Black Breastfeeding Week works to increase the number of Black breastfeeding mothers.
Today kicks off Black Breastfeeding Week. This second annual event falls during Breastfeeding Awareness Month, but specifically addresses the need for Black women to increase their breastfeeding numbers. I’ve previously discussed my breastfeeding journey on Women Making Moves. As an experienced breastfeeding momma, I certainly know the importance, and difficulties, of the breastfeeding journey.
So why is a Black Breastfeeding Week needed? Last year, data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that, “75% of white women have ever breastfed versus only 58.9% of black women.” There is a racial disparity in breastfeeding rates among black women and the larger breastfeeding community as a whole. The disparity needs to be addressed if we’re ever going to solve this issue and that’s what Black Breastfeeding Week does. There was tons of controversy when Black Breastfeeding Week was created last year. Unfortunately, many couldn’t see the bigger picture, working to increase breastfeeding rates among black moms.
There are a number of theories as to why breastfeeding rates for Black women are lower. It could be cultural. I’ve seen comments online from women of color who mention that their spouses or partners see the act of breastfeeding as sexual. But society has embraced the boob for sex, when the original purpose of having breast is to nurse. There’s also the long history of black women forced into being wet nurses during slavery. I can hear the argument that slavery was hundreds of years ago, but it’s vital to consider how history can still play a part in current times. But most likely, the reason for low breastfeeding rates among black women has to do with economics.
It’s no secret that breastfeeding is highest among white, educated women. This group of women tend to have higher paying jobs that offer benefits such as maternity leave, which is helpful as mothers start their breastfeeding journey. A recent BBC News article explored why black mothers are less likely to breastfeed. A quote from the article says, “African-American women are less likely to be well-educated and on average make less money than white women.”
I’ve mentioned previously while in a group of mothers with diverse backgrounds, that’s it’s not uncommon for low-income women to return to work two weeks, or even less, after giving birth. This is common across the board for low-income women of any color, but statistics show that black women tend to fall in the low-income group more often than women of other ethnicities. The Affordable Healthcare Act includes a prevision about nursing mothers. It mandates that employers provide a reasonable break time, and location, for mothers to express (pump) milk. Sure salaried employees are able to take advantage of this mandate, but what about mothers who work in a hourly job setting? Clocking out to pump, could mean not having enough money in your check to cover next month’s rent or buy enough groceries for your family. These are choices that low-income women have to make everyday. And usually, the option of breastfeeding goes on the back burner.
If you’re a breastfeeding momma who happens to be black, Black Breastfeeding Week is a great opportunity for you to encourage other Black mothers to breastfeed. Whether it’s sharing your story or helping a soon-to-mom formulate a response to people who may think it’s crazy to breastfeed, every little bit helps. Collectively, we can help increase the number of Black women who breastfeed.
Women, start making your Moves today!
Women Making Moves