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We are happy to amplify voices in the black community as they educate us about the cultural challenges of breastfeeding black women face, illuminate the racial disparities in breastfeeding rates between white and black women, and advocate not only for black mothers but also for the health of black babies.
These are just a few of the reasons we all need to come together to support black women on their breastfeeding journey:
Increased breastfeeding among black women could decrease infant mortality rates by as much as 50%*. Black babies are dying at twice the rate (in some place, nearly triple) the rate of white babies. This is a fact. The high infant mortality rate among black infants is largely due to their being disproportionately born too small, too sick, or too soon. These babies need the immunities and nutritional benefits of breast milk the most. (*Estimated by the CDC.)
Breast milk is the best preventative medicine nature provides. Breast milk, often referred to as the most complete “first food,” has been proven to reduce the risks of diseases that disproportionately affect black communities: from upper respiratory infections and Type II diabetes to asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and childhood obesity.
Lack of diversity in the lactation field: Breastfeeding advocacy is largely led by white women, which can perpetuate the common misconception that black women don’t breastfeed. During Black Breastfeeding Week and beyond, we need to celebrate and showcase the breastfeeding champions of color and ensure that breastfeeding leadership reflects the same parity we seek among women who breastfeed.
Unique cultural barriers among black women: While many of the “booby traps”™ to breastfeeding are universal, black women also have unique cultural barriers and a complex history connected to breastfeeding. From black women’s role as wet nurses in slavery and being forced to breastfeed and nurture slave owners' children often to the detriment of their own children, to the lack of mainstream role models and multi-generational support, to stereotyping within the black community.
Lack of Breastfeeding Support in Black Communities: We remind women frequently to ask for support along their breastfeeding journey and agree wholeheartedly that it is not fair to ask women to breastfeed without providing her access to support along the way.
*Illustration courtesy of Chrissy Wolf via BlackMomsDoula