Adia Gipson, MA, IBCLC
Affiliation: Dignity Health
What programs are working to increase breastfeeding support and awareness in Black communities?
As I sit here and ponder over this question, over and over again, I find myself having to think long and hard about what programs are available in the Black community that support breastfeeding. I then finally realize this is why we are in the predicament we’re in now. Where are the programs geared towards increasing breastfeeding in the Black communities?
In my area of Sacramento, CA, there is one program called Her Health First that is geared towards providing prenatal and postnatal support to African American mothers, including breastfeeding support. There are also the WIC programs in Sacramento County that offer lactation support and supplies to those mothers who are in need. I am finding that many moms are seeking out answers to their breastfeeding questions on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, which have groups that are specifically geared towards African American mothers and breastfeeding. Many African American lactation support workers are part of these sites and are providing support this way.
What does it mean to innovate and liberate the Black Breastfeeding experience?
Innovating and liberating the Black Breastfeeding experience is the process of providing information about the benefits of breastfeeding not only for the baby but also for the mom. We need to incorporate more African American breastfeeding role models in our communities, social media, and television in order for black women to see this is normal and is accepted. We must innovate more #movements that normalize breastfeeding in our culture and community. Let’s stomp out and erase all the negativity that has surrounded breastfeeding in our culture. We must empower the black mother to know that her body is a temple and her breasts are an important part of her temple that allows her to give nourishment to her baby in ways no formula could ever duplicate. We want black women to feel empowered when breastfeeding their babies.
Imagine a world where Black women and families were truly listened to, supported and invested in. How would this impact the Black breastfeeding experience?
If we lived in a world where black women and families were supported before, during, and after pregnancy, black breastfeeding rates would be at an all time high. This experience would allow mothers to feel comfortable in reaching out for breastfeeding support.
There would be resources available without any obstacles in finding them. The success of a mother’s breastfeeding duration relies heavily on the support she receives from her family. It’s especially important that the father and grandmother be included in knowing the wonderful benefits of breastfeeding. Not having this support can easily make or break a mother who might be experiencing challenges with breastfeeding. Breastfeeding would be considered normal in this perfect world.
What can we do to ensure that all Black women and birthing individuals meet their infant feeding goals?
Having more Black lactation support workers, midwives, and doulas would allow more black mothers to meet their infant feeding goals.
When you have a mom who may be having a difficult time with breastfeeding, it makes a huge difference when that support person looks like you, can relate to you, and is aware of the struggles that the mom may be facing. Having more resources and support groups available is very important also. Educating doctors, nurses, and other birth professionals on the overall benefits of breastfeeding will significantly lower the black infant mortality rates.