In August 2011, the United States Breastfeeding Committee officially declared August as National Breastfeeding Month. The last week of the month marks Black Breastfeeding Week to increase awareness about the experiences of Black women and their families.
Black Breastfeeding Week isn’t about separation but bringing awareness to generations of people who have been negatively impacted by systemic lack of support, provider bias, and other cultural barriers. This is the perfect time for people to advocate for policies that make breastfeeding easier for mothers especially those with a lack of resources.
Black Breastfeeding Week is important because there is a huge racial disparity in breastfeeding rates. The most recent CDC data show that 69.4% of Black infants initiated breastfeeding, compared with 85.9% of White infants. Also, the percentage for Black infants still breastfeeding decreases as they get older. The report also noted that Black mothers disproportionately experience a number of barriers to breastfeeding, including lack of knowledge, support from family and friends, and support from healthcare workers.
Thankfully, there are organizations that are working hard to close this gap. Here are a few resources that provide ongoing support for Black mothers.
Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association
Chocolate Milk: The Documentary
The African American Breastfeeding Network Inc.
Soul Food for Your Baby (SFYB)
Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE) Inc.
Here’s a resource for moms in the Tampa Bay area: Tampa Bay Breastfeeding Task Force Inc.
Black women have a disturbing history connected to breastfeeding especially in the US. During slavery, Black women were forced to breastfeed and nurture our slave owner’s children while neglecting the needs of their own. Today, there’s a lack of support due to stereotyping. Breastfeeding isn’t always openly talked about in the Black community especially pumping and extended nursing. I have some family members and friends that believe breastfeeding should stop once a baby has teeth. There’s also a lot of ignorance regarding extended breastfeeding. These types of behaviors can be detrimental to Black mothers who need support and encouragement during their breastfeeding journey. Black Breastfeeding Week is important because it sheds a light on these issues and helps bring awareness.
Having access to breastfeeding education and support makes a huge difference for Black moms. I am so thankful to have a supporting husband and other moms who provide encouragement. My toddler is 20 months old and showing no signs of weaning.
Need more information about Black Breastfeeding Week? Visit their Facebook page for virtual event details.