Why Do We Need Black Breastfeeding Week?

image credit osaze_akil via: Instagram

The stunning header image is by osaze_akil via Instagram. See more of his work here.

If you're thinking, "Why do we need a Black Breastfeeding Week?" this is a good place to start

While World Breastfeeding Week commences in August, Black Breastfeeding Week is right now, August 25-31. 

From the Black Breastfeeding Week website:

It's the 5th annual Black Breastfeeding Week. This year, we say #BetOnBlack because of how our families and those that love and support them keep showing up and shining. That's #winning.

Want more information? Check out the top five reasons we need a Black Breastfeeding Week.

I'm here for it. 

Why? 

Black women and their babies deserve it.

Black women are less likely to initiate breastfeeding than other races. From 2000 to 2008, only 58.9 percent of black women initiated breastfeeding. Compare that to the 75.2 percent of white women and 80 percent of Hispanics, and I think we can agree, this is a community of women in need of support.

In 2013 the CDC suggested that Black mothers may need more, targeted support to start and continue breastfeeding. Despite reduced infant mortality rates overall, the gap between Black infants and infants of other races remains wide. We know that increased breastfeeding can help lower infant mortality rates, why wouldn't we give our hearts and resources to these moms and their babies?

They deserve it. 

You may have seen the photo below shared on social media. 

 

I SUPPORT #BLACKBREASTFEEDINGWEEK August 25-31 - One of the reasons that we need a black breastfeeding week answered by Kimberly Seals Allers @iamksealsallers - "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." #carriagehousebirth

A post shared by doulabliss (@doulabliss) on

An important part of honoring Black history is to be aware that, historically, Black women were often forced to wet-nurse the babies of slave owners. 

From Kim Sears, regarding the 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."

♦♦♦

I asked a friend of mine, Erica, to share what she'd like the world to know about being a Black breastfeeding mother.

Here's what she had to say:

"Folks always say to be the change that you wish to see, so I am doing just that by being unapologetic and bold with sharing my breastfeeding journey. If I can help even just one Black person to know that breastfeeding is beautiful and attainable, to see images that are positive of a Black mother proudly breastfeeding her child, then I know I am doing the right thing. Representation matters."

Unapologetic and bold representation. 

Isn't this really the key with so many things in life? Mental health. Bodies. Breastfeeding. 

When we see each other, we see ourselves. And when we see ourselves, we know we are strong and capable and worthy.

photo from Tiffany Atkins

Tiffany had the following thoughts to share about Black Breastfeeding Week:

"I am a black woman for whom breastfeeding did not come easily. With my son in 2013, and now with my 8 week old daughter, I have struggled with a low supply. However, I was determined to breastfeed my children. After connecting with black breastfeeding communities on Facebook, including Mahogany Milk and Breastfeeding Support for Black Women, I have been able to continue my breastfeeding journey!

It is vitally important that black women see and hear the successes and struggles of other breastfeeding black women, to know that they are not alone, and to be assured that we are enough for our babies. Because many of us are the first in our families to breastfeed, we not only struggle with representation in the media and literature, but with the lack of information from our matriarchs. 

That is why Black Breastfeeding Week is important. It centers us, supports and educates us, and shows us that #BlackWomenDoBreastfeed, and that its always safe to #BetOnBlack. "

Whether you're exclusively pumping or exclusively breastfeeding; have a stockpile of liquid gold, or struggle to produce any milk at all, every drop of mahogany milk counts. It's the only "one drop rule" that matters. 

I grabbed a few photos from Instagram this morning. I hope that you can see these women. 

Black Breastfeeding Week has its own set of hastags: #betonblack and #bbw17.

 

I want the best for my baby. Every three hours around the clock I'm hooked up to my pump. I never miss a scheduled pump time even in the middle of the night . Every week I'm making some type of lactation cookies, oatmeal for breakfast everyday , I drink water like a fish. Over the past two months I was able to store away over 1000oz of breastmilk for Nora to eat when I return back to work and school all while nursing her. Im dedicated to providing my baby with the nutrition she needs , I trust my body and know this is what I was made for. When people say I'm lucky to have this supply I simply tell them I'm not lucky I'm blessed and I work really hard to get where I am and will continue to do whatever it takes to keep my girl fed . #blackmomsbreastfeed #pumpingmom #breastisbest #breastfeeding #breastfeedingmama #normalizebreastfeeding #breastfeedingmoms #liquidgold #upandup #lansinoh #medela #natural_mommies

A post shared by Nia Malika  (@_naturally.nia) on

Moms like Nia and Erica are willing to be seen and heard. This is how we make change, one person at a time. 

For more information and events in your area, please visit the Black Breastfeeding Week website.

And another image from the artist responsible for the header, osaze_akil, a 20-year-old Pan African artist from Atlanta.

 

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