Initially, when I stumbled upon Black Breastfeeding Week last year my first thought was “why does it have to Black“— then I read the purpose of the movement and it changed my entire mindset!
Did you know that within the African American community, we have the lowest percentage of nursing mothers and the highest infant mortality rate?
Consequently, according to the CDC, if breastfeeding increased among black women it could decrease infant mortality rates by as much as 50%! And that is just the first of several reasons why we need a black breastfeeding week, but many women, especially of other ethnicities, can’t comprehend that.
The Cultural Controversy of Breastfeeding
Earlier this week, I was fortunate enough to lead the campaign for Black Breastfeeding Week through Ergobaby and instead of being well-received, the image of me breastfeeding my son was a source for controversy. One woman made her position,that black women don’t need a separate week of awareness, known by saying “one of my points is that one week of advocating/raising awareness to any issues does no good. We should always be educating and supporting each other. After this week is over I will see nothing more about breastfeeding in the African American community. Advocating on issues that are so prevalent should be done all the time.”.
As much as I wanted to add fuel to the fire of rage brewing within me I chose to use my voice to agree to disagree and explain to her that while she may feel a certain type of way about Black Breastfeeding Week it is not about her nor her community.
The Impact of Black Breastfeeding Week
To countless black women, this week will be the only visual they have of someone in their likeness breastfeeding their child or realizing that there are resources that support breastfeeding despite what the hospital (or your mailbox) would have you believe. Let’s think about the young teenage girl, pregnant with her first child, and limited knowledge about breastfeeding in an unsupportive, if any, family dynamic.
She would see formula as the only means to nourish her child because that’s all she knew and it’d cost her hundreds of dollars (that she may not have). This young girl gets on Facebook and sees #BBW15 or #BlackBreastFeedingWeek trending on her timeline and clicks to learn more— realizing she can feed her child for free and that there are a plethora of resources for support.
That’s life changing! A small example of how the creation of black breastfeeding week can make a huge impact one mother at a time.
I say all this to say that Black Breastfeeding Week is a segment of National Breastfeeding Month but more importantly it is a week of awareness for black mothers. It is not about one race, it’s about filling a void within a community and changing the cultural stigma that is plaguing it.