“Mommy, why are all the pictures of other mommies all white?” This was one of the 1st times my daughter (a vibrant, intelligent, sassy, 4 year old) initiated a conversation about race. As a Black woman I noticed. I notice every time I walk into a room and notice I’m the only Black woman in the room, I notice when anyone talks about race in front of me the discomfort white folks have , I notice when my Black babies are the only ones in the playgroup, so yes, I notice when all the books on Breastfeeding have majority white babies.
This week is Black Breastfeeding Week. It is one of the many times I can pause and appreciate the beautiful Black bodies breastfeeding and chestfeeding and human milk feeding (shout out to the exclusive pumpers). Seeing beautiful Black babies nursing, is a type of freedom. Our ancestors were forced to feed the white babies while our babies took a back burner to nutrition. As I sit and nourish (physically, mentally, spiritually) my baby, I sometimes am overcome with such pride. Here I am feeding a whole baby with my body.
Black breastfeeding rates are lower than those of white parents, in some places significantly. I see my friends and family who have been steered in the wrong direction because of well meaning advice or Drs and nurses, many who do not have the lactation education or experience. Many times the professionals don’t know what Black skin, Black breasts specifically, looks like. Black woman have a significantly higher chance of dying during childbirth, most of these stats come from the US but as we know Canada is not any different. Even access to adequate medical care (midwives, doulas, IBCLCs) is a barrier for Black families.
The barriers for Black woman* to successfully meet their breastfeeding goals are abundant. (Many of which are a simple Google search away). But the biggest one to me, has been representation. Take 5 minutes and scroll through most breastfeeding books, pages etc and you will see predominately white women. Look into any breastfeeding organization, it will be white women. Representation is so important to our Black babies and Black parents.
Having Black Breastfeeding Week means so much to me and more importantly to my Black babies. I will enjoy scrolling through the photos and stories this week, loving all the melanin I will be witnessing.
*I recognize many bodies provide human milk to their babies. Most of the stats I can find are about woman. But not all birthing people identify as women and mom.