By Tonya Lang
AANHPI Lactation Collaborative of California
Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Breastfeeding Week is celebrated each year from Aug. 15 through 21. The observance started in 2020 as a local event by the Los Angeles County’s Asian Pacific Islander Breastfeeding Task Force (APIBTF). AANHPI Breastfeeding Week is now organized by the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee’s AANHPI Caucus as a national observance.
This year, the caucus builds upon the work done last year with the theme of Telling our stories. Elevating our voices. AANHPI communities are often invisible and labeled as a singular, monolithic group. Members of the USBC AANHPI Caucus chose this theme again because we felt that it is still relevant for this year. We are not done telling our stories, as some of our community voices have yet to be heard.
Our communities are diverse in language, culture, diet, religion, and ancestry. The diaspora across the United States is as diverse as the reasons that led us and our ancestors to migrate to this country.
Stereotypes, such as the “model minority” myth, continue to harm our communities. Stereotypes perpetuate the idea that we are all quiet, obedient, and polite. Model minority status has silenced us, making it difficult for us to speak about our own marginalization, and has pitted us against other communities of color.
AANHPIs are also being silenced and rendered invisible by the lack of data. It is difficult to paint an accurate picture of what breastfeeding, chestfeeding, and human milk feeding look like in our communities. The little data we have are often aggregated into a general “AANHPI” category, which mask the diversity of our communities and the disparities in health outcomes. At best, we see data disaggregated into Asian and Pacific Islander categories.
But what does it mean to have breastfeeding data for Asians, when the continent of Asia includes over 48 countries? What about data on Pacific Islanders, when Pasifika encompasses thousands of islands that cover a geographic region broader than the United States?
AANHPI Lactation Advocacy Makes a Difference
Since the creation of AANHPI Breastfeeding Week three years ago, we HAVE made progress. The in-hospital breastfeeding initiation data from the California Newborn Screening Program now includes Asian subgroups. State and county-level data are available for nine different subgroups plus a multi-ethnic Asian category for 2010-2021.
Several resources for AANHPI families have also been developed:
- With funding from Friends of La Leche League, the Asian Southeast Asian Pacific Islander Breastfeeding Taskforce (ASAP!) created an AANHPI social media toolkit that provides culturally appropriate lactation educational messages for AANHPI families for use on social media. The toolkit contains ready-made images for Instagram with positive photos depicting AANHPIs nursing and pumping. There are six different educational messages regarding nursing and human milk feeding. Messages and captions are translated into 11 different AANHPI languages: Chinese (both traditional and simplified), Farsi, Hindi, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Native Hawaiian, Samoan, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
- ASAP! has also created a culturally tailored prenatal toolkit for Chinese and Vietnamese families with funding from NACCHO to implement the Continuity of Care in Breastfeeding Support Blueprint. You can download the toolkits in English, traditional Chinese, and Vietnamese here.
- APIBTF created user-friendly supplemental materials for the Dietary Guidelines for Infants and Toddlers in Chinese and Vietnamese including handouts and social media posts.
- The APIBTF collected photos and videos through their photo/video project that features stories of AANHPI parents and their infant feeding journeys. The photo and video collections are available online.
Now is the time to tell our own stories and control our narrative. Rather than allowing our voices to be silenced and our communities to be defined by others, we call on our allies and co-conspirators to step back, listen to our voices, and lift up our communities — during AANHPI Breastfeeding Week and every week. Please join us as we share our tradition of breastfeeding, chestfeeding, and human milk feeding in our communities.
Find AANHPI Breastfeeding Week Events on Facebook
USBC’s AANHPI Caucus will host an AANHPI Lactation Community Forum from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18. Register to hear AANHPI community members share their journeys to becoming lactation support professionals. The presentation will be followed by a discussion on how capacity can be further built to support AANHPI families.
There is also a coloring contest celebrating AANHPI Breastfeeding Week through the end of August. Follow AANHPI Breastfeeding Week on Facebook to see all that’s planned for the week.
Tonya Lang, MPH, CHES, IBCLC, is a co-founder of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Lactation Collaborative of California and a member of the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee’s AANHPI Caucus. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.