Last week was the eight Black Breastfeeding Week, which was founded by three Black women who wanted to highlight the racial disparities in breastfeeding rates and normalize breastfeeding. According to the CDC, 85% of white women have ever breastfed, compared to 69% of Black women.
There are five major reasons Black breastfeeding needs awareness, with the first reason being the high Black infant mortality rate. Black babies die at twice the rate of white babies and in some areas three times the rate. These babies could use all of the nutritional benefits of breastmilk.
And as they get older, Black children suffer most from diet-related diseases that breastmilk can help prevent. But with a lack of diversity in the lactation field, Black women lose out on lactation specialists who can relate to them culturally, understand their needs and educate them on the benefits for both mother and baby.
Cultural barriers are a factor in the lack of breastfeeding in the black community. That stems from a history of shame surrounding Black breastfeeding as slaves to white babies, wet-nursing after reconstruction, little multi-generational support, and very few mainstream mentors in the field. Food deserts are also a factor in its lack of entire communities being void of healthy food to support Black women’s health, giving them an opportunity to give their babies the healthiest breast milk.
In order to have healthy Black babies, who will become healthy Black children, we need to support Black mothers in helping them provide their babies with the best first food.
While this article is a week behind Black Breastfeeding Week, Black breastfeeding should be encouraged before and after it’s official week highlighting the disparities in the community.
Here are a few articles on Black Breastfeeding Week 2020:
Romper: What is Black Breastfeeding Week? Here’s What You Need to Know
Harpers Bazaar: Why We Need Black Breastfeeding Week
Health.com: It’s Black Breastfeeding Week, and 6 Black Moms Took to Social Media to Share Their Stories