Celebrating 10 Years of Black Breastfeeding Week
August 25, 2022
By: Asaiah Harville
This August 25-31, 2022 signifies the 10th year of Black Breastfeeding Week being in existence. The theme for this milestone is “10 Years, A New Foundation” with an integral focus to celebrate the stories of families past present and future while shifting the narratives about breastfeeding in the Black community.
The heart of the matter is that there are complex roots of breastfeeding for the Black community within the United States. From enslaved women being forcibly separated from their infants and required to breastfeed their enslaver’s infants, to the often unethical marketing of breastmilk substitutes for Black and African American families, the generational consequences to the breastfeeding relationship for Black mothers and their infants are still seen and felt today. In Los Angeles County, stark inequities exist in breastfeeding rates and disproportionately impacts Asian and Black people.
According to this CDPH Report from 2019, the exclusive breastfeeding rates for African Americans is 87.3% for any breastfeeding and 61.6% for exclusive breastfeeding, both categories being the lowest among all ethnicities. Depending on your own background, lived experiences, and perceptions of data, this information can develop a myriad of explanations as to why this disparity exists. One person may think “Black women just don’t want to breastfeed” while the next might think “Other ethnicities just know more about the benefits of breastfeeding”. Regardless of the thoughts that surface when viewing this data, without additional context, data has the potential to confirm false narratives that can further perpetuate the disparity.
The heart of the matter is that breastfeeding not only has a multitude of physiologic and developmental benefits to the baby, but also many physiologic benefits to the mom including a reduction in diabetes risk, and a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Cardiovascular disease, which remains the leading cause of death for Black women according to the American Heart Association, is also reduced with breastfeeding.
According to the World Health Organization, breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival. Support for breastfeeding initiation and increased breastfeeding duration for Black families directly correlates to a significant reduction in total infant mortality.
To learn more about recommendations to support Black breastfeeding families, please see the resources and recommendations below.
Black Breastfeeding Resources
Lactation Equity: Supporting Black and African American Families with Breastfeeding, Hosted by Asaiah Harville, IBCLC
August 25, 2022 6:00-7:30pm
Los Angeles County African American Infant and Maternal Mortality (AAIMM) Prevention Initiative
California Breastfeeding Coalition