Research has shown that breastfeeding has many benefits for both mom and baby. Deciding to breastfeed your child is a personal decision that more and more Black women are taking on. To help with education and support, Kimberly Seals Allers has become the voice that many moms of color are listening to. Allers, author of The Big Letdown: How Medicine, Big Business, and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding, also is the founder of Black Breastfeeding Week.
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#BlackBreastFeedingWeek is here. This year, we got to work with a new & amazing group of moms & their babies. It was an honor & a privilege. My wife wanted to write the passionate explanation this year to encompass why we have been on this journey of uplifting & showing such special care & attention to #blackfamilies @gemmedbyjewellb : As much more attention is brought to the forefront of our struggles in the black community, I want to explain the importance of David & I's intentions with the #melaninprojects we have been working on. We as black families struggle. We struggle to live, to survive & to thrive. For so many reasons. & it all starts from the first day of pregnancy. Our communities are underserved when it comes to resources & knowledge about the high risks in pregnancy, proper stats on breastfeeding, difficult birth stories, postpartum subjects, the higher risk of SIDS & many more obstacles as a black families. & unfortunately it's not just black mothers, the challenges that black fathers face from pregnancy to birth are difficult as well. These projects hold extreme importance to us both. We have been through so much in each area mentioned above. From lack of resources, lack of care, horrible birth stories, loosing a child. #Zion our angel baby has inspired so much in us. We push forward. Every single day. We do these projects to bring #awareness to the disparities in the black community. From pregnancy forward. We are here to continue to spread the message that we need more representation. We need more resources. So please keep that in mind as you share these photos. We are here to remind everyone black pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding & families are so important. @_SuperSavyShots: We must continue to bring awareness to all of these trials and tribulations, no matter the cost and continue to bring awareness to our community. We can not change genetics, science or the cards the cards stacked against us. What we have been dealt, has enslaved us, beat us down, kept us down – yet we remain strong and resilient and it’s is of the utmost importance to continue to do so with all of our future generations. #GenerationalCursesStopHere
According to the Black Breastfeeding Week website, 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 even bigger one for duration has lingered for so long is reason enough to take 7 days to focus on the issue.
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In honor of #BlackBreastfeedingWeek, HuffPost is resharing photos of proud breastfeeding mamas who discuss why they believe society needs to see more empowering images of Black women nursing their children.⠀ ⠀ Swipe through to see the beautiful photos.⠀ ⠀ 1. Anastasia West: "It is important for the public to see images of Black women breastfeeding because that would normalize the act and encourage positive attitudes toward Black women who chose to breastfeed.”⠀ ⠀ 2. Nicole Letizia: “If more Black breastfeeding moms were visible, there would most likely be a greater amount of programs available in a wider variety of communities to support them."⠀ ⠀ 3. Fatima Mills: “I think it's important for the mainstream public to see images of Black moms of all economic groups breastfeeding because it will have the greatest impact on the [breastfeeding] success rates in Black communities; it will no longer be looked at something only for the poor of foreign nations or the wealthy who can afford to stay home." ⠀ ⠀ 4. Stephanie Fearse: “I just want Black women to see that we can and we do breastfeed and it's beautiful. Whatever way we choose to feed our children, breastfeeding should be a part of those options."⠀ ⠀ 5. Angela Richardson: “It's extremely important for the public to know that our bodies are not to be objectified but to be praised for our abilities to carry our children with such ease and grace and also provide vital nourishment to them."⠀ ⠀ 6. Rachel Rogers-Ebert: "I often see publicity that's pro-breastfeeding geared toward Caucasian women. I feel it's important that Black women be included in this topic. We need to feel that breastfeeding is safe, natural and supported.”⠀ ⠀ 7. Tasha Cunningham: "It is important for others to know that there are Black women who breastfeed because it dismantles the racist belief that Black women are not maternal. This stereotype was systematically perpetuated during slavery when we were denied the right to care for and nurse our children. By creating images of us nursing, we normalize the practice of breastfeeding and end the sexual objectification of our bodies.”⠀ ⠀ Read more – link in bio! 📷@damondahlen
Recently, Allers sat down with Forbes.com to explain in more depth about what Black women should know about breastfeeding and the disparity among mortality rates in Black women when compared to others. Below are the top take-a-ways from the interview.
1. Black women in the United States experience unacceptably poor maternal health outcomes.
“The unique social burdens that Black women carry are literally impacting our wombs,” Allers said in the interview. “We really have to dig deeper to look at the role of racism and bias in their care, and the role of racism on their bodies.”
Twenty-one percent of Black mothers have reported perceptions of poor treatment due to race, ethnicity, or cultural background. Allers created the Irth app so that women of color can find and leave reviews about providers to help share experiences.
2. Black women breastfeed at a lower percentage rate than white women do.
“Breastfeeding is something that we were forced to do, and something that reminds us of a time that we’d like to forget. Black Breastfeeding Week is an important time for us to really celebrate what Black breastfeeding means. We really talk about Black breastfeeding as social justice, as a way of reclaiming the narrative about Black women not being good mothers. It is all about lifting up those stories.”
During slavery, Black women were forced to stop feeding their own children and forced to use their milk to feed the children of their owners. Hopefully, through the education and support of Black Breastfeeding Week, the percentage of Black women that breastfeed will grow from the current 69 percent.
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I wish I dried up I wish every drop of my milk slipped passed those pink lips and nourished the ground Where the bones lay Of my babies Starved while I feed their murderer I wish I dried up So the missus babies would dry up too And be brittle So I could crumble them to dust Return them to the ground Where all children of my bosom lay equal ••• It's Black Breastfeeding Week, and once again my poem has gone viral. It has been a dream of mine to hear @violadavis recite this poem. I don't know Mrs. Davis, but when I hear her talk, I know that I trust her with this story, I know she would do it justice. I'm trying to be brave enough to ask the universe for the things that I want to see, and ancestors know that I'd love to see this 🧡
3. COVID-19 has magnified the effects of pre-existing barriers to breastfeeding.
The pandemic has exposed the extreme inequities in healthcare for minorities. Black communities have been disproportionately affected by the virus as nearly three times as many Black people have died from COVID-19. COVID-19 has adversely affected almost every aspect of life, and that includes the impact on Black breastfeeding.
The pandemic has caused the disruption or discontinuation of evidence-based interventions for Black breastfeeding support, such as peer-led support and community-based interventions, breastfeeding education, promotion, and lactation coaching, and much more.
In the time where almost everything has gone virtual, according to Allers and Carrie Kerpen, author of the Allers interview, here are some great resources you can take advantage of:
- The Medela Moms’ Room: Breastfeeding Education, Tools, and Support
- Top Five Reasons We Need A Black Breastfeeding Week
- Where Black Parents Can Find Breastfeeding Support
Photos: @gemmedbyjewellb @_supersavyshots on Instagram