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Black Breastfeeding Week


Black infant child is nursing at the breast and looking up at their parent

During the last week of World Breastfeeding Month we will spotlight the importance of "Blactation" or Black lactation as we celebrate Black Breastfeeding | Chestfeeding | Lactation Week! Black lactation is sacred. Black lactating parents deserve to be honored, encouraged, and supported! This week we honor those ancestors who weren't allowed to rest in the experience of giving their milk to their children. This week we honor those family members who fought to teach and carry the tradition of nursing to their children and their grandchildren. This week we honor those parents who took those lessons and carried hope in their heart that one day they'd breastfeed/bodyfeed their child. This week we honor YOU! If you havent already, make sure you visit our IG page to check out resources and connect with Lactation Professionals throughout the month.


I was 16 when I had my first child, I was young and clueless about much of life but even at that age I knew I would breastfeed my baby. I recall seeing my mother nurse my siblings when I was young and it seemed like the natural thing to do. I dont recall seeing her mix bottles of formula as my sister got older and that may have played a part in how I viewed formula when it was time to feed my own children. I guess this is also part of why I felt I was supposed to breastfeed so that is what I did. In spite of my determination, as a young mom on my own I struggled and often became overwhelmed along the way. I recall absolutely hating the fact that I couldnt sleep without waking up to a bed soaked in breastmilk. I often woke up crying! However, eventually, with the help of a few books and an earth angel disguised as a daycare provider, my first child and I figured out how to breastfeed and we did so successfully for 8 months.


Lactating was a lot harder than my mother made it look but it became easier with my second and third child. Each time I became pregnant my community grew and I was thankful for the lessons they shared and the support they provided during those times I was frustrated or unsure of my ability to feed my child. When the time came for my first child to breastfeed her first child I was thankful I could share my support and lessons learned. From my experience community support and education are vital to successful lactation and I know many parents who would agree! Regardless if one chooses to exclusively breast or body feed, mix things up with human milk and formula, or even exclusively pump, lactating can be a gift to both parent and child, once they feel sure enough to proceed.


My story is part of why Black Breastfeeding | Chestfeeding | Lactation week is so very important! Black parents face compounded challenges when attempt to commit to lactating. By highlighting the triumphs and struggles commonly faced by Black lactating families we help shift conversations to that of racial equity, cultural empowerment, and community engagement which helps to lay a stronger foundation of wellness for the next generation.


Top Five Reasons Why We Need a Black Breastfeeding Week

Originally shared at www.blackbreastfeedingweek.org


1. The high black infant mortality rate: Black babies are dying at twice the rate (in some place, nearly triple) the rate of white babies. This is a fact. The high infant mortality rate among black infants is mostly to their being disproportionately born too small, too sick or too soon. These babies need the immunities and nutritional benefit of breast milk the most. According to the CDC, increased breastfeeding among black parents could decrease infant mortality rates by as much as 50%.


2. High rates of diet-related disease: When you look at all the health conditions that human milk—as the most complete “first food,” has been proven to reduce the risks of—African American children have them the most. From upper respiratory infections and Type II diabetes to asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and childhood obesity—these issues are rampant in our communities.


3. Lack of diversity in lactation field: Not only are there blatant racial disparities in bodyfeeding rates, there is a blatant disparity in bodyfeeding leadership as well. It is not debatable that bodyfeeding advocacy is white female-led. This is a problem. For one, it unfortunately perpetuates the common misconception that black parents don’t bodyfeed. It also means that many of the lactation professionals, though well-intentioned, are not culturally competent, sensitive or relevant enough to properly deal with African American parents. This is a week to discuss the lack of diversity among lactation consultants and to change our narrative. A time to highlight, celebrate and showcase the bodyfeeding champions in our community who are often invisible. And to make sure that bodyfeeding leadership also reflects the same parity we seek among lactating parents.


4. Unique cultural barriers among black parents: While many of the “booby traps" to bodyfeeding are universal, Black folks also have unique cultural barriers and a complex history connected to bodyfeeding. From our role as wet nurses in slavery being forced to feed and nurture the slave owners children often to the detriment of our children, to the lack of mainstream role models and multi-generational support, to our own stereotyping within our community—we have a different dialogue around bodyfeeding and it needs special attention.


5. Desert-Like Conditions in Our Communities: Many African American communities are “first food deserts”—it’s a term I coined to describe the desert like conditions in many urban areas I visited where folks cannot access support for the best first food-human milk. It is not fair to ask parents to bodyfeed when they live in a community that is devoid of support. It is a set up for failure.



 

Sarah Foster is a Holistic Wellness Educator and Full Spectrum Doula in Altamonte Spring, FL that provides whole person wellness education along with a full spectrum of support for all birthing outcomes. This support includes providing thoughtful emotional, spiritual, and physical support before, during, and after pregnancy and pregnancy release. If you or someone you love are interested in support let's connect! I look forward to meeting you!

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