lactation support

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…..


My kids just days after the birth of my son.

And Now!!








Mamas on Bedrest: Help, I Can’t Breastfeed!

October 6th, 2013

nursing infantBeautiful Breastfeeding is a wonderful community on Facebook dedicated to all things breastfeeding. I personally follow this page and I highly recommend all of you do so as well! The members of this community, just like our community, share their trials and triumphs and support one another to be the best mamas possible. A post from mama Kayla really resonated with me.

To summarize, Kayla had her baby boy last week and the duo is experiencing Breastfeeding difficulties.  With “a touch of jaundice”, recent circumcision and blood sugars on the low end of normal, Kayla’s little boy is a less than enthusiastic nurser. Hospital staff recommended formula to raise his blood sugars and now the little guy doesn’t want to nurse at all. As Mama’s milk has yet to come in, Mama Kayla is worried she won’t be able to nurse her little guy. She’s asking for advice.

Kayla, I can soooo relate! I had my daughter at 36 weeks 6 days and because of breathing issues, she was admitted to the NICU. My milk had not come in and every time my daughter nursed, her oxygen levels dropped and alarms sounded. Needless to say, nursing was not going well. Here is what worked for me.

Consultation with the lactation consultant.  One of the NICU nurses introduced me to the staff lactation consultant and she literally changed the entire experience for my daughter and I. This wonderful woman immediately got me a breast pump and had me pumping every 2 hours. That brought my milk in and I was able to put little pouches of breast milk in the NICU fridge For my daughter.

The lactation consultant also showed me how to monitor my daughter’s nursing and to break her latch before her oxygen levels dropped too low triggering the alarms which startled her and were making her not want to nurse.

Frequent Feedings. Because my daughter was a preemie and had a small tummy, I needed to feed her more often. Per the lactation consultant, I put her to my breast every 1-2 hours. The hospital staff raised their eyebrows at me being in the NICU so much and handling my daughter so much, but I stood my ground for nursing and she did begin to nurse better, was able to nurse and not drop her oxygen levels and was beginning to gain weight.

Eliminate Distractions. My a daughter was a nosy baby! Every little noise and cry had her looking around to see what was up. This continual “surveillance” happened even while she was Breastfeeding, such that she often “took my breast with her” to see what was the latest distraction. Once we went home, nursing greatly improved! In the quiet of our own home, no other babies crying and no monitors going off, my daughter became a breastfeeding champion!

These are just a few of the techniques that worked for me when I was faced with breastfeeding challenges. The mamas on the Beautiful Breastfeeding page shared many, many more options and tips and I am sure that new Mama Kayla and her little boy will be a successful breastfeeding duo in no time.

Again, I highly recommend the Beautiful Breastfeeding Facebook Page. While you may not need it right now on bed rest, I am sure that there will be wonderful pearls of wisdom for you once you deliver!


Note: Today is my baby’s 11th birthday!! Stick with it mamas, you can do it! Happy Birthday, Girlie!!!