Black Breastfeeding Week
Black Breastfeeding Week Is Our Rallying Corner
Because Black mothers haven’t had the same resources, the same support, or the same unbridled joy of breastfeeding our children as others have.
A few years back, as I mindlessly scrolled Instagram, a post by a friend made my thumb stop gliding. She was nursing her months-old son with her breast uncovered and her caption read, “Milk Coma. Happy Black Breastfeeding Week.”
I had three thoughts…
This is beautiful.
Wait, she’s showing her entire boob on the Gram.
WE HAVE A BLACK BREASTFEEDING WEEK???
Let me address the second one. I wasn’t breastfed, and the first time I encountered it up close was when my older sibling nursed her second child. Nothing about it turned me away. My niece wanted and needed her mother. It blew my mind that she could smell my sister, and just being near her breasts calmed her. It reminded me of animals and how instinctual it is for them to turn to their mothers as their source of sustenance and comfort.
But at the time it was still sort of “quiet is kept,” meaning you don’t just pop that thing out and feed. It was a whole show of finding the cover, picking a hidden spot, and adjusting all your clothing at every angle so nobody gets a peek of your flesh. I’d even helped to cover her or voluntarily mentioned that she was in the back feeding the baby if someone missed her being in the room, and they all knew not to go near her.
My point is that although my first instinct was to acknowledge the natural beauty of my friend’s picture, since I wasn’t previously exposed to women in our culture who didn’t tuck or hide when they nursed, I instinctively clutched a pearl or two.
I never nursed in public because my breasts were three times their normal size, filling to meet the demand that feeding twins put on my body. I didn’t have enough hands to wrangle in and guard all that flesh. I wish I was free back then… free like my friend and the other Black women I began to see glorifying and normalizing the beauty of our babies suckling from us, their source!
Black Breastfeeding Week (BBW), which is August 25 through August 31, was created for people like me. Not just a Black mother who hadn’t been privileged to bask in the unbridled joy of a Black woman breastfeeding. But to educate, advocate, and raise awareness of the disparities that we experience. There is a deeper reason it wasn’t very common in our community; I wasn’t a unicorn.
According to the NEC Society, Kimberly Seals Allers, a co-creator of BBW, said, “We must end the dangerous conversation of breastfeeding as a choice without a deeper discussion as to how Black women’s choices are shaped by their circumstances.” Like the history of being forced to nurse our enslavers’ babies, or historically not having a choice of equal healthcare and educational opportunities to learn about the developmental benefits, both physical and social, of nursing. Or having resources to walk us through its challenges. Black mothers haven’t generally haven’t had the same access to lactation consultants or in-home check-ups to guide their birth and postnatal experience.
A CDC study found that Black mothers have to return to work sooner than women of other races and are more likely to experience challenges with nursing or being able to express milk, challenges like a lack of workplace support to continue breastfeeding.
Allers, a journalist and advocate for maternal and infant health, co-created BBW to bring awareness, education, empowerment, and freedom to enjoy the Black breastfeeding journey. Other grassroots organizations like Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association have also become resources in the Black community to help close the disparity gap.
The theme for this year’s BBW is “Collective Rest For Collective Power.” The focus will be on self-care and taking a pause to release and replenish. Activities that Black mothers can join will include collective yoga, meditation, massages, vaginal steaming, and more.
I can’t wait to see all the social media posts celebrating this time, and what our bodies can do. I needed to see this other side of nursing, to see other moms who I could identify with that are actively working through their decision to breastfeed their children and inspire others to do the same.
It wasn’t easy for me, but I made the choice to do nurse my twins for seven months. I can only imagine how much easier it would have been if my peers and family would have just said, “Girl it’s OK. We don’t care about them boobs. Feed your babies!”
Black Breastfeeding Week is now a part of our rallying corner. We can breathe easier and take charge of our experience with just as much right as any other mother.