What You Need To Know About Black Breastfeeding Week

Photo: Getty Images.
While World Breastfeeding Week took place from August 1-7, and the whole month of August is dedicated to promoting breastfeeding awareness, the last week of the month is especially impactful for mothers of color.
Black Breastfeeding Week, an annual awareness campaign that runs from August 25-31, was created in 2012 by breastfeeding advocates Kimberly Seals Allers, Kiddada Green, and Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka in response to racial disparities in breastfeeding rates.
While breastfeeding isn't always for everyone, the campaign hopes to encourage Black parents who can and want to breastfeed to do so. According to the CDC, just 58% of Black women have ever breastfed, in comparison to 75% of white women — something that Black Breastfeeding Week wants to address in order to increase awareness about breastfeeding's role in improving maternal and child health.
This year, the campaign's fifth in existence, Black Breastfeeding Week is promoting visibility around Black parents breastfeeding by encouraging them to share their photos and stories on social media with various hashtags such as #BBW17 and #BetOnBlack, which is this year's theme. Events include a Facebook Live spotlight on breastfeeding in LGBTQ families, as well as various local community events taking place across the country.
"For years, our communities have been viewed as places of deficiencies and lacks, but we reject that narrative and have full faith and confidence that we can create the solutions and support to improve infant and maternal health outcomes and save our babies," Allers said in a statement shared with Refinery29.
"We say 'Bet on Black' this year as confirmation of the passionate, tireless and innovative work being done by communities and families to protect the first food and this deeply nourishing tradition," Sangodele-Ayoka added.
Sherisa de Groot, founding editor of Raising Mothers, tells Refinery29 that the campaign is especially important to her as someone who didn't personally grow up seeing parents of color breastfeeding their children.
"There's a common sentiment that breastfeeding is a white woman luxury, or worse, the stigma that it is what you do because you can't afford formula," she says.
For de Groot, who just last week gave birth to, and is breastfeeding, her second child, Black Breastfeeding Week is meaningful because "I get to see my reflection, proudly talk [about], and display this preference that's been culturally denied us as a collective for decades."
In addition to addressing the racial disparity in breastfeeding rates, BBW seeks to tackle the infant mortality rate among Black infants, as well as the unique cultural barriers that Black women face when it comes to breastfeeding.
"There's still a huge stigma to Black mothers breastfeeding," de Groot says. "It's hard to change the mindset behind nursing if you've never had an encouraging word sent your way or found actual support in your direct community. We are not wet nurses. We are feeding our children with our bodies and there's nothing perverted or sexual about it."
But it's just as important for the campaign to create a community for Black parents as it is dismantling stigma. De Groot says it's been imperative for her to be able to share stories with other mothers of color, both on Raising Mothers and as part of a larger community.
"I hope to see younger Black parents breastfeeding without shame in public," she says. "I hope to see their partners support them vocally. I hope Black mothers of mixed race children aren't made to feel alien by stares of onlookers mistaking them for the nanny. I hope it helps to create more healing for us as a community."
For more information about how you can participate in Black Breastfeeding Week, head to the campaign's website.
August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month. For more stories about nursing, pumping, or choosing not to do either, head to our Mothership page.
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