Willow's new scholarship fund aims to help eliminate financial barriers and expand diversity in the lactation industry.
All races have similar challenges when it comes to breastfeeding, such as achieving a correct latch, nipple discomfort, and insufficient milk supply. However, Black breastfeeding mothers have a unique set of challenges that are frequently disregarded.
From a lack of postpartum breastfeeding support within the medical system, workplaces, and even the Black community (which often stems from historical traumas) to a lack of diversity in the lactation field, these challenges have made Black babies the least likely to be breastfed of all racial groups. In fact, according to the CDC, Black infants are 15% less likely to have ever been breastfed than white infants.
It's these disparities and a mission to close the lactation gap that inspired Willow, the makers of the first wearable, leak-proof breast pump to launch the Lactation Consultant Equity Project. As part of their support for Black Breastfeeding Week, the program will provide scholarships to cover the International Board Certified Lactation Consultants exam fees for prospective lactation consultants (which cost $660 per exam) to help eliminate significant financial barriers and expand diversity within the industry.
And it's not just the educators who benefit.
"We've seen the breastfeeding rate for Black women increase from 15 percent to 39 percent when supported by a lactation consultant," said Willow Chief Executive Officer, Laura Chambers. "Yet women of color are more likely to experience racism and discrimination in the healthcare system. We believe that Lactation consultants of color are the best providers of care for mothers of color. We hope the Willow Lactation Consultant Equity Project will help address the structural barriers creating a lack of diversity in the lactation field and ultimately better support Moms of color and their babies."
According to a 2019 report from the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice (ALPP), only 10% of Certified Lactation Consultants are Black. While Willow's scholarship is just a small step toward closing that gap, it's just the beginning. They also plan to be involved with facilitating networking opportunities for the recipients and creating a strong community of educators as the program grows.