It’s National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and an excellent time to evaluate some issues arising about this topic and Black women. Statistics have shown there is a widening gap between Black and white breastfeeding initiation rates. It moved from 24 percentage points in 2000 to 16 percentage points in 2008. Black infants the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that only 62% of Black babies born in the US in 2010 started breastfeeding, compared to 79% of White babies. After six months, only 36% were still breastfed, compared to 52% of White babies. We need to take a look at Black mothers nursing in a historical context. “When blacks came to this country, they breastfed their babies and often [slave] masters’ babies,” said Monique Sims-Harper, director of A More Excellent Way Health Improvement Organization and a spokeswoman for the California Breastfeeding Coalition, “after slavery ended, black women often continued to work as wet nurses for white families.” They were the experts in the field. So the question arises, why black women have suddenly stopped nursing their children?
In the African-American community, breastfeeding rates happen to be the lowest; these may be due to some reasons. In Los Angeles, Krystal Nicole Duhaney, owner of Milky Mama noticed that improving the health of African-American mothers and babies requires ongoing and collaborative efforts. She involved organizations and individuals involved in Black mothers’ lives, especially those in areas where extended breastfeeding is not a common practice. She is passionate about breastfeeding for African-American babies.
Breastfeeding can be difficult at times for all moms. Duhaney admits there were some difficult times, particularly when she went back to work with being consistent with breastfeeding. “When I returned to work after having my son, I noticed a decrease in my supply due to stress,” she said. After arming herself with her family’s lactation cookies, Duhaney’s milk supply increased.
“After the birth of a child, moms need support and guidance,” she says Duhaney. She brings awareness to the benefits of breastfeeding while also taking head-on the issue of shaming nursing moms in public. Empowering mothers to breastfeed their babies whenever and wherever is also an act of love and nutriment for their child.
Black moms, like Duhaney, are bringing awareness to nursing.