If you didn’t already know, we are currently in the midst of Black Breastfeeding Week. This week takes place during the last week of August, which is National Breastfeeding Month. As a Black mother and Lactation Consultant, this week is very special to me. This post is all about sharing WHY!
When I had my first baby in the final week of August 2015, I knew I wanted to breastfeed her. I worked as a Mother/Baby RN so I felt that I knew a good amount of information about the benefits of breastfeeding. When it was time to actually breastfeed, I needed more help than I thought.
I never saw anyone breastfeed an infant until I was in nursing school. I had never seen or talked to a family member about breastfeeding. My mother did not breastfeed me or my brother. When it came to personal examples of breastfeeding, I had none. When I finally did see examples and images of breastfeeding women, none of them were women of color. None of the lactation educators or specialists were of color either. When it came down to the overall topic of breastfeeding, I was not fully educated on the subject. I, like most people, assumed it was easy and natural.
Once breastfeeding became a little more difficult than I expected, I reached out for lactation support. I was fortunate enough to have the knowledge of outpatient lactation support because of my career. I was also fortunate enough to have the financial means to afford a lactation consultant. Had I not already been a nurse, I often wonder what I would have done when breastfeeding times had gotten more difficult? Would I have known to reach out for help or would I have thrown in the towel?
Because I didn’t have any friends with kids or any family that knew of breastfeeding, I wonder if I would have blown it off altogether. Would I have attempted to breastfeed and inevitably give up due to lack of familial support or lack of knowledge and tools of lactation? I can’t look back and play a game of “what if”. The reality is that my breastfeeding experience was a very positive one. I know that not every Black woman can say the same.
There are a lot of reasons to celebrate and advocate for Black Breastfeeding Week. This article discusses several of them. I highly recommend that you read it. Black Breastfeeding Week not only raises awareness of the high mortality rates in black infants or the low breastfeeding rates in black women; It raises awareness on the high premature birth rates, increased Sudden Infant Death Syndrome rates or the prevalent incidence of asthma, type II diabetes, and obesity. This week showcases the socioeconomic factors that contribute to the lesser breastfeeding rates. The fact that some mothers don’t have the resources or jobs that allow them to continue their breastfeeding journey. It also shines light on the lack of breastfeeding representation in the black community, from breastfeeding mothers to lactation specialists.
For me, Black Breastfeeding Week is about community. It’s about bringing awareness to something that a lot of black women don’t think about as option for their child. This week is about showcasing other black women and sharing the representation that black women also breastfeed their children. (You would be surprised at how many people of color have openly asked me: “isn’t breastfeeding for white people?”). It’s about reflecting and re-writing cultural narratives related to breastfeeding. If one simple week of awareness can raise breastfeeding rates in the black community, that is an incredible win for us all!
I am a woman who breastfed both of her babies. I later went on to become an IBCLC. I’m so proud to carry both titles, Breastfeeding Mom and IBCLC. With those titles, I’m here to motivate you all to celebrate and learn more about Black Breastfeeding Week!