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The Importance of National Black Breastfeeding Week

Black Breastfeeding Week is held annually from August 25th to the 31st. The awareness week is a part of the larger awareness campaign of National Breastfeeding Month. Black Breastfeeding Week is a time dedicated to addressing the stigma around breastfeeding in the Black community and sharing resources and support to help more Black mothers to start and extend their time breastfeeding.

The Black community has a long and complicated history with breastfeeding, and so the stigma surrounding the practice runs deep. Back during the days of slavery, many Black women were forced to breastfeed the White children of families that they were enslaved to.

It was a degrading theft of resources and the exploitation of Black women and their bodies. As this was an all-too-common practice, most Black women stopped or refused to breastfeed their own children.

However, moving forward to motherhood post-slavery, the practice of not breastfeeding Black children had become a cultural norm. Breastfeeding was not a common practice amongst the Black community and had begun to take on the connotation of being ‘only for White women’.

father feeding child

The use of formula has been marketed toward Black mothers for decades. Formula can be a great alternative for mothers who are not able to breastfeed, or for children transitioning from a diet of only milk to the introduction of soft foods and cereals. However, solely relying on formula does include higher health risks for you and your baby.

“Research has found that formula feeding, as opposed to breastfeeding, is associated with higher risks for conditions like type 2 diabetes, asthma, and childhood obesity. Not only are the rates of these illnesses increasing among all racial categories in the U.S., but there tend to be especially high rates among Black children.

Obesity rates are higher among African American children than their caucasian counterparts. These issues often continue on to adulthood. Black people are 40% more likely to have asthma than white people. Black adults are twice as likely to develop type II diabetes.” -Mila’s Keeper

father holding child

Breastmilk is a natural source of highly nutritious food for a baby. A mother’s body is amazing in the way that it has adapted to provide exactly what a child needs and does so at the exact time that they need it. Breastfeeding is a natural (and free) way to protect you and your baby against several illnesses.

The natural exchange of germs between you and your baby during nursing allows both of your bodies to create antibodies and better protect themselves from infection. Research finds that nursing could even lower your risk of developing breast cancer.

person holding child

Breastfeeding also releases certain hormones, like oxytocin, that can have many health benefits, including lowering levels of stress and maintaining a healthy blood pressure.

Oxytocin is also critical to postpartum women. The hormone can induce uterine contractions that encourage your uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy size and decrease any postpartum bleeding that may have occurred.

people holding child

“We were never meant to do parenting and breastfeeding alone.” – Jennifer D. Evans, a certified lactation education counselor via Yahoo!Life

Breastfeeding is a great way to care for yourself and your baby. And with social and socioeconomic pushbacks, it is important to create a support system for yourself. Reach out to friends and loved ones to discuss their experience(s) with nursing and consult health professionals for any postpartum guidance.