A mother breastfeeding her child is the most natural thing she can do in early childcare, but many mothers are still unsure of how to do it correctly. In the Black communities of cities like Milwaukee, Atlanta and Detroit, breastfeeding rates are especially low, but new and organized gatherings and initiatives have been appearing to encourage and educate women on the benefits of this age-old practice.
Northwestern sources like The Colombian have been reporting that because there are lower percentages of Black women breastfeeding, a handful of health problems can arise from it. Babies may be at a higher risk of infant mortality, and past the toddler stage could experience childhood obesity, asthma and develop Type 2 diabetes. Later as adults, Black men and women become susceptible to breast cancer and heart disease. In Milwaukee, Dalvery Blackwell, co-founder of the African American Breastfeeding Network spoke about how Black mothers haven’t been taught or shown to embrace what should feel like second nature to them:
“In the African-American community, we don’t see breast-feeding publicly — our sisters and aunts aren’t breast-feeding in the living room, they’re not talking about it in the kitchen. It’s different in the Caucasian community.” Most recently, the AABN got certified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These organizations like AABN are safe places for mothers to seek solace and understanding in their difficulties with breastfeeding. During these meet-ups, mothers exchange and learn the “the best breast-feeding diet, how to hold a nursing baby, and signs that a baby is hungry.” They also learn how to properly pump their breasts in-between feeding. Kidada Green, of Detroit‘s Black Mothers Breastfeeding Club, admitted that with her group, “We work with many women who have never seen a woman breast-feed. We’re making it visible.”
Another interesting note to make, courtesy of The Coloradan, is that some Black mothers are all-too aware of the ties of breastfeeding to America’s slavery era, where Black female slaves breastfed their owner’s White children, but never their own because they were often sold or separated. Laurence Grummer-Strawn lightly commented on this to said publication: “We know there are significant underlying conditions that lead to poor health outcomes — socioeconomic disparities, racism — all play a part.” We never had even made that connection before. This historical point could be a deeper look into the cycle of why in some Black communities breastfeeding is not looked down upon, but a somber reminder of how Black mothers didn’t get to chance to connect with their child in this way.
It it recommended that mothers breastfeed their children until they are two and sometimes three years of age. While 60 percent of Black moms do attempt feeding for at least 6 months, only 16 percent continue on for an entire year. These new groups, some of which are held at your local YMCA chapters, are seeking to change these statistics.
We never quite understood why breastfeeding became taboo in the first place. It’s a part of what the amazing female body was designed to do! But we still think it’s wonderful these new groups have been formed. We can agree with a story from last year that argued that home conditions and better eating habits would also contribute greatly to worthwhile breastfeeding and better health for our babies, these breastfeeding groups have also offered a sense of sisterhood for Black women in their neighborhoods too.