Celebrating Black Breastfeeding Week
August 25th – 31st is Black Breastfeeding Week and we are here to Revive. Restore. Reclaim! In this article, we look at the history and importance of the campaign and share 10 ways you can get involved.
Black Breastfeeding Week is upon us and we have Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka, Kiddada Green and Kimberly Seals Allers to thank for pioneering such an empowering week of educating, advocating and celebrating. Passionate about changing the narrative around Black breastfeeding, these women have worked non-stop to impact positive social change.
Now in it’s 8th year and with the theme of ‘Revive. Restore. Reclaim!’, Black Breastfeeding Week aims to end the gaping racial disparity in breastfeeding rates while also encouraging diversity in the lactation field.
For far too long, Black mothers have not been given the tools, resources and support needed to help them breastfeed their infants. From maternity wards being more likely to offer formula than lactation support to the need for Black mothers to return to work soon after giving birth, the systemic and historic hurdles the Black community faces every day needs to be addressed.
With the benefits of breastfeeding being ample…
- Lower infant mortality rates
- Encourages better perinatal health (The act of breastfeeding stimulates the uterus to contract, reduces post-delivery blood loss and reduces the risk of postpartum depression.)
- Reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer
- Reduces the risk of SIDS
- Reduces the risk of childhood obesity
- Boosts infant immune systems
- Is more cost-efficient than buying formula
…it’s more important than ever to help amplify Black Breastfeeding Week messaging and voices.
Black Breastfeeding Stats according to the CDC
- 75% of white women have ever breastfed versus 58.9% of black women.
- Among all infants born in 2015, black infants had a significantly lower rate of any breastfeeding at age 3 months (58%) than did white infants (72.7%). At age 6 months, the rates were 44.7% among black infants and 62.0% among white infants.
- Increased breastfeeding among black women could decrease infant mortality rates by as much as 50%.
Black Breastfeeding & COVID-19
Sadly, statistics are heading in the wrong direction due to COVID-19. The Black Breastfeeding Week website states:
“While breastfeeding rates are increasing, data trends show that the racial disparity gap is not closing and in many instances that gap is widening. COVID-19 has tragically exposed the unfortunate impact of racial inequities in health for black communities.
These inequities have led to black communities being disproportionately impacted by the virus, resulting in a lagging recovery or even death and the familial disruptions accompanied by major illness and loss. Furthermore, COVID-19 has forced the disruption or discontinuation of evidence-based interventions for black breastfeeding support, including those recommended in the Surgeon General’s Call To Action, such as peer-led support and community-based interventions.”
BBFW Co-Founder, Kimberly Seals Allers, shares her top 5 reasons for supporting Black Breastfeeding Week…
1. The high black infant mortality rate
Black babies are dying at twice the rate (in some place, nearly triple) the rate of white babies. This is a fact. The high infant mortality rate among black infants is mostly to their being disproportionately born too small, too sick or too soon. These babies need the immunities and nutritional benefit of breast milk the most. According to the CDC, increased breastfeeding among black women could decrease infant mortality rates by as much as 50%. So when I say breastfeeding is a life or death matter, this is what I mean. And it is not up for debate or commenting. This is the only reason I have ever needed to do this work, but I will continue with the list anyway.
2. High rates of diet-related disease
When you look at all the health conditions that breast milk—as the most complete “first food,” has been proven to reduce the risks of—African American children have them the most. From upper respiratory infections and Type II diabetes to asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and childhood obesity—these issues are rampant in our communities. And breast milk is the best preventative medicine nature provides.
3. Lack of diversity in lactation field
Not only are there blatant racial disparities in breastfeeding rates, there is a blatant disparity in breastfeeding leadership as well. It is not debatable that breastfeeding advocacy is white female-led. This is a problem. For one, it unfortunately perpetuates the common misconception that black women don’t breastfeed. It also means that many of the lactation professionals, though well-intentioned, are not culturally competent, sensitive or relevant enough to properly deal with African American moms. This is a week to discuss the lack of diversity among lactation consultants and to change our narrative. A time to highlight, celebrate and showcase the breastfeeding champions in our community who are often invisible. And to make sure that breastfeeding leadership also reflects the same parity we seek among women who breastfeed.
4. Unique cultural barriers among black women
While many of the “booby traps”™ to breastfeeding are universal, Black women also have unique cultural barriers and a complex history connected to breastfeeding. From our role as wet nurses in slavery being forced to breastfeed and nurture our slave owners children often to the detriment of our children, to the lack of mainstream role models and multi-generational support, to our own stereotyping within our community—we have a different dialogue around breastfeeding and it needs special attention.
5. Desert-Like Conditions in Our Communities
Many African American communities are “first food deserts”—it’s a term I coined to describe the desert like conditions in many urban areas I visited where women cannot access support for the best first food-breast milk. It is not fair to ask women, any woman, to breastfeed when she lives in a community that is devoid of support. It is a set up for failure.
10 Ways to get involved with #BBFW20
#1 Make being a Black Breastfeeding Week Sponsor an annual commitment.
#2 Donate to the Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association.
#3 Attend a Black Mother’s Breastfeeding Club online event! View the calendar here!
#4 Visit MomsRising.org and TAKE ACTION.
#5 Buy and read The Big Let Down: How Medicine, Big Business, and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding by Kimberly Seals Aller.
#6 Buy and read Free To Breastfeed: Voices of Black Mothers by Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka & Jeanine Valrie Logan.
Here you will discover virtual events to attend, helpful breastfeeding information and links to more #BBFW collaborator content.
#8 Listen and share the Dem Black Mamas Podcast x BBFW ‘BBW COVID-19 and Race & Liberation Series!’
#9 Subscribe to Women’s eNews.
#10 Nominate a Black woman for the Milky Mama Scholarship Fund
The new fund will pay for the certification courses and exam fees for aspiring Black lactation consultants.
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- Looking for breastfeeding essentials? Check out The Tot Nursing Shop!