Yesterday marked the start of Black Breastfeeding Week (August 25-August 31). This particular celebratory week was established in 2014 by Kimberly Seals Allers, Kiddada Green, and Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka. All three of these women worked in the maternal child health field and primarily focused on families of color. Although World Breastfeeding Month kicks off on August 1st of each year, Black Breastfeeding Week puts a little more emphasis as to why it’s important to educate and bring awareness to black families when it comes to the importance of breastfeeding.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2011-2015, the percentage of black women who breastfed was significantly lower than that of their white counterparts. Breastfeeding provides a lifetime of benefits for both mom and baby. For example, if a baby is sick, the mother’s milk composition changes to provide antibodies to help fight off whatever is causing the baby to be sick. Breastfeeding can be used as a form of birth control for at least the first 6 months postpartum if a mother is exclusively breastfeeding without using pacifiers or bottles.
It is so important for the black community to be educated on the benefits of breastfeeding because it can help to build a healthier generation. Due to the fact that formula is pushed harder than breastfeeding in the black community, it’s almost taboo to breastfeed. Also, there is often a negative connotation associated with breastfeeding in the black community as lactating slaves were often forced to nurse the children of their masters.
I breastfed my oldest son, Hendrix, for 10 months. The reason our nursing journey was cut so short is because I was 3 months pregnant at the time and it caused my supply to dry up. Our second pregnancy was planned and after doing tons of research on pregnancy and breastfeeding, I was almost certain that it wouldn’t cause a problem until my third trimester. Welp, that wasn’t the case and I was devastated about having to wean Hendrix from something so beneficial. I will say that shortly after he was weaned completely, he developed his first and only (as of now) ear infection. This may or not be the case, but I attribute his ear infection to him no longer nursing.
My second son, Jovi, is shortly under 6 months and we are still going strong with our nursing game. Thankfully, I have a job where I can pump in the privacy of my own office so I am able to supply the amount of milk that my baby needs while I am away from him. I take pride in knowing that I am able to give my boys something that can never be taken away – a head start to a healthier future – just by breastfeeding which provided the necessary nutrients for what they needed. Right now, my goal is to make it to at least 12 months. Who knows if we will go further than 12 months, but as of right now, I do not see an end in sight.
I am in no way formula shaming at all as I understand that a fed baby is the best baby. Not all mothers can breastfeed and there is absolutely nothing wrong with formula, whatsoever. However, even on the back of a formula container, it states that breastmilk is best for babies. If it weren’t for my sister in law, Michelle, who knows if I would have stuck it out with my breastfeeding journey with my first son. It was extremely difficult and the hospital nurses weren’t of any help. They kept saying I should really try formula feeding my son since he wasn’t having enough wet diapers at the time. However, Michelle kept working with both me and Hendrix ensuring that his latch was right. We finally got it together and that is what started my journey to breastfeeding. I would have quit a hundred times after that, but my husband understood the benefits of breastfeeding and he was the one that continued to push me. I can’t tell you how happy I am that I was able to stick it out. It’s such an amazing bond that is shared between only mommy and baby and I cannot imagine bonding with my boys any other way!
Happy Black Breastfeeding Week!
Back to Raising. XOXO.