World Breastfeeding Week has come and gone. We still have a couple of weeks left in National Breastfeeding Month. However, there’s still one more breastfeeding observance in August — Black Breastfeeding Week, which is August 25-31!
It goes without saying that we typically get the short end of the stick when it comes to maternal health and wellness. After all, we do have one of the highest rates of maternal and infant death. Breastfeeding has proven to be extremely beneficial for both mom and baby in all aspects. Yet, less than 70% of Black women initiated breastfeeding.
Because Black babies die at nearly twice the rate of White babies, it goes without saying that something needs to be done — and it begins with education.
That’s why I teamed up with Dr. Stacy Yeager of Abundant Life Business Consulting/African-American Breastfeeding Coalition. As the founder and CEO of Black Families Do Breastfeed, I couldn’t have thought of a more perfect person to speak with about this issue.
Let’s take a look at some statistics before we move on to some of the things you can do to promote and encourage breastfeeding in the Black community.
Did you know?
- Differences in breastfeeding rates vary by state. However, Black breastfeeding is consistently among the lowest. From 2011 to 2015, the percentage of Black women that reported initiating breastfeeding was among the lowest of races — 64.3%, trailing Hispanics and Whites by nearly 20%
- Breast milk contains antibodies that can prevent illness in infants
- Breast milk changes to support baby‘s needs (ex. If baby is sick, you’ll produce more antibodies in your milk to help baby along)
- Breastfeeding may reduce the risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes
- Breastfeeding for just 2 months cuts SIDS risk by almost 50%
- U.S. support of formula is a race issue that is maintained for financial gain
So, what can you do to encourage breastfeeding in the Black community? The opportunities are endless! However, I’ll just share a few with you —
- Learn as much as possible about the benefits of breastfeeding
While I’ve shared a number of health-related breastfeeding benefits with you, I haven’t even touched on the emotional benefits. You would think there’s an instant attachment for mom and baby after birth. However, that isn’t always the case. The postpartum period is a significant change to what both baby and parents got used to during the past 9 months.
Breastfeeding promotes attachment and reassures your baby that s/he is safe.
To learn more, click here.
- Consult with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), Certified Lactation Consultant (CLC), and/or Lactation Peer Counselor
There is nothing worse than trying to learn how to feed and frustrated baby. Imagine being
that frustrated baby and trying to learn how to feed. After all, you haven’t had long to l learn each other but baby still has to eat. Consulting with a lactation specialist early on will
take a lot of guesswork out of the equation. You’ll also learn valuable strategies that you can put into motion when the time comes.
- Learn about the options for motherhood via surrogacy and adoption — *spoiler alert* You can breastfeed too!
Yes folks, it is not a myth. You do not have to birth a baby to produce milk. The process is
called induced lactation. While this concept is still new to me, it has been around for
centuries. There are numerous protocols that lactation specialists may recommend to assist a hopeful breastfeeding mom with inducing lactation.
A common protocol is the Newman-Goldfarb Protocol.
- Build your support circle
While mom breastfeeds, the act of breastfeeding is dependent upon the release of a
hormone called Oxytocin. Oxytocin, the cuddle hormone, is what stimulates the “letdown”
or breast milk ejection. When mom pumps away from baby, this is why she may have a
picture of her child handy. On the other hand, stress destroys those good feelings so
we need mom to be as supported as possible.
- Research the best type of pump(s) that can meet your needs
There is this crazy myth out there that if you feed your baby breast milk from a bottle,
you’re not breastfeeding. Whether you feed baby from the tap or from a bottle, they’re
getting breast milk. You are still considered to be an exclusively breastfeeding mama. With
that, you need to make sure you have the right equipment for the job.
Many insurance companies will cover one breast pump per birth event (biological,
adoption). Whichever way you go, please do your research. Weigh all of your options and how you envision using your pump before you purchase, rent, and/or go through your insurance.
- Join support groups
Support groups are everything. Actually, let me rephrase. Support groups can be everything
— if you find the right one(s). In moms’ groups, there can be lots of opinions but few facts.
That is why it is important to find groups that are either run by lactation specialists or
contain individuals that are qualified to provide knowledge. What works for one mom might not work for the next. For example, some moms swear by fenugreek but Many lactation specialists shudder at the sound of it — different folks for different strokes. However, I trust the professionals on that one. Some great groups to look up on are your local La Leche League (where available), Black Families Do Breastfeed, and many breast pump companies host online communities led by lactation specialists and peer counselors as well.
- Spread the word!
If this is the first you’re hearing of Black Breastfeeding Week, think about how many other
people aren’t aware of this observance. We need your help to spread the word. Aside from the
many benefits of breastfeeding, the odds are against Black women and their babies. You can
help to create a much-needed shift simply by sharing this article. The next time you’re in the
company of other women and even men who may benefit from this information, strike up a
conversation. Black mamas and their babies are depending on you!
Meet Dr. Yeager
Dr. Yeager has an extensive educational background in business with a focus of organizational leadership, working with the African-American community. Yeager is the founder and CEO of Black Families Do Breastfeed. An entity of that organization is Breastfeeding Support Group for Black Moms and Daddy Can Do: Dads of Breastfed Babies. Yeager is also the Project Coordinator for the African-American Breastfeeding Coalition in Kansas, which is also affiliated with Uzazi Village. In 2019, she led the coalition to complete their community supporting breastfeeding designation. Yeager is married with two children and is an advocate for entrepreneurship, increasing breastfeeding awareness, and decreasing infant mortality rates in the United States.