Breastfeeding In The Black Community 


This blog is dedicated to Black Breastfeeding Week! This Week is intended to recognize, celebrate, encourage and support the community of black women breastfeeding babies. 

What if I told you that Black Women have the lowest success rate when it comes to breastfeeding their babies?

What if I told you that only 20 percent breastfed exclusively for 6 months, and 27.8 percent met the recommended breastfeeding duration of 12 months?

Both of these alarming statistics are true. As a black mom who breastfed all four of her babies, I wanted to understand the why. Let me begin with my own experience. Before I gave birth to my first child I knew that I wanted to exclusively breastfeed so I began my research. I had no clue how to do it or where to begin. I read article after article and solicited the advice of those who had breastfed their children. 

Latching, milk supply, diet, challenges…

I wanted to know it all. I needed to know what I was getting into and what to look for in the event I encountered any issues. October 28, 1999 at 8:35 pm I gave birth to my first child, a bouncing babygirl. 

After she spent some time in the NICU, I was finally able to hold and see her. I can remember telling the nurse that I planned to breastfeed. I also remember that there wasn’t very much information given to me about breastfeeding. Now, I found it odd since I could overhear information being given to other moms that didn’t look like me. I think the assumption, since I was young, black and a first time mom, breastfeeding was probably highly unlikely. 

The nurse actually seemed quite surprised when I told her that I would not be trying a bottle and that I would be exclusively breastfeeding. (They already had enfamil on deck! They went hard for that formula!) Remember all that research I mentioned? I knew what I was signing up for. It was time! They handed her to me for our first try at feeding. She latched on immediately, and her latch game was A1! I was so relieved and excited. Then came the worry of would I produce enough milk to continue exclusively breastfeeding. 

Well guess what, I would learn that I was a over producer. Y’all I was like a cow! I was producing sooooo much milk that milk went to waste, sadly. At six weeks my daughter became very ill and they attempted to bottle feed her. It didn’t work! She would not suck any nipple except mine. My daughter went from breast to cup. 

Then came the question of, how long would I breastfeed? My plan was to breastfeed until she was ready to stop. Six months became one year. One year became two years. 

I also breastfed my three sons. My longest stint being three years. 

I encountered so much negativity from black women during my time breastfeeding. The current black mamas breastfeeding movement wasn’t as popular as it is today. Some of the things I heard..

Girl you are not going to last! I tried it and it was too hard! 

How long are you going to breastfeed that child? If they can ask for it, they don’t need it!

Ooh girl he/she has teeth? Oh you’ll quit once they bite you. 

He’s 3? That is so nasty! 

Didn’t even phase me. Got on my nerves? Absolutely, but it didn’t stop me! 

My philosophy was always, “My Babies, My breasts, My business.” 

I was a very proud breastfeeder. I didn’t cover up and that was my choice. My children were hot little humans. They never fed well with their heads covered. I encouraged every black mother I came in contact with to breastfeed, atleast give it a try. I didn’t share horror stories. I tried my best to educate and inform. 

Why is there so much negativity surrounding breastfeeding in the black community? Could it be generational? Could it be historical? Shame? Embarrassment? Negative personal experiences? Lack of access and knowledge? Surprise, it’s all of that!

Some of our history; Black Wet Nurses: “A wet nurse is a woman who breast feeds and cares for another’s child.”

Imagine, giving birth to your first child six days ago, then being made to abandon the needs of your own child and forced to breastfeed a white child that didn’t belong to you. Imagine having to be available to this child every time they cried and wanted milk. This folks, is not a joke, this really happened. For centuries it happened!

Uniformed; some women don’t breastfeed due to lack of information given before and at the time of birth. Remember how no one gave me any information? Imagine all of those who don’t know. Fortunately for me, I did my own research. 

Headlines: Public Breastfeeding made public in 50 states! 

When did this happen you ask? July 2018. What the what? Breast were intended for that very reason, to feed and nourish! Folks without breast out here creating rules for bodies that don’t belong to them. Whew, let me move on before I get mad mad. Side note, I’ve been publicly breastfeeding since 99. I ain’t new to this…call me a pioneer! 

Let’s talk about the benefits to Baby & Mom!

For Baby

  • Breastfeeding may reduce the risk for certain diseases, like obesity and type 2 diabetes; both are major causes of morbidity and mortality in adults in the United States, particularly for African Americans.
  • Reduces the risk of viruses, urinary tract infections, inflammatory bowel disease, gastroenteritis, ear infections, and respiratory infections.
  • Causes less stomach upset, diarrhea, and constipation than formula.

For Mom

  • Helps you lose pregnancy weight
  • Triggers your uterus to shrink back to prepregnancy size.
  • Lowers your risk of breast and ovarian cancer. 

Yes, I am a believer that breast is best, but I also know that a fed baby is what truly matters. I don’t shame those who choose not to breast feed, because truly, breastfeeding is a commitment. To those of you out there thinking about breastfeeding and are on the fence, find a lactation consultant where you live. Peruse the inter webs for books and articles. Don’t let negativity and naysayers dissuade you from trying. 

Until next time…Your Babies, Your Breasts, Your Business 🦋