By: Lindsay Ciavarelli, M.S., Director of the Center for Maternal and Young Child Health at Groundwork Ohio
Across the nation, August is recognized as National Breastfeeding Month. Starting Thursday, August 25, we also celebrate Black Breastfeeding Week and recognize all people of color breastfeeding or chestfeeding across our state. Why is this important? The CDC confirms that when infants are breastfed, they have lower levels of asthma, obesity, Type 1 diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and gastrointestinal issues, among others.
Breastfeeding mothers can also demonstrate lower incidences of high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, and certain kinds of cancer. In short, increasing breastfeeding rates among Black mothers and birthing people can improve maternal and infant mortality rates and help to close the racial disparity gap in negative birth outcomes.
Strikingly, the percentages of women who initiate and sustain breastfeeding are significantly lower for Black mothers and birthing people than their counterparts. This is not a matter of choice- social and systemic barriers disproportionately experienced by Black mothers and birthing people contribute to lower rates of human milk feeding. Barriers can include an earlier return to work due to a lack of paid leave, unsupportive work environments that don’t allow for the pumping/storing of breastmilk, lack of breastfeeding information/education from providers, lack of access to lactation consultants, and a lack of breastfeeding support from peers and family post-discharge, among others. Many believe this starts with practices rooted in systemic racism and a failure to acknowledge the experiences of Black women.
There are a wealth of resources available to help educate yourself and support Black mothers and birthing people during Black Breastfeeding Week and beyond. Here is a brief list you can access today.
Top Five Reasons We Need A Black Breastfeeding Week, Black Breastfeeding Week
7 reasons why we celebrate black breastfeeding week, Mila’s Keeper
Breastfeeding myths in the African-American community, Office on Women’s Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Webinar: Saturday, August 27, 2022 from 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM EDT
1st Annual Black Breastfeeding Week Event: Diversity in Lactation, hosted by Danielle Freeman, IBCLC of Milkin’ Melanin Lactation Services.
Webinar: Tuesday, August 30, 2022 at 7:00 PMEDT
Milk Mama & More: Balancing breastfeeding around the busy world, Presented by Jessica 'Phebe' Wilson EOLD, CLD, BFPC, Minister of Hospitality.
The Chocolate Milk The Documentary Series offers a better understanding of the unique challenges that contribute to low breastfeeding rates among African Americans.