of thing.
"These days, educated women with money are most likely to breastfeed, but people still have the idea that if you breastfeed, it means you don't have the money to afford formula.
"It's generational. If my mother had gone along with her family, she would have taught me to bottlefeed. A lot of young mothers, all they've seen is bottles, and nobody's ever told them there's a difference."
At 39, CaCoe Manley is studying forensics at West Virginia Tech, while daughter Kiara, 5, attends kindergarten. She had her fourth child earlier last week.
"My mom was a nurse. She breastfed me a few weeks, then quit when she went back to work. Back then, they didn't let women pump milk on the job at all, so when my mom went back, she pretty much had to give up breastfeeding.
"That's starting to change. I'm 39, and I breastfed my first three kids. With the new baby, I'm more aware of how it benefits me, the mother. It lowers my breast and ovarian cancer risk. I'll lose weight faster. Breastfeeding uses up calories.
"It's comfortable and easy for me. I'm glad to doing it again. It's hard to describe the closeness you get with your baby, physically and emotionally. I think it's made them closer to me when they got older, too.
"I'm a student at West Virginia Tech now. I plan to find a private place to pump milk at school and put it in bottles for the baby. A mother needs to be relaxed for her milk to drop.
" I think more people are getting used to it. They're realizing it's good for babies.
"I went back to school so I could get a better job and salary. It's now or never. I was at Mountain State University, but I'll finish up at Tech.
"I watch what I eat while I breastfeed. I want my milk to be as good as it can be for my kids. They're hardly ever sick. I like to think I helped give them that."
Doddridge County native Maggie Sammons, 30, left her job as a Charleston grade school guidance counselor to be a fulltime mom for a few years.
"I was breastfed, so I never thought of doing anything else. That's what I knew. He had latching problems at first, but my mom was there, saying, 'Well, let's try a pillow here or prop him up this way and see how it works.' So I was lucky. Women used to do that for each other all the time.
"I'm not trying to make a point with breastfeeding. I just decided it's best for my kids. Sometimes mothers who bottlefeed get defensive. When I say I breastfeed, they'll start justifying bottle feeding, and I'm thinking, 'Hey, I didn't say anything against it.'
"I usually say, 'Well, that was your choice, and this was mine' and try to leave it at that. I don't want to argue.
"I want my baby -- and myself -- to have the health benefits. I love doing it too. It's our quiet time together. It's so soothing.
"It's not as hard as some young mothers fear. My first one, I was stressed about feeding him in public, though I always covered up. With my second one, it's not that way. I'm usually with friends, and I'll say, 'I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to nurse now.' I don't say, 'Do you mind?' because I'm going to do it. When he's hungry, I feed him.
"Maybe people are getting used to this. I've never had negative reactions. Sometimes I do get little approving nods, often from a woman, like she's saying, 'Good for you!'"
Reach Kate Long at katel...@wvgazette.com or 304-343-1884.
This ongoing project is supported by the Dennis A. Hunt Health Journalism Fund, administered by The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.