For Black women, breastfeeding is an act of revolution

For too long, breastfeeding has been seen as a privilege, but being able to nurse your baby is a human right.

Thérèse-Cator
Margaret Gruesbeck, Gruesbeck Fine Art Portrait Studio

When I was pregnant with my son Isaiah, there was no doubt in my mind that I would breastfeed him. It was a moment I looked forward to and longed for. What I didn't realize was that breastfeeding my baby would not only shape me as a mother but also inform my work as a leadership and embodiment coach working at the intersections of somatics, social justice and reclamation.

I underestimated that breastfeeding would be one of the most challenging things I've ever done. Needless to say, my breastfeeding journey wasn't an easy one.


My saving grace was that Isaiah latched on pretty easily and quickly after birth. However, my breastfeeding challenges began soon after we arrived home. I struggled with low milk supply (although I didn't know it at the time), bleeding and cracked nipples, blocked milk ducts, mastitis and unbearable pain all while wearing an adult diaper. There were so many days where I sobbed inconsolably and felt like an utter failure as a mother.

During those early days, I wondered why I couldn't do something that was "natural." I hadn't learned the lesson that just because something is natural doesn't mean that it will be easy. I also didn't realize at the time how much support I would need as a new mother.

Intersectionality is important

There were other aspects of my breastfeeding journey that added layers of complexity. I wasn't only a woman breastfeeding, I was also a Black woman breastfeeding. It's important to name these intersections, not for the sake of political correctness but because these intersections steer us towards historical, political and present-day realities.

When we're unaware of these intersections we're unable to take the appropriate supportive actions, and for Black women especially, it's the difference between life and death.

Black women are more likely to die during pregnancy at a rate more than three times that of white women. The CDC found that 2 out of 3 of the overall deaths for all pregnant people were preventable. Additionally, the infant mortality rate for Black babies is more than double that for white babies (10.8% compared to 4.6%). Furthermore, Black children also suffer disproportionately from childhood illnesses such as asthma and have a death rate of more than eight times that of white children. Black children also make up 22.75% of the kids in foster care even while only being 13.71% of the population.

When it comes to breastfeeding, more than 26% of Black babies aren't breastfed compared to 13% of white babies who aren't breastfed.

These seemingly unrelated statistics tell a story of an interconnected web that illustrates the grim realities that Black mothers and Black birthing people and their children have faced for centuries.

The breastfeeding gap

Study after study has shown the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child. We know that breast milk contains antibodies that protect children from viruses, bacteria, asthma, allergies, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and many other illnesses. Breastfeeding also helps birthing bodies heal and decreases the risk of postpartum depression.

So it leaves us with the question: Why do these disparities exist?

To begin to understand these chasms, we must orient toward the root of these issues.

Historically, enslaved Black mothers were separated from their babies sometimes only a few weeks after birth, a cruel practice that deprived both the child and mother not only of essential bonding time but also of nourishment. Newborns as young as two weeks old were placed for auction and sold into slavery without their mothers. These violent and traumatic acts denied Black mothers the opportunity to nurse their babies and denied our babies the opportunity to thrive. We can see the parallels between this and Black children being placed into the foster care system today at disproportionate rates.

Even when enslaved Black mothers weren't physically separated from their offspring, they were forced to be wet nurses for the white babies of those who enslaved them. This led to Black infants dying from preventable malnourishment. We can see the parallels between this and the fact that Black women make up 19.7% of domestic workers in the United States, often caring for children and elders while their own children are left to fend for themselves.

Today, Black women serve as the economic foundation for their families, with 3 in 4 Black women being the breadwinner all while working multiple jobs and earning only $0.63 for every dollar earned by white men. I've known many nursing Black mothers, including family members who had to return to work shortly after childbirth.

For Black women, lack of paid maternity and sick leave along with economic barriers make breastfeeding an unrealistic option.

The breastfeeding gap that exists today is also inextricably tied to a system that views Black women as less than human, as labor, and views their children as expendable. Until the humanity of Black women and birthing people are embraced not only through words but through policy, legislation and meaningful change from the halls of Congress, to boardrooms of corporate America, to hospital emergency rooms, we will continue to leave behind a legacy that doesn't reflect the truth that we are each valuable and valued not because of how much we can produce – but because of who we are.

Reclaiming breastfeeding as an act of revolution

In my early days of breastfeeding, I'd often spend 12 hours a day nursing my son, so yes, it's time-consuming. It was also physically and emotionally draining. I also recognize that I was one of the fortunate Black mothers. Even with my challenges, I had a constellation of care that included a lactation consultant, postpartum doula as well as family and friends who rallied around me when I was at my most vulnerable. Years later, I can clearly see the impact of having the right education and support and I want the same for all mothers, especially Black mothers and Black birthing individuals who are the most impacted.

For too long, breastfeeding has been seen as a privilege, but being able to nurse your baby is a human right. Black mothers are dying. Black babies are dying. And it doesn't have to happen.

In a culture that centers capitalism at the expense of its citizens, breastfeeding will always be viewed as a time-consuming inconvenience—and exponentially more so for Black women.

As a Black breastfeeding mother, it wasn't until after I gave birth that I recognized that, for me, as a Black woman, breastfeeding is an act of revolution and reclamation. Breastfeeding my baby meant I was rejecting the systems that said that my Black body was only worthy because of labor or sex. Breastfeeding my baby meant I was reclaiming something that my ancestors were systemically denied.

Breastfeeding my son also meant that his life and health mattered and that affirmed that all Black lives matter, always.

The true advancement of a society is measured by how it cares for those who are the most vulnerable. It's time that we give Black mothers the care that they deserve.

Black Breastfeeding Week aims to bring awareness to the need for support for Black breastfeeding mothers. The ninth annual Black Breastfeeding Week takes place August 25 to August 31, 2021.

Thérèse Cator (she/her) is the Founder of Embodied Black Girl. Thérèse is also a Leadership Coach, Embodiment Teacher and storyteller. Her work bridges leadership, spirituality, healing, somatics, mindfulness, decolonization and social change. Learn more about her work at: theresecator.com and embodiedblackgirl.com

In This Article

    23 kid-approved lunch ideas you'll want to steal

    Looking for some tried-and-true lunch time suggestions? We've got you covered, mama.

    mrs/Getty Images

    Whether your little one will eat anything you put in front of them or prefers to stick to their favorite foods, coming up with healthy lunch ideas for your kids every day can be stressful. We're here to help. That's why we're rounding up some fun, healthy meals for you to try. Many of these feature leftovers or options you can make without cooking anything new.

    We hope you'll find some great ways to help make lunchtime fun in your house. Whether it's a new idea for a wrap or simply a snack that your child has yet to try, read on for 20+ great lunch ideas for kids.


    A version of this story was published in July 2021. It has been updated.

    Food

    12 baby registry essentials for family adventures

    Eager to get out and go? Start here

    Ashley Robertson / @ashleyrobertson

    Parenthood: It's the greatest adventure of all. From those first few outings around the block to family trips at international destinations, there are new experiences to discover around every corner. As you begin the journey, an adventurous spirit can take you far—and the best baby travel gear can help you go even farther.

    With car seats, strollers and travel systems designed to help you confidently get out and go on family adventures, Maxi-Cosi gives you the support you need to make the memories you want.

    As a mom of two, Ashley Robertson says she appreciates how Maxi-Cosi products can grow with her growing family. "For baby gear, safety and ease are always at the top of our list, but I also love how aesthetically pleasing the Maxi Cosi products are," she says. "The Pria Car Seat was our first purchase and it's been so nice to have a car seat that 'grows' with your child. It's also easy to clean—major bonus!"

    If you have big dreams for family adventures, start by exploring these 12 baby registry essentials.

    Tayla™️ XP Travel System

    Flexibility is key for successful family adventures. This reversible, adjustable, all-terrain travel system delivers great versatility. With the included Coral XP Infant Car Seat that fits securely in the nesting system, you can use this stroller from birth.


    Add to Babylist

    $849.99

    Iora Bedside Bassinet

    Great for use at home or for adventures that involve a night away, the collapsible Iora Bedside Bassinet gives your baby a comfortable, safe place to snooze. With five different height positions and three slide positions, this bassinet can fit right by your bedside. The travel bag also makes it easy to take on the go.


    Add to Babylist

    $249.99

    Kori 2-in-1 Rocker

    Made with high-quality, soft materials, the foldable Kori Rocker offers 2-in-1 action by being a rocker or stationary seat. It's easy to move around the home, so you can keep your baby comfortable wherever you go. With a slim folded profile, it's also easy to take along on adventures so your baby always has a seat of their own.


    Add to Babylist

    $119.99

    Minla 6-in-1 High Chair

    A high chair may not come to mind when you're planning ahead for family adventures. But, as the safest spot for your growing baby to eat meals, it's worth bringing along for the ride. With compact folding ability and multiple modes of use that will grow with your little one, it makes for easy cargo.


    Add to Babylist

    $219.99

    Coral XP Infant Car Seat

    With the inner carrier weighing in at just 5 lbs., this incredibly lightweight infant car seat means every outing isn't also an arm workout for you. Another feature you won't find with other infant car seats? In addition to the standard carry bar, the Coral XP can be carried with a flexible handle or cross-body strap.


    Add to Babylist

    $399.99

    Pria™️ All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

    From birth through 10 years, this is the one and only car seat you need. It works in rear-facing, forward-facing and, finally, booster mode. Comfortable and secure for every mile of the journey ahead, you can feel good about hitting the road for family fun.


    Add to Babylist

    $289.99

    Pria™️ Max All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

    Want to skip the wrestling match with car seat buckles? The brilliant Out-of-the-Way harness system and magnetic chest clip make getting your child in and out of their buckles as cinch. This fully convertible car seat is suitable for babies from 4 lbs. through big kids up to 100 lbs. With washer-and-dryer safe cushions and dishwasher safe cup holders, you don't need to stress the mess either.


    Add to Babylist

    $329.99

    Tayla Modular Lightweight Stroller

    With four reclining positions, your little ones can stay content—whether they want to lay back for a little shut-eye or sit up and take in the view. Also reversible, the seat can be turned outward or inward if you want to keep an eye on your adventure buddy. Need to pop it in the trunk or take it on the plane? The stroller easily and compactly folds shut.


    Add to Babylist
    $499.99

    Tayla Travel System

    This car seat and stroller combo is the baby travel system that will help make your travel dreams possible from Day 1. The Mico XP infant seat is quick and easy to install into the stroller or car. Skipping the car seat? The reversible stroller seat is a comfortable way to take in the scenery.


    Add to Babylist
    $699.99

    Modern Diaper Bag

    When you need to change a diaper during an outing, the last thing you'll want to do is scramble to find one. The Modern Diaper Bag will help you stay organized for brief outings or week-long family vacations. In addition to the pockets and easy-carry strap, we love the wipeable diaper changing pad, insulated diaper bag and hanging toiletry bag.


    Add to Babylist

    $129.99

    Mico XP Max Infant Car Seat

    Designed for maximum safety and comfort from the very first day, this infant car seat securely locks into the car seat base or compatible strollers. With a comfy infant pillow and luxe materials, it also feels as good for your baby as it looks to you. Not to mention the cushions are all machine washable and dryable, which is a major win for you.


    Add to Babylist
    $299.99

    Adorra™️ 5-in-1 Modular Travel System

    From carriage mode for newborn through world-view seated mode for bigger kids, this 5-in-1 children's travel system truly will help make travel possible. We appreciate the adjustable handlebar, extended canopy with UV protection and locking abilities when it's folded. Your child will appreciate the plush cushions, reclining seat and smooth ride.


    Add to Babylist
    $599.99

    Ready for some family adventures? Start by exploring Maxi-Cosi.

    This article was sponsored by Maxi-Cosi. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


    Boost 1

    This incredibly soft comforter from Sunday Citizen is like sleeping on a cloud

    My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

    When it comes to getting a good night's sleep, there are many factors that, as a mama, are hard to control. Who's going to wet the bed at 3 am, how many times a small person is going to need a sip of water, or the volume of your partner's snoring are total wildcards.

    One thing you can control? Tricking out your bed to make it as downright cozy as possible. (And in these times, is there anywhere you want to be than your bed like 75% of the time?)

    I've always been a down comforter sort of girl, but after a week of testing the ridiculously plush and aptly named Snug Comforter from Sunday Citizen, a brand that's run by "curators of soft, seekers of chill" who "believe in comfort over everything," it's safe to say I've been converted.


    Honestly, it's no wonder. Originally designed as a better blanket for luxury hotels and engineered with textile experts to create this uniquely soft fabric, it has made my bed into the vacation I so desperately want these days.

    The comforter is made up of two layers. On one side is their signature knit "snug" fabric which out-cozies even my most beloved (bought on sale) cashmere sweater. The other, a soft quilted microfiber. Together, it creates a weighty blanket that's as soothing to be under as it is to flop face-first into at the end of an exhausting day. Or at lunch. No judgement.

    Miraculously, given the weight and construction, it stays totally breathable and hasn't left me feeling overheated even on these warm summer nights with just a fan in the window.

    Beyond being the absolute most comfortable comforter I've found, it's also answered my minimalist bed making desires. Whether you opt to use it knit or quilted side up, it cleanly pulls the room together and doesn't wrinkle or look unkempt even if you steal a quick nap on top of it.

    Also worth noting, while all that sounds super luxe and totally indulgent, the best part is, it's equally durable. It's made to be easily machine washed and come out the other side as radically soft as ever, forever, which totally helps take the sting out of the price tag.

    My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

    Here is my top pick from Sunday Citizen, along with the super-soft goods I'm coveting for future purchases.

    Woodland Snug comforter

    Sunday-Citizen-Woodland-Snug-comforter

    The bedroom anchor I've been looking for— the Snug Comforter.

    $249

    Braided Pom Pom Throw

    Because this degree of coziness needs portability, I'm totally putting the throw version on my list. It's washable, which is a must-have given my shedding dog and two spill-prone kiddos who are bound to fight over it during family movie night.

    $145

    Lumbar pillow

    sunday-citizen-lumbar-pillow

    What's a cozy bed without a pile of pillows?

    $65

    Crystal infused sleep mask

    sunday citizen sleep mask

    Promoting sleep by creating total darkness and relaxation, I've bookmarked as my go-to gift for fellow mamas.

    $40

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

    Shop

    15 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

    So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


    Stomp Racers

    As longtime fans of Stomp Rockets, we're pretty excited about their latest launch–Stomp Racers. Honestly, the thrill of sending things flying through the air never gets old. Parents and kids alike can spend hours launching these kid-powered cars which take off via a stompable pad and hose.

    $19.99

    Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

    Step2 Up and Down Rollercoaster

    Tiny thrill-seekers will love this kid-powered coaster which will send them (safely) sailing across the backyard or play space. The durable set comes with a high back coaster car and 10.75 feet of track, providing endless opportunities for developing gross motor skills, balance and learning to take turns. The track is made up of three separate pieces which are easy to assemble and take apart for storage (but we don't think it will be put away too often!)

    $139

    Secret Agent play set

    Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

    This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

    $40

    Stepping Stones

    Stepping-stones

    Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

    $99.99

    Sand play set

    B. toys Wagon & Beach Playset - Wavy-Wagon Red

    For the littlest ones, it's easy to keep it simple. Take their sand box toys and use them in the bath! This 12-piece set includes a variety of scoops, molds and sifters that can all be stored in sweet little wagon.

    $17.95

    Sensory play set

    kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

    Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

    $19.95

    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

    $121

    Foam pogo stick

    Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

    Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

    $16.99

    Dumptruck 

    green-toys-dump-truck

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

    $22

    Hopper ball

    Hopper ball

    Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

    $14.99

    Pull-along ducks

    janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

    $16.99

    Rocking chair seesaw

    Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

    This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

    $79.99

    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

    $79.99

    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

    $24.75

    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

    $40

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

    Shop

    Willie Garson's son remembers his dad in the most beautiful way

    From all the tributes that have poured in for actor Willie Garson, it seems his most important role was "Dad."

    Willie Garson/Instagram

    News broke Tuesday that actor Willie Garson, beloved for his roles as Stanford Blatch on Sex and the City and Mozzie on White Collar, died at the age of 57. Since then, tributes have poured in from the late actor's many co-stars through the years, and they all have one thing in common: telling the world just how much Willie Garson loved being a dad.

    He met his son, Nathen Garson, at an adoption event when he was seven years old. He formally adopted him in 2009, and the rest is history. In an interview with PEOPLE magazine last year, Garson said he'd wanted to become a father for a long time.

    "We had a smooth transition because we both wanted this adoption. Fatherhood is what I always wanted it to be," he said. "I wanted it so badly and he wanted it so badly. I think often it can be difficult because it's not that balanced."


    Nathen paid tribute to his dad on Instagram, shortly after the news of his death was announced. His words are absolutely beautiful—and heartbreaking.

    'I love you so much papa," he wrote in the caption. "Rest In Peace and I'm so glad you got to share all your adventures with me and were able to accomplish so much. I'm so proud of you."

    "I will always love you, but I think it's time for you to go on an adventure of your own. You'll always be with me. Love you more than you will ever know and I'm glad you can be at peace now."

    Nathen referred to his father as the "toughest and funniest and smartest person I've known" alongside a series of sweet photos documenting some of their memories together.

    In a 2020 interview, Garson told Medium's Authority Magazine that he knew Nathen was meant to be his child the minute he saw him: "He was like a light that was shining brightly. He was the only kid that was playing/laughing, and I knew that was my kid! Once I interacted with him, I knew we clicked, and I had to have him," he said.

    In an equally emotional post about her longtime friend, Sex and the City's Kristin Davis shared that she and Garson often talked about their special bond as adoptive parents, and reflected on Garson's "fearless commitment to fatherhood."

    "We spoke about being single parents through adoption often," she wrote on Instagram. "And nothing gave him more joy and pride than his son Nathen. Nathen's strength and wisdom beyond his years are evident in his beautiful tribute to his dad."

    Garson had been busy all summer, shooting the SATC reboot, And Just Like That, where he reprised his role as Stanford Blatch. How lucky we are to be able to watch him light up the screen one last time.

    Friends, fellow celebrities, and costars showed up in the comments of Nathen's tribute to his dad in droves, with each of them sharing how proud Garson was of his son and how much he really loved being a dad. It seems the feeling was mutual.

    "I'm glad you shared your love with me," Nathen said at the end of his post dedicated to his father. "I'll never forget it or lose it ❤️."

    Celebrity News

    Mandy Moore brought her breast pump to the Emmys and it's everything

    She called the pump her 'VIP accessory.'

    Rich Fury/Getty

    Breast pumps have come a long way over the years, but no matter what type of pump you use, there's pretty much nothing discreet about them. And you know what? Why should it be discreet? Our babies have to eat, right?

    Well if you're looking for some breast pump inspo, look no further than Mandy Moore at last night's Emmy Awards.


    While she looked absolutely stunning in her red gown and her hair and makeup were on point, she also brought along one very essential 'VIP accessory': her Motif Luna breast pump. (Which is a very good pump, IMO.)

    Mandy Moore/Instagram


    Moore gave birth to her first child, son Gus, back in February and she's easily become one of our favorite celebrity moms ever since. Her husband, Taylor Goldsmith, is currently away on tour and was unable to join her for the awards show.

    Over the summer, she documented a very relatable notch on the ol' Mom Belt: traveling with an infant where absolutely nothing goes right. But she handled it like a champ (and so did Gus), and we all nodded along in sympathy because we've all been there. Babies might be tiny, but they require A LOT of equipment, and doing anything outside of their normal at-home routine is a gamble.

    Also this summer, Moore shared photos and videos from a mountain-climbing expedition she did with her friends. And yes, her "VIP accessory" made it to the top of a volcano, too. Because who wants engorged breasts when you're doing one of the most athletically challenging and physical things a person can do?

    Basically, Mandy Moore is awesome and we love watching her motherhood journey. She may not have won an Emmy last night, but she's still a winner in literally every other way.

    Celebrity News