Doubling Down with the Derricos: Mom of 14 Karen Opens Up About Why She's a Breastfeeding Advocate
"I found out how so many people in my community don't do it. And I just want to remove that stigma of sexualizing it and making it where it's uncomfortable," Karen Derrico tells PEOPLE
Before becoming a mom to 14 children, Doubling Down with the Derricos' Karen Derrico didn't know if she could get pregnant.
"It's such a blessed feeling to be able to not only want children, but to be blessed to have children. And also we've been on both sides of this, not knowing if we could, and then God opened up the baby gates and now we're having them," Karen, 41, tells PEOPLE.
The stay-at-home mom and her real estate investor husband Deon Derrico — who return to TLC on Tuesday with season 2 of their family reality series — are parents to Darian, 15, Derrick, 10, 9-year-old twins Dallas and Denver, 7-year-old quintuplets Deonee, Daician, Daiten, Deniko and Dariz, 4-year-old Diez and Dior, and 1½-year-old triplets Dawsyn, De'Aren and Dyver.
Although breastfeeding wasn't a method modeled to Karen when she was growing up, that "bond" was something she wanted and set out to do with all of her children.
"It is so important for me to talk about it. It's funny because I started this journey, like I said, not knowing if we'd be able to have children. And I remember one of my prayers was, 'God, oh, if you just bless me to give birth, I'm going to do everything right like a mom is supposed to do.' And breastfeeding was No. 1," she says.
"I didn't have no one that I could model behind within my family to say, 'Hey, how was it like breastfeeding?' It was something that I just naturally wanted to do. And I thank God that it happened naturally for me," says Karen.
Having had preemie babies of her own, Karen says she realized "how important it is for mothers to breastfeed."
While learning more about it, Karen also discovered how uncommon breastfeeding is for those in her community. "Then I found out how so many people in my community don't do it," she says.
Now a self-proclaimed breastfeeding advocate, Karen wants "to remove" any stigmas surrounding the natural mother-baby feeding process. "I just want to remove that stigma of sexualizing it and making it where it's uncomfortable," she says. "This is something naturally that God made our body be able to produce."
But for mothers who aren't able to breastfeed, or don't desire to, Karen is supportive of whatever choice is best for them and their family. "There shouldn't be any judgmental thoughts given to people, to women, who do not want to do it or who cannot do it. It shouldn't be that way," she says.
"I did it with all 14 of my children and I had to do it differently when it came to Dawsyn. I had to pump and then give it to her because of what she went through with having her open-heart surgery," she explains about her 1½-year-old daughter.
Standing beside and supporting Karen in her advocacy is her husband Deon, 50, who also felt bonded to his wife and children by watching her breastfeed.
"For me, it is such a connection that I have when I watch my baby bond with her. And then it's like, we together the three of us ... we will all bond together. And it's such a heartfelt moment for me," he says.
"I can't imagine how we got in this topsy-turvy way of people being offended to see something so natural that God blessed us with so naturally, happen. ... That's why God produces it that way. So for me, it makes me love my wife that much more, just watching. And she's teaching our babies how to love all of us," adds Deon.
So what does Karen enjoy most about breastfeeding? "The bonding I love. I just love everything. I love my baby looking up at me. I love the feeling of being wanted and I'm the only one that can do it," she says.
For women who are feeling uncertain about beginning their breastfeeding journey, Karen encourages: "You can do this."
"I went through this with 14 children, multiples, having a baby [Carter] pass away, other two thriving. I still had to live for them and produce for them," she says. "So it's a journey to every mother if they can, they should take and there's support out there."
She's also grateful for the connections she's established with her fans and supporters.
"I thank God that I'm able to relate to so many of our supporters out there on all levels with that, losing a child, having miscarriages, having a baby pass away after birth," says Karen, adding, "I mean, those are things we don't like to talk about, but it feels good that you can come into my circle and feel safe talking about it, and we can relate.
Doubling Down with the Derricos premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on TLC.
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