The Need to See Black Moms Breastfeeding

When Beyonce was recently spotted breastfeeding her daughter in public, it set off a chain reaction within the breastfeeding community. Everyone was so excited for what her example meant for breastfeeding moms everywhere. But only one person mention that Beyonce's breastfeeding example is most important for black moms and women of African American decent.

Black Moms Breastfeeding

I consider Kimberly Seals Allers a dear friend and know her commitment to black maternal health and breastfeeding. When I read her post "Dear White Women: Beyonce is OUR Breastfeeding Moment. Please Step Aside", I knew the place her words came from. While many people took offense to her post, many others praised her for saying what many of us thought. Damn, can we have our own breastfeeding example that's not white?!

Black Moms Breastfeeding

When I gave birth to my son, I already knew I would breastfeed. Within minutes after delivery we tried to have him latch on. The breastfeeding process took some adjusting to but I stuck with it. Eventually my son and I figured out what worked for us as a team and we continue the process for nearly 2 years.

Black Moms Breastfeeding

During those 2 years, I breastfeed him all over the place. I enjoyed that special moment that was just about us. Coming from a West Indian culture I didn't have as many "issues" with breastfeeding like some other mothers did. Not to say I didn't have any issues but it wasn't about the process. My issues was more about the experience.

I read the books, I watched the videos and I joined the online breastfeeding community. But many times the books I read didn't mention blacks moms. The videos I watched didn't feature black moms. The online communities I joined were filled with moms that didn't look like me. The stories being shared mostly came from mom who were not black. Where were the women like me?! Where were the women who could identify with and support my breastfeeding experience?!

2 years ago this was the conversation I had with Kimberly during the "Bravado Breastfeeding Information Council (BBIC) launch event". We wondered where the minority moms who are breastfeeding? After the conversation I started my Minority Moms & Breastfeeding series, where I interviewed some minority moms within my social network about their Breastfeeding experiences.

3 years later and things are a bit better. While I do see more black moms in the breastfeeding group it's still a very low ratio. Now I might see a black mom in a breastfeeding ad, but most ads still feature non black moms.

For black mothers looking for an example, Michelle Obama, who breastfed her daughters, Beyonce and other black celebrity moms who breastfeed, are all we have. They are what we NEED. The issue of having a breastfeeding example that looks like "us", that we can relate to, that we can identify with is a matter of life and death for black moms and their children. Black moms have some of the lowest Breastfeeding rates.

That means our children are NOT getting the benefits of breast milk, which contains many antibodies that help protect infants from disease. That means black moms are also NOT getting the health benefits that include a lowered risk of type 2 diabetes, breast and ovarian cancer, and postpartum depression.

It's staggering to think about isn't it. But black maternal health and breastfeeding advocates think about this everyday. They are looking for a solution to help the black and minority moms who need it the most. If that means "claiming" Beyonce and all that she stands for...then so be it.

Kimberly Seals Allers has a fellowship project and would love to hear your breastfeeding story. CALL 800-780-7305 and leave a recorded message.

Start with your first name, age, city and state and then answer the following questions:
  1. I breastfed because/did not breastfeed because...
  2. Breastfeeding changed....(Ex: the way i think about my body, how I ate, my breasts, how I viewed motherhood, my relationship with my man, etc..)
  3. I wish someone would have told me.....
I can only hope that as awareness about the issues affecting black maternal health begins to spread, Black women and mothers will receive the needed support.

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  1. Important article that brought something to my attention I would not have believed true. I will share and appreciate the opportunity :)

  2. Cheers!!!!!! I received so much support to nurse my daughter and I did it and it was great!

  3. Way to be an advocate! I definitely agree that support while breastfeeding is needed!

  4. Love this! I live in a very pro breastfeeding city and I can only think of handful of my friends who breastfeed. Hopefully, this will spark a movement!

  5. This is a great post - moms of every culture, race, etc need to feel that they a face that they can identify with different issues, like breastfeeding! :)

  6. What a great article!! I hope more black woman do nurse their children. It is a very rewarding experience. I breastfeed my youngest still and he's 2 years and 6 months. Go us. And I'm glad Beyonce is nursing, maybe that will lead to more black woman who see that his is a good thing and will follow suite!

  7. Way to go!!! This is a great article and great job on stepping up and starting movement.