Mamas on Bedrest: Why there is a need for “Black Breastfeeding Week

August 18th, 2016

Hello Mamas,

Black Breastfeeding Week is August 25-31, 2016. Many may be asking, if August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month and August 1-6 was World Breastfeeding Week, why is there a need for a Black Breastfeeding Week???

According to organizers Kimberly Seals Allers, Kiddada Green and Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka,

Black Breastfeeding Week was created because for over 40 years there has been a gaping racial disparity in breastfeeding rates. The most recent CDC data show that 75% of white women have ever breastfed versus 58.9% of black women. The fact that racial disparity in initiation and an even bigger one for duration has lingered for so long is reason enough to take 7 days to focus on the issue.”

And the organizers cite 5 specific reasons a Black Breastfeeding week is essential:

  1. The High Black Infant Mortality Rate
  2. High Rates of Diet Related Disease in African Americans
  3. Lack of diversity in the lactation field
  4. Unique cultural barriers among black women
  5. Desert-like conditions in our communities

If you ask any black breastfeeding expert what are the top barriers to breastfeeding for black women, they will reply:

  1. The historical role of black women as “wet nurses” to white (slave owner’s) children
  2. The perception by many black people that breastfeeding is “dirty” or “nasty” (the result of #1)
  3. The aggressive campaign by formula companies who capitalized on the notion that “poorer women” breastfeed and modern women of means used formula.
  4. Hospitals that serve primarily black patients have been shown not to offer the same level of support and education for breastfeeding initiation to black women
  5. Few professional black lactation consultants
  6. The lack of support from family members for breastfeeding

It has to be recognized that breastfeeding has very different implications for black women than for white women and lactation consultants trying to counsel black women to breastfeed must be aware of the cultural history of breastfeeding for black women. They need to be aware of the fact that many black women have no breastfeeding role models as their mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts may not have breastfed their babies. Without the family tradition of breastfeeding, and the history of the “mammy” wet nurse, many black women lack breastfeeding support and encouragement from their families and are not eager to breastfeed themselves. Many black women work at jobs where they may not be able to take time to nurse or pump, nor do they have a private place to nurse or pump at work. For these reasons in particular and many others, it is imperative that more black women become trained as lactation consultants. Certification to become an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), the top credential for lactation consultants, is such a rigorous and expensive endeavor, and many black women who want to become certified state they cannot afford to undertake the process.

So while there are many challenges that face black women who choose to breastfeed and Sellers, Greene and Sangodele-Ayoka-like many other black women who are well versed in the benefits of breastfeeding for back women-have taken it upon themselves to create an organization that promotes breastfeeding and where they can provide information, education, support and resources for black women who want to breastfeed.  

In counseling black women to breastfeed, highlighting the benefits of breastfeeding is a potent motivator. Breastfed babies are:

  • Less likely to have allergies and asthma
  • Less likely to have upper respiratory and ear infections
  • Less likely to have weight problems as adults
  • Less likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes
  • Able to self soothe/are less fussy
  • Have less stomach upset (and less incidence of Necrotizing Enterocolitis)
  • May have increased intelligence
  • Less likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

And breastfeeding greatly benefits Mamas, Too!

  • Mamas who breastfeed tend to return to their pre-pregnancy weight sooner
  • Mamas who breastfeed experience decreased incidences of breast and ovarian cancers
  • Mamas who breastfeed experience decreased incidences of Type 2 diabetes

Before being brought to this country as slaves, black women successfully breastfed their babies. Unfortunately, the legacy of slavery and many current socioeconomic and cultural barriers have made breastfeeding a difficult process for many mamas. It is imperative that these barriers be eliminated and that the education, support and resources be made available so that black mamas and their babies can reap the many life enhancing benefits of breastfeeding.

My Breastfed babies then…..

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My kids just days after the birth of my son.

And Now!!

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References:

http://blackbreastfeedingweek.org/

https://historyengine.richmond.edu/epsiodes/view/2901

www.bbc.com/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-27744391

http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6205a1.htm

http://www.webmd.com/women/news/20140821/racial-disparities-in-breast-feeding-may-start-with-hospitals-study-suggests

www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/27/black-mothers-breastfeedi_n_5721316.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK52688/

http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6333a2.htm?s_cid=mm6333a2_w

http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/breastfeeding-guide/breastfeedingguide-africanamerican-english.pdf

http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-benefits.html

 

 

 

 

 

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