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  • Anais Walters

Black Mamas Do Breastfeed

Black breastfeeding week is from the 25th to the 31st of August.

You may be thinking “what is black breastfeeding week” and what is the purpose of it? Well the creators of black breastfeeding week- Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka, Kimberly Seals Allers and Kidda Green, wanted to bring awareness to disparities in breastfeeding rates among black women as compared to other groups. For over 40 years there had been a gaping racial disparity in breastfeeding rates.

Why do we need a black breastfeeding week?

Black babies are dying at twice, and in some places, three times the rate of white babies. CDC data from the USA shows that 75% of white women have breastfed versus 58% of black women.

In the UK, black mothers are also nine times more likely to be offered formula to feed their babies than white mothers.

It’s also very important to remember that we had a turbulent time with breastfeeding in our past. When our ancestors were forced into slavery, they were also forced to breastfeed their master’s babies, sometimes to the detriment of their own babies.

It is because of all of these reasons that we need to build awareness and normalise black mothers breastfeeding.

Although, it’s been documented that in the UK black women have the highest breastfeeding rates, there is very little information about how or why we choose to breast, bottle or combination feed our babies. A lot of the information we do have comes from the US but our feeding behaviours are different. There are some things that we do know correlate with the feeding behaviours in the UK. Here are a few things we can consider:

With the introduction of formula milk in the 1920s and 1930s, breastfeeding rates in the US dropped across the board. Later, as more evidence pointed to the health benefits of breastmilk, white women resumed nursing at a higher rate. “That information got to the higher-educated, higher-income population faster than it did to the African-American population.” Says Sims-Harper. And because of this, institutional barriers then create a knowledge gap.

Dr. Davis-Dash also brings up another consideration that “the convenience of formula milk tends to win out over breastfeeding for mothers who have no strong convictions about breastfeeding, or who have a hard go of it in the beginning.”

Another reason that may impact a black mother’s breastfeeding journey is because of socioeconomic factors. This is especially true for working mums who may have to return to work sooner than they might like to; reducing the amount of time they might exclusively breastfeed for.

Black breastfeeding mothers are also under-presented in literature and images about breastfeeding, with less black people in supportive roles such as lactation consultants, midwives and doulas.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that black mothers don’t breastfeed. Black women do breastfeed and this week pays to highlight this.

Changing the narrative will help to improve some of the statistics we see and the view of black breastfeeding mothers.

Thoughts from the author:

“I have found this subject very interesting because I never knew there was so much to breastfeeding. So, after all the research I have done and all the articles I have read I will defiantly be breastfeeding my children when I am older. And the history part of it interested me the most, I was really shocked at the fact that our ancestors used to breastfeed the white master’s babies. And then it got me thinking, maybe part of the reason black and brown women are low in numbers to breastfeed is because of the traumatic past we had to go through passed down through all the generations to this very day. For example, the Black Lives Matter protests and George Floyd getting killed. We were not there but the upset and grief is still with us because that’s our race. So maybe the trauma from the past still secretly daunts us without us even realising it because it’s in our blood, in our roots.”

Blog post written by Anais April Walters



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