black breastfeeding week
Kenniqua Mon'a

Breastfeeding is one of the best joys of motherhood. The bond mamas develop with their little ones is so precious, but it's not always easy. Some of the most common struggles new mamas confront include securing a proper latch, nipple soreness and low milk supply. But for breastfeeding mothers of color, there is an additional set of struggles that are often overlooked.

While it's only a start, Black Breastfeeding Week can be an equalizer, bringing attention to the challenges black women face while promoting the fact that black women do, in fact, breastfeed.

These are breastfeeding challenges new mothers of color face and what we can start doing today to initiate a positive change:

1. Lack of prenatal support

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black mothers are four times more likely to die during and after pregnancy. In fact, a study from the University of Tennessee College of Medicine proved that healthcare providers often assume that black patients are overreacting when raising issues regarding pain, discomfort and other difficulties.

The nonchalant outlook regarding the health concerns of black women can lead to the common assumption that black mothers do not breastfeed. As a result, the breastfeeding education that expectant black mothers should receive is often left out of the prenatal care plan.

How Black Breastfeeding Week helps: It encourages increased integration of prenatal breastfeeding education. By raising awareness of the racial disparities experienced by the black community, this week can motivate healthcare workers to place a greater emphasis on promoting and encouraging breastfeeding to their black expectant mothers.

2. Lack of postpartum breastfeeding support

After giving birth it is common for new mothers to receive assistance with latching, education regarding the benefits of breastfeeding, and a visit from a lactation consultant. But for new mothers of color, this experience may be very different. In fact, a study indicated that hospitals located in areas with a higher percentage of black residents were less likely to provide adequate breastfeeding support. Additionally, black infants are more likely to be formula fed in the hospital than other races.

Compared to white mothers, researchers at Northshore University reported that black mothers were significantly more likely to be encouraged to formula feed. Early initiation of formula feeding without necessity can reduce the likelihood of long-term breastfeeding success.

How Black Breastfeeding Week helps: This week draws attention to this discrepancy, thus reminding birth workers that black mothers DO breastfeed and that, with proper education and support, the breastfeeding rates among the black community will improve.

3. Lack of support within the black community

In addition to the uncomfortable stares, nursing mothers may get while breastfeeding in public, breastfeeding women of color also have to deal with stigmas within their own community. These stigmas stem from the historical trauma of being forced to wet nurse babies of their slave owners which often led to the neglect and inability to nurse their own children.

Because of this, breastfeeding is not normalized within black families or the black community.

How Black Breastfeeding Week helps: With a focus on normalizing and celebrating breastfeeding in public, this awareness can help to eliminate the stigma of breastfeeding within the black community. When more of the black community see their peers proudly nursing their babies in public, it will break the generational belief that "breastfeeding is only for white women."

4. Lack of support within the breastfeeding community

Of the 31,181 International Board Certified Lactation Consultants worldwide, very few of them are African American. Black mothers often find it easier to discuss their breastfeeding struggles with someone that understands the disparities and cultural issues they may face. Additionally, the majority of advertisements depicting breastfeeding mothers do not feature women of color. Without role models and supporters that look like them, it is unlikely that black mothers will strive to breastfeed since it is not promoted within their community.

How Black Breastfeeding Week helps: While this is an unfortunate truth, Black Breastfeeding Week seeks to encourage women of color to become lactation consultants by pointing out the lack of diversity within the lactation community. It also highlights the amazing black lactation consultants available that act as role models for aspiring breastfeeding supporters of color.

Here's how you can make a difference:

These struggles have led to a lower percentage of breastfeeding black mothers when compared to other races, however, with raised awareness by the CDC and campaigns like Black Breastfeeding Week, the statistics are improving. In 2015, only 64.3% of black infants were breastfed. The most recent CDC breastfeeding statistic report shows that there was a 10% increase in breastfeeding of black infants.

With increased prenatal and postpartum support (regardless of your race), more access to resources, and added representation of both black breastfeeding mothers and black lactation professionals, these statistics will continue to improve, resulting in healthier communities everywhere.

Here are three actionable ways you can support Black Breastfeeding Week right now:

  1. Write to your government officials and tell them why they should celebrate and promote Black Breastfeeding Week in your city/state.
  2. Share articles like this on social media to help your friends, family and the rest of the world learn about why this week is necessary.
  3. Like and share images of black breastfeeding women on your social media channels. Black representation matters and your support just might encourage a mother to breastfeed.

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When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.


Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.


Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.


Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.


boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.


Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.


Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.


Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.


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