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Dear White Women: Top 5 Reasons Why We Need a Black Breastfeeding Week

The news had not been posted for two hours before the brouhaha began on Facebook. Yesterday, myself and two of my comrades in the movement to shift breastfeeding culture in the black community, officially announced August 25-31st—the last week of National Breastfeeding Awareness Month—as Black Breastfeeding Week.

About two weeks ago, I wrote a piece suggesting the need for a Black Breastfeeding Week as a way to highlight awareness to a community that desperately needs more breastfed babies.  Days later, while attending the ROSE summit in Atlanta, I sat with Kiddada Green, founder of Detroit’s Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association and Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka, co-founder of the Brown Mamas Breastfeed Project and Free to Breastfeed  and in our excitement and passion for saving black babies, we agreed to launch it this year. The week will be marked with celebratory “fist bump” images to be shared on Facebook, a live interactive webcast via You Tube and a groundbreaking twitter chat, under the inaugural theme: #BlackLivesMatter (get all the info & shareable images here).

But before we could finish uploading the images, there was already a ruckus brewing over at The Leaky Boob Facebook page with over 500 (and counting) divisive comments–many of which were removed by the page administrator because of their racist connotations.

Let me say this. In general, it is tragic to see white people try to tell black people what we do and don’t need. To be clear, this is not about YOU—this effort does not exclude or preclude anyone else from joining in. Please hear me, every time black people get together in solidarity to address problems in their own community, it is not a statement or action toward YOU. In fact, your energy would be better spent thinking about how you can support such a life-saving effort.

Now, to the specifics of breastfeeding. It is not a secret that for over 40 years there has been a gaping racial disparity in breastfeeding rates.  The most recent CDC data show that 75% of white women have ever breastfed versus 58.9% of black women. The fact that racial disparity in initiation and even bigger one for duration has lingered for so long is reason enough to take 7 days to focus on the issue, but for those who may be confused by their view from suburbia,  blinded by their white privilege or otherwise need more convincing, I’ve put together (Letterman style) the Top 5 Reasons Why We Need a Black Breastfeeding Week.

5. Black babies are dying at twice the rate (in some place, nearly triple) the rate of white babies. This is a fact. The high infant mortality rate among black infants is mostly to their being disproportionately born too small, too sick or too soon. These babies need the immunities and nutritional benefit of breast milk the most. According to the CDC, increased breastfeeding among black women could decrease infant mortality rates by as much as 50%. So when I say breastfeeding is a life or death matter, this is what I mean. And it is not up for debate or commenting. This is the only reason I have ever needed to do this work, but I will continue with the list anyway.

4. When you look at all the health conditions that breast milk—as the most complete “first food,” has been proven to reduce the risks of—African  American children have them the most. From upper respiratory infections and Type II diabetes to asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and childhood obesity—these issues are rampant in our communities. And breast milk is the best preventative medicine nature provides.  This is a public health issue in our community not a lifestyle choice. FYI, Black women don’t always have those.

3. Not only are there blatant racial disparities in breastfeeding rates, there is a blatant disparity in breastfeeding leadership as well. It is not debatable that breastfeeding advocacy is white female-led. This is a problem. For one, it unfortunately perpetuates the common misconception that black women don’t breastfeed.  It also means that many of the lactation professionals, though well-intentioned, are not culturally competent, sensitive or relevant enough to properly deal with African American moms.  This is a week to discuss the lack of diversity among lactation consultants and to change our narrative. A time to highlight, celebrate and showcase the breastfeeding champions in our community who are often invisible. And to make sure that breastfeeding leadership also reflects the same parity we seek among women who breastfeed.

2. While many of the “booby traps”™ to breastfeeding are universal, Black women also have unique cultural barriers and a complex history connected to breastfeeding.  From our role as wet nurses in slavery being forced to breastfeed  and nurture our slave owners children often to the detriment of our children,  to the lack of mainstream role models  and multi-generational support , to our own stereotyping within our community—we have a different dialogue around breastfeeding and it needs special attention.

1. Many African American communities are “first food deserts”—it’s a term I coined to describe the desert like conditions in many urban areas I visited where women cannot access support for the best first food-breast milk.  It is not fair to ask women, any woman, to breastfeed when she lives in a community that is devoid of support. It is a set up for failure. Please watch this video and educate yourself on the conditions in many vulnerable communities about what you can do (beyond leaving comments on blogs) to help transform these areas from “first food deserts” into First Food Friendly neighborhoods.

And the bonus #1 reason why we need a Black Breastfeeding Week is: Because. We. Said. So. We, the people who are from and of the black community. Those of us who are respected for leading the charge in increasing breastfeeding rates among black women. Those of us who are on the ground, doing the work and working for change.  Those of us who have faced the cultural struggles while breastfeeding our own children and want something better for future mothers and babies. I’m confident that the majority of people who are complaining about Black Breastfeeding Week haven’t seen what I’ve seen. They haven’t driven some 30 miles outside Birmingham, AL just to find a breastfeeding support group–or other urban areas where La Leche League doesn’t exist.  They haven’t held a premature baby who desperately needs breast milk but keeps spitting up formula. They haven’t stood on street corners and in front of WIC offices surveying new mothers and fathers, who said that their doctors never even gave them information about breastfeeding.  They have likely never stepped into a black community or a black home or a black church to understand the lack of resources available or the negative sentiment and myths that linger about breastfeeding. So until you have walked where I have walked, seen what I have seen and stood where I have stood, please do not have the audacity to tell me and my community what we do and do not need.

Yes, we are all in this together. But some of us need more attention to get us there.

In motherhood,

Kimberly Seals Allers

Comments
155 Responses to “Dear White Women: Top 5 Reasons Why We Need a Black Breastfeeding Week”
  1. BECAUSE. WE. SAID. SO.

    That’s all you need to know. And Kimberly: your last paragraph SAYS IT ALL! I love and appreciate your passion and THANK YOU for always keeping our babies on the forefront of all that you do. It means the world to us.

  2. The proof is in the numbers and *that’s* why it’s “segregated.” The first point being in that there even needs to be a separate need for a specific race but that will just go over their heads much like how everything else that doesn’t appropriate them their own little club. I’m not a black mother and I strongly believe that unconditional support is needed where support is due.

  3. Rachel Adams says:

    I’m sorry that the haters are the loudest talkers. I found your post through The Leaky Boob. Thank you for expanding my understanding of the issues facing your community. I know you do not in any way shape or form need my explicit support, but you do have it.

    • Michelle says:

      ^^^ :) mine too! ^^ I struggled to know what to say – how to say it – without somehow saying it wrong. Reading the comments though – I say “YES!!” to ones like this one and agree whole heartedly! So glad that someone else was able to put it into words.

  4. That last paragraph brought me to tears. Thank you for your passion! I am the (white female) founder of Milky Mommas, an online community fostering support, education and advocacy for breastfeeding and breast milk feeding, currently at around 1,700 members. The racial disparity is obvious, even in our membership and meet ups. I have a few impassioned members who are looking to reach out to the black community. I’d love to know what we can do to help, or to support your efforts. Please let us know! Happy Black Breastfeeding Week!

  5. Emmy says:

    I saw the hullaballoo on TLB yesterday. I will admit to being baffled. It’s probably my white privilege making me so ignorant but alas, I don’t know what else I could or should be doing. Anyway, I didn’t get it but I read a little bit, and I felt like women were making a good case for Black Breastfeeding Week. Despite generally feeling like “now we need a black breastfeeding week too?!” I kept reading. You had me and I was totally on your side until you said, that it’s a problem that breastfeeding advocacy is white led. And then followed that with implying that these white lactation consultants are too culturally inept or relevant. I feel like white people can’t win. What do you need from the white community? I only know my experiences and I had a lactation consultant who was excellent; I cannot imagine that she didn’t know enough about breastfeeding to help a black woman. Carry on with Black Breastfeeding Week. I think it would be terrific, actually I think it’s imperative that the Black community gets breastfeeding numbers up, and I’ll do anything I can to support that. Breastfeeding is good for babies. It’s good for mommies. Regardless of their skin color. I still can’t help feeling like whatever white people do will be “wrong” and nothing will ever be enough. At the end of the day, if you say “these are my obstacles to breastfeeding and in the black community it’s difficult to breastfeed…” I’m going to believe you and I’m going to support you. And I hope you’ll take said support because it’s sincere. Even if I don’t entirely “get it.”

    • Nechama says:

      Hi Emmy,

      I am a white midwife and lactation counselor who cared for many, many women and families of color when I was working clinically (I’m currently not practicing). I fully agree that it’s a problem that breastfeeding advocacy is mostly white-led, and I wanted to share my thoughts about why-I respect your willingness to share your confusion and feelings. First of all, I don’t take it in any way personally when a new mom of color is best served by a lactation consultant or professional of color. It’s not a statement about me; it’s a statement about the mother and her experiences and needs. As a midwife, I think I was pretty good at my job, and I tried hard to be culturally humble. But as a white woman, there are just some things about being a woman of color that I can’t know, because I have never experienced them personally. This is just the same as how a male lactation consultant could be really well educated, sensitive and good at his job, but there are just some things about being a woman that he would never be able to understand. (Just like all men in our lives can try hard and be really good, but will just never understand certain things the way a woman who has experienced it would.) Breastfeeding (and birth and mothering and all of it) are intensely personal, as you know, and are about so much more than finding a achieving a correct latch-breastfeeding experiences reference our entire lives, our sense of ourselves as women, and they can be really vulnerable times. So it really makes sense to me that someone would want a professional who intrinsically understands parts of her experience as a black woman that a white woman like me just can’t understand. The same way it makes sense to me that many women choose midwifery care because they wanted to be cared for by a woman. It wasn’t hating on men; it was just a recognition that as a woman, I get certain things without having to think about them, and a man might not. So for that reason, if a professional of color was available, I would recommend her. I think that sometimes I provided care best by standing back, so that the woman could be cared for by someone who understands her experiences better. If one wasn’t available, I provided good care, but care that potentially missed an important aspect of the mother’s life and experiences.

      As a clinician, I saw really vividly how great an impact racism has on health. Camera Jones defines racism as unjust structures that privilege some, disadvantage others and harm us all. One of the impacts of racism is its potential to limit opportunities to be heard for the people most disadvantaged. I don’t think it’s about white people being able to win as much as it’s about making sure that the people most disadvantaged by racism are heard. Sometimes listening and making space is all that needed to be “enough”. Also to the idea that white people will always be wrong, I want to re-frame using Dr. Jones’ definition about racism harming us all, in different ways. When people of color are left out of the general birth/breastfeeding conversation, all of us are harmed, because we miss all the insights, brilliance, perspectives of many women. This is a loss. Sort of like women’s history month is needed until history books reflect men’s history and women’s history equally, Black Breastfeeding Week is needed until the breastfeeding advocacy movement reflects all people equally. And this is about undoing the harms of racism on all of us, not blaming white people.

      I hope some of this makes sense, and I appreciate the opportunity for this dialogue. I also am so excited to see Black Breastfeeding Week and want to lend my wholehearted support!

      • Kay says:

        As much as I appreciate how you wrote your response, and believe in your sincerity, I very much disagree with you.

        I am black, and from what I read in your comment, because of that you would recommend a LC of color if one was available because YOU aren’t colored? Should we really start racially profiling who can give support to whom? I’m a doula and training to be an LC, so should I stick to clientele who have similar appearances to myself, because I may have a life story and experiences closer to theirs? Or do I get a free pass to serve those outside my culture because other cultures don’t require the same kind of sensitivities? Do you see the double standard?

        If you told a black LC that she needed to go through special culture training to be able to be a good support for white moms she may end up serving because she doesn’t understand their experience and history (positively or negatively), there would be an uproar.

        I’m sorry, but there are no PRIMARY issues pertaining to breastfeeding that are not tied to socioeconomic status. Breastfeeding rates decrease across the board ethnically when social and economic levels are lowered. Poor whites breastfeed at a significantly lower rate, as do Hispanics, Native Americans, blacks and middle easterners. As socioeconomic levels increase, so do education, recourses, and support.
        I bet if you took a survey asking women of lower socioeconomic status of all ethnicities the top three reasons they don’t breastfeed, it would boil down to 1. lack of recourses (no easy Internet access, no regular Dr visits, inaccessibility to WIC, etc), 2. lack of support (mother/family doesn’t have breastfeeding experience as a result of generations spent at that socioeconomic level so breastfeeding is new to them and they can’t/don’t want to help, inaccessibility to LCs, and unaware of LOL and similar orgs), and 3. “lack of time” (this can be due to returning to work sooner, or the idea that formula is “easier” which is promoted when it is subsidized by programs like WIC and clinics that give free samples, etc.) you aren’t going to get reasons like, slavery mindsets, as the any of the PRIMARY reasons someone has decided not to breastfeed. And honestly, once the primary issues are solved, secondary and tertiary reasons fall wayside.

        Childbirth educators, doulas, LCs, etc do need special cultural training, but not for ethnic reasons. They need to be trained to help and understand the cultural differences of a poor and economically challenged mother. Because regardless of her ethnicity, if she has a free pack of enfamil and has to go back to her min wage job when baby is only 3 weeks old, she’s gonna choose the enfamil if she doesn’t have the resources, education, and support to help her choose otherwise.

        • Middy says:

          I agree with you Kay,

          When I attend women all I see is just that, a woman. A woman who needs my help. I help each and every woman on an individual basis. In my experience not all black women need the help on offer, in fact the majority of black women I have attended seem to experts and are naturals compared with the white women I have helped. I believe the issues are down down to what Kay said, socioeconomic.
          Also, if a white woman said she needed a white LC because she will understand her culture better then she would be accused of being racist. How is this any different to a black person requesting support from a black LC? Why do we have to base everything on colour? Just because people have different coloured skin doesnt mean jack. Each woman will have her own culture and experiences, regardless of skin colour, so each woman should be treated as an individual in her own right.

        • Shelby I. says:

          I couldn’t agree more, that’s exactly what I was thinking! I mean, I really appreciate this blog post because it did open my eyes a bit, but I do think the problem is mainly about SES, not specifically race. If this is a way to reach out to a large chunk of women, then I think it’s great! But it’s true that if I asked for a white LC because I’d assume her experiences are closer to mine…well, I honestly can’t even imagine thinking that way. I mean, that’s its own type of stereotyping in both directions. Does this mean that within the black community, women assume that a black LC was a single mom with no support and that a white LC must have been raised in luxury and privilege? I just don’t understand that mindset because I genuinely do not have it. You TOTALLY nailed it in this comment that the most helpful thing for LCD of any ethnicity would be specific training with lower SES situations. It’s not like that training should be contingent on race lol
          Anyways, thanks for this comment!
          And thank you to the author for this post!

        • Momof4 says:

          Ok. So now there is a white woman who is stating that she doesn’t understand what black woman go through. That she finds it ok to have another black woman who “understands her” to help her with her breast feeding.
          That is exactly what this article is about. It states that white women do not and will not understand the black community. And now we have a white woman who is all for this article and agreeing that a white woman wouldn’t understand what a black culture had been through and you’re disagreeing with her about not understanding and everyone is the same black or white??
          Which is it? So “white privilege” makes white people ignorant to the black BF community and we have here a white woman agreeing to this statement and now she’s told she is wrong for it?
          Oh vey.
          I can see how the black community can be treated differently. I know racism still exists. But racism goes all ways. As you see here. White women can’t win nowadays know matter what is said.
          If whites disagree about Black Breastfeeding Week they are ignorant and wrong. If they agree then they are wrong for admitting they do not understand and told they are wrong for offering a black woman support from another black woman who “gets it”.
          Please tell me I’m not the only one to see the hypocrisy in what is written above?

          • FromUterus2Breast says:

            Mom of4 I definitely see what you are saying and I agree there is a lot of hypocrisy here. If a healthcare provider feels like there is another healthcare provider who can give the patient better care (for any reason) then I think they are obligated to refer that patient to that provider. To not do so, in my opinion, would be neglectful. Some of these ladies are giving the impression that she automatically sends black patients to black midwives. I really don’t think that is what she meant. When I first read the “white people just can’t win” statements I thought they were ridiculous. Then I read some of these responses and now I see why they feel the way they do. And just in case anyone is wondering I am a black woman and I agree that a week that highlights the problems of breastfeeding in my community is necessary and a great idea.

        • Annette says:

          I’m glad you replied to this, Kay. As a Hispanic woman, I don’t feel the need to seek out other Hispanic women to help me give birth or breastfeed. I find a woman who is kind and experienced and shares my birth and breastfeeding philosophies.

        • Theresa says:

          Kay, I hope everyone reads your response. As someone who has worked with economically disadvantaged women from various ethnicities, I can’t shout “Amen” loud enough to all you said. First, not all white women are viewing the struggle from the suburbs and to imply they are does more damage than good to the entire movement to increase breastfeeding rates. It is not a “lifestyle” choice for women of various ethnicities who are struggling just to survive. As to the WIC office, according to the USDA the highest percent of women going in for assistance are white. Where are the statistics that remove race as a factor and look at birth outcomes and breastfeeding rates for ALL women living at or below the poverty line? There is a completely separate culture of poverty that crosses ethnic boundaries. The idea that white equals financially secure with a strong support system and black equals poor without one continues to perpetuate stereotypes and create dialog barriers that prevent ALL of us from getting to the core issues–region and economic class are stronger predictors for breastfeeding challenges than skin color. Most poor women of any color have no clue what the La Leche League is much less where it is located. As to representation in the leadership and role models, where are the women of any ethnicity who don’t know how they will pay their bills this month but are still making it work? There are a lot of warriors out there of various hues and those are the women who should have the mic for a week. A black or white woman living anywhere who is financially secure and has a strong support system doesn’t have a damn thing in common when it comes to breastfeeding challenges with a woman of any color living in poverty without one. That doesn’t mean she can’t offer life changing support, encouragement, love, empathy and acceptance.

        • E. says:

          Exactly what I was thinking Kay. Other than the slavery mindset, everything else written in this post is tied to low socioeconomic status instead of race/ethnicity. Thank you for vocalizing my thoughts better than I ever could!

      • Kelly says:

        To Nechama:

        Thank you for that insightful response. I could not have said it better myself. As an African American women, lactation educator/RN (soon to be LC, come on October!), and student in predominately white and Hispanic community, it is imperative that I represent not only for all breastfeeding mothers, but especially for AA mothers. Many people of other races do not understand the struggles that black women face (particularly in the areas of motherhood and parenting) on a day to day basis. I do not believe that this is anyone’s “fault.” The same can be said for me working with my patients who are illegal immigrants. They face great health disparities due to their barriers in healthcare. I can only imagine this struggle because I have never lived that life. For this reason, someone who is more familiar with that barrier would be better suited to help that mother. The most important thing that we must understand is that we are all united by womanhood and this should be a strong, unbreakable bond. However, if I see that one of my sisters is falling then I should be the first one to help them up. This is what Black Breastfeeding Week should be about… regardless of your race we should be coming together to help apart of our sisterhood that has fallen down. Being open-minded and empathetic to this need, like you are, is one of the first barriers that has to be broken.

      • Chiara says:

        Well said.

    • Dana says:

      We *are* culturally inept/irrelevant. We *don’t* get what it’s like to be black.

      See, the problem is that a certain strain of anti-racism activists decided that what we need to do is pretend that everyone is exactly the same regardless of skin color. And that’s the gospel that’s preached to us white folks day in and day out. But the whole POINT of anti-racism activism is that people are WORTH THE SAME no matter how different they look or how different their backgrounds are. That somehow got missed in the homogenization and sanitation of mainstream anti-racism.

      It took me over 30 years just to come to the understanding that as a Cajun woman, I cannot say “we white people came to this continent in the 1600s” and “our history began in England” because I AM NOT ENGLISH. If there’s that great a disparity between my history and the history of Americans with English ancestry, how much more of a disparity must there be between American whites and American blacks?

      We need to understand this because it’s NOT going away. And when we get butthurt about something black folks say about how our interactions with them affect them, we’re making it all about ourselves. And we can’t do that if our goal is to help others–in order to properly help, we need to give them what they need, where they are right now. And only they can answer those questions, because they are not us. They are simply *worth as much as we are*. Big difference. Five pennies are not a nickel, but five pennies and a nickel are each worth five cents.

  6. Val says:

    Thank you for publishing this response. I was saddened to hear and read about the reactions on The Leaky Boob’s Facebook page. It is time we, as African American women, have a say in the direction of this movement. As an African American IBCLC and Doctoral Candidate studying infant feeding decision making, I applaud you and others in your efforts to address this infant feeding disparity!

    • Janiya says:

      Val,

      I am so happy to see an African-American IBCLC. I am currently obtaining a Master’s in lactation and sat for my CLC last week. I am a SLP who is switching to feeding therapy and decided to take my education beyond just a certificate because I want to assist women of color who want to breastfeed, but don’t have the support they need to be successful. I am looking for a mentor, but have not come across one yet. I am curious to see if we can make contact outside of this message post. After speaking with some OB’s and Pediatricians, I will be the only African-American CLC in my area. This is crazy, (because I live in The Triad area of NC, encompassing 3 major cities) but not too uncommon, from statistics. Please, if there is anyway we can make contact, it would be much appreciated. I am listed on FB under Janiya Mitnaul Williams. I am the ONLY one. I would leave my email address, but I don’t want to experience any ignorance from people who really don’t know facts, statistics, or truly

  7. Jennifer says:

    Should Breastfeeding be colorless, YES! Until we reach that point of normalization among ALL people worldwide, we will continue to acknowledge the misrepresented! Such terrible statistics within OUR African American Community SHOULD BE proof enough.

  8. Samantha S says:

    You know, whatever it takes to help breastfeeding return to the norm is a good thing and we should all remember that.

  9. Lyndsay says:

    Thank you for this! Saw the horribly ignorant and WRONG comments on the leaky boob last night, and I am glad to have this to share with my readers.

  10. Love the last paragraph! So glad I missed the ignorance on FB the other day.

  11. Maria says:

    This article is so perfect. I was embarrassed and appalled the other night on The Leaky B@@b, as I always am when my fellow white people open their mouths around issues in which they have no lived experience. I am sharing this widely, and I am excited for the inaugural Black Breastfeeding Week.

  12. Ariel T says:

    5. There are many leading factors of high mortality rates in black infants. The reasons behind them being born too early, too small or too sick… maybe these are the things you should center your campaign around…
    4. So you start out saying breastmilk reduces the risks of- and then continue to say that African American babies have the highest rates of the following as well as these issues being ramped in “your” communities. BUT not all black women have these problems< so your contradicting yourself while stating black babies need breastmilk more than other races, because of the condition of the communities that these children are raised in? WTF Then help better those communities, they obviously need better Pre-natal care!
    3. Now your stating that Lactation consultants are racist. And that because Black women haven't stepped up to advocate NEXT to white women you need a special week and group to change that? STEP UP! No need to do it infront of only black mothers! You should do it next to white, yellow, brown ones as well! Why segregate yourselves, when you can stand next to a white, brown, Asian, Indian mother and advocate breastfeeding TOGETHER!
    2. Drop the slavery crap!! HONESTLY This is the 21st century! Noone has slaves, and noone alive anymore that has been a slave!
    1. The problem isn't in the breastmilk! Or the women who breastfeed! It's in those communities where noone of that culture is stepping up! You need to stop segregating black women and breastmilk! And start help out in those communities to normalize breastfeeding, and make it so that a black women can become lactation consultants and help other mothers alike! Where I live there is a high volume of Hispanics and you better be damn sure that all LC's in all hospitals out here speak Spanish to better comfort mama and baby!

    - It seems as though the bottom line is… The communities your referring to need help! They don't need to be separated by race or color! Get out in your community and help make it breastfeeding friendly!

    https://www.facebook.com/AutumnsCurlyCues

    • thepbg says:

      This comment was so insulting & inappropriate it made my skin crawl. You have no idea what you’re talking about and when someone explains it to you, you push back. Feels like you don’t actually want to know.

      • Ariel T says:

        There was nothing insulting.. They provide the facts, they stated the problems them selves… The problem is not with women not choosing to breastfeed. The problem is with the communities (as stated above) not doing enough/anything to help support the breastfeeding mother, poor Pre-natal care, and the environment the children are raised in that Causes all those health issues at and beyond birth (that was all mention in the blog).

        • susan says:

          You criticize the problems in the community and then, when black women take the initiative to address these problems you criticize them for that.

          It sounds to me that you are not able to be supportive of the efforts of black women to address the problems that they see in their own community. Too bad.

      • gribblet says:

        Beautifully said.

    • Jessica says:

      This whole comment was appalling. I saw you twist her words ie: your claim that she said African American babies are the ones that need breastmilk more. I did not see that at all in her article. I saw you compare her culture to another culture like they will be the same. Um no. I saw you minimize and degrade what very well may be the roots to the current problem. No, we don’t have slavery any longer but like anything else the consequences ripple through out the ages. All I see in your post is ignorance and ego and the need to tear down other human beings. I’m not at all impressed. I wasn’t impressed at many of the comments on FB this one flat out disgusts me. You have learned nothing.

      • Dea says:

        Please don’t bother to try and reason w/ Ariel T, they always know best or so they think. It is best to leave the deluded to their own devices.

    • Emmers says:

      Let me get this straight:

      1. Woman of color advocates for breastfeeding within her community. One might even call such advocacy “stepping up.”
      2. Commenter is angry at her for this, and says: “The problem isn’t in the breastmilk…It’s in those communities where noone of that culture is stepping up!”

      I am…having some trouble figuring out how we got from (1) to (2) here.

      • Christina says:

        This times a thousand. However, given how ignorant basically all of that comment was, I’m unsurprised that she finds it to be a completely logical argument.

      • ChryssM says:

        You’re correct – it’s a complete Catch-22. It’s ignorant, and it’s racist…. and yet the people making these ridiculous, illogical, unhelpful, unsupportive comments think they are somehow being colorblind or helpful. What’s most infuriating, they don’t listen, so I’m not sure there is anything to be done to open their minds or their hearts. I am really, truly saddened by this racism and discrimination in the breastfeeding community. We are supposed to help each other, we are supposed to support each other.

    • Tracy says:

      I’m white. This comment is offensive ^.

      Women of colour, please not all of us think this way.

      Ariel T if you ever tell a person of colour to get over slavery. Duck. Because you should be swatted across the head for such a racist comment. If they don’t, I hope I’m on the other side because I’ll do it.

      You really really need some self reflexive time.

    • Brittany says:

      Um this comment literally contradicts itself all throughout. Please continue to re-read the above until it makes complete sense to you. Thanks.

    • Julie says:

      You say, “It’s in those communities where noone of that culture is stepping up!” THIS IS PEOPLE FROM THEIR CULTURE STEPPING UP. That is exactly what they are doing by starting this, stepping up to help fill the gap.

  13. Beth says:

    This is wonderful! I am a volunteer Breastfeeding Counselor with https://breastfeedingusa.org/ and we would love to increase the diversity in our ranks! We welcome women to work with us and create additional support groups in their communities. We provide online training and continuing support to our Breastfeeding Counselors and they decide what kind of support will work best for the women they serve.

  14. White Woman says:

    Dear Black Woman,
    Thanks to people like you, this is why this world is split because of color. Just feed your child. We don’t need black this, black that. We sure as hell don’t have “white” weeks.

    Have a nice day,
    White Woman!

    • Jessica says:

      This white woman is telling you both to check your privilege and grow up and quit contributing to the problem.

    • A Black Woman says:

      You “sure as hell don’t have white weeks” because you realize how redundant that would be. Assuming you live in America, every week is “white week.” If what I just said does not sit well with you, please refer to any of the hundreds of writings on the topic of white privilege. I’d explain it to you here, but as a busy breastfeeding mother, I have neither time nor energy to beat a dead (and ignorant) horse. That said, if you’d like a white week, start one. I do not have the audacity to tell you what your specific cultural needs are.
      Have a nice day,
      A Black Woman!

  15. Becca says:

    Thank you for what you are doing. This effort is so needed. As a white woman who mentors teen moms, many of whom are black or of other minority groups, my eyes have been opened to the racial disparities in breastfeeding culture. While it was assumed that I would breastfeed my child, most of my girls assume the opposite. The ones that choose breastfeeding face so many obstacles, especially when the return to school. I try my best to help them look at breastfeeding as an option and am so thankful to have new resources to point the toward that specifically address their culture. Again, thank you.

  16. I wonder how many women who are complaining about Black Breastfeeding Week complained about others diminishing the importance of World Breastfeeding Week. I’ll wager it was a good portion of them!

  17. K Keller says:

    I think what you’re doing is awesome. It’s a shame we live in a divided society that requires it to be done this way, but I support you in doing it. A lot of the consternation you’re seeing from white women is based on a lack of understanding. I hope eyes are opened, and I honor your efforts to open them. I hope a day comes when you won’t have to cry out for more black lactation consultants, when you won’t have to call for Black Breastfeeding Week, and when everyone can get the help, encouragement and support she needs to learn how to breastfeed her baby. But until we see that day, I’m all for Black Breastfeeding Week/Month/Year.

  18. Helen says:

    We need a Black Breastfeeding Week for the same reason we need a Black History Month. I am an LC, and a volunteer breastfeeding counselor with La Leche League Canada, and grandma to three beautiful little boys. My SIL is black, which has certainly taught me a few things about inequality and feeling marginalized. I don’t understand how a Black Breastfeeding Week takes anything away from anyone. I know that I live in a white culture, belong to a church that is mostly white, live in a neighborhood that is white, and am married to a white professional man with a Ph.D. I may not be the best person to help a black mom breastfeed, and that black mom needs good help just like the white middle class women do who come to my LLL group. The health care system treats women like they are mentally challenged, when they are white and have advanced degrees and a profession. I can’t even imagine how women who are aboriginal, black, Asian and Hispanic are treated. All women need to be treated with respect, no matter their color, ethnicity, accent, or education. Over at Best for Babes http://www.bestforbabes.org/ one of the banners on their home page is “Every Breastfeeding Mom Deserves To Succeed”" illustrated by a picture of a black woman breastfeeding her baby. That says it all.

  19. Knittingmami says:

    I can’t tell you how it saddens me to see the low breastfeeding rate in the African American community. Glad you are having this week and best of luck. One time in my neighborhood I saw a breastfeeding ad showing a young African American woman nursing and I can’t tell you how glad it made me to see it.

  20. Katie says:

    I wholeheartedly support Black Breastfeeding Week and was horrified at many of the comments on TLB. As a college-educated, middle class, married, white suburban dweller from a family of origin where breastfeeding is the norm, it is not my place to tell black women (or women from any other minority group) that they shouldn’t take time to promote breastfeeding in their communities and to work together to support each other and find ways to overcome issues related to race and culture. Black Breastfeeding Week in no way takes away from the challenges that ALL of us face in breastfeeding our babies, it simply focuses on issues that black women have to contend with – how could anyone be offended or upset by that?

    When our first daughter was born I attended a breastfeeding support group at the hospital where my mother works, which was overwhelmingly white (I can’t think of a time when a mom of color attended). With our second child I’ve been attending the breastfeeding support group at the hospital where I delivered, which has a much more racially and socioeconomically diverse patient base and that is reflected by the moms and babies who attend the support group. Of the women who attend the group in general, not all are partnered or married, and not all are working in white collar/professional jobs that make it relatively easy to pump. It has been incredibly eye-opening (and at times humbling) for me.

  21. Jenna says:

    I am really at a loss for words here, wouldn’t most lactivists know that (a) maternal and newborn health stats indicate black women and children have far more health risks and (b) the breast feeding rates in black communities are significantly lower? Not trying to sound catty, but I thought this was common knowledge among most people with an interest in breastfeeding! If anything, even as a white woman, Black Breastfeeding Week benefits me, too. The more breastfeeding is socially acceptable and supported, the better for breastfeeding mothers everywhere! Hurray for Black Breastfeeding Week!!

  22. thepbg says:

    Thank you! I’m so glad to see our issues so beautifully and accurately articulated. As a new doula who is working almost exclusively with Black women, this is all very true. Anyone who will push back on what you have said here is being purposefully obtuse and ridiculously insensitive.

  23. Jessica says:

    All I can say is that I support you all in your efforts and that I am profoundly sorry for the ignorance exhibited here and on FB by people that refuse to see reality and their privilege. Keep up the good work.

  24. As a white woman, I cannot fully understand the difficulties of being a black woman who is trying to breastfeed with no support. Friends of mine who are black mothers have spoken to me about having so much stigma attached to breastfeeding that it is often difficult to find support from even their own mothers. A friend recently said to me, “I want to continue to breastfeed, but my mother keeps telling me that I needed to quit because ‘thats what we did when we HAD to!” I was so very saddened. Here was a mother who had a true desire to breastfeed, but everyone around her, including those who should have been her support system, was discouraging her because of a stigma that I will never understand.
    I live in Mississippi and we have an embarrasingly overall low rate of breastfeeding, and African American mothers have the lowest. Further, we have the very highest rates of infant mortality, with African Americans being at the top of that list. I worked as a lactation specialist for WIC and saw this day in and day out…no support, booby traps, social stigmas. Its disheartening and I am so proud to see more support for black mothers!

  25. Wendy Gordon, CPM, LM, MPH says:

    Thank you Kimberly for your important, crucial work. I have missed the meltdown at TLB that made this blog post necessary, but I am sorry that you are having to deal with this sh** ON TOP OF the work that you are doing for the survival of Black babies. Thank you for your work, and I support Black Breastfeeding Week!

  26. Katie says:

    Absolutely ridiculous! I am so sick of hearing how white people don’t understand. It is movements like this that are adding to the problems between the races. Can’t we all just work together to support a caus, e ?, ! ?! Breast is best for every race, sex, creed, ect. I will support any mother, but I will not support a one race breastfeeding week.

    • Jessica says:

      Ridiculous to you but not so ridiculous to the many women of different shades of color who may find learning and being supported by women who look just like them about breast feeding. Many women of multiple shades of color find it difficult to breast feed because of stigma and misinformation about & surrounding breast feeding. I say many but not all because as a first time black mother of a soon to be 19 month old daughter (tomorrow :) I might mention), I breast fed her until she self weaned at 18 months :( . I was highly supported & encouraged even though no woman in my family had breast fed easily in the last 50 or more years. So yes not all black/African American & other women of different shades of color have had horrible breast feeding information but on the other hand not all have had good information either. Are you upset or find it ridiculous that there’s a Woman History month? Should we not have different weeks/months dedicated for different types of cancers or music? They are all cancers and music and are basically the same. But just like how different types of cancers and music have they’re own issues, histories, stigmas and obstacles so does us as women. Yes we are all women and yes for those of us who do breast feed the act of breast feeding is the same regardless of color. But we still as women face the world differently and yes our past be that personal for that particular woman or that of a race/group does have an great impact on how we view the world and how that world view us no matter how long ago the past is. Is it too much to ask to have a week dedicated to black/African American and other shades of color women about breast feeding? If a young woman of any shade of color saw that her want & desire to breast feed is shared by other women who just so happened to look like her that is a good thing because the more women regardless of color breast feed and know about it the more breast feeding will be seen as normal. Isn’t that what we all as breast feeding women want? The simple fact that you are angry about this shows that you do not understand and it also prove that we do need this. Just because black/African American & other shades of color women seek to have a breast feeding week or and event dedicated to them and their needs does not mean it is an attack on white women or to put guilt on them. It is simply to address certain things that that particular group of women may need. It also don’t mean that women of lighter shades of color are not welcome, it just means that we as a group have some issues we need to address and fix in order for us as a whole (all women) can better work together because we are now all on the same page. I hope you do not take my response to your comment as an attack from an “angry black woman” because I assure it is not. I just felt I should address your comment in the hopes that you would better understand the reasoning behind the week. Also the author to this article is not an “angry black woman” and wouldn’t teach anything to anyone regardless of color angrily. However, she did become annoyed and angry due to the ridiculous, ignorant, childish and down right hateful comments written about her idea. This is the only reason this particular article was written. I wish you all the best in your endeavors as well a very bless day. Simply written from a formula fed child who became a breast feeding mother :) .

    • susan says:

      It sounds like you support breastfeeding, but it must be approached and promoted in only one way: yours. This reduces the overall support for breastfeeding and is counterproductive and impractical. Not only that, it is not kind. I hope that you reconsider in favor of respect and kindness.

  27. Katie says:

    No, I don’t think it would be redundant to have white weeks. I think it would be a step backward for society. as a phd student in Nursing Research I understand the cultural differences and needs of different races. I do not need nor want a lesson from an angry black woman.

    • Dea says:

      You lost me at “angry black woman” such a tired, hackneyed cliche’. What makes you think she is angry.
      God help anyone who has to have professional contact with you.

    • susan says:

      The old model was called cultural competency, which sounds like the approach you have studied. This means that someone must become an expert in someone else’s culture. Unfortunately, efforts to develop and deploy this expertise can turn to arrogance. The new model is “cultural humility.” It involves understanding that you won’t be coming in gangbusters to dispense your cultural expertise but will be listening. Maybe if you listen respectfully, people won’t be so angry with you.

    • dana111 says:

      So, you have no interest in listening to the experiences of the women that you “understand” so well because you read a book about it one time, right?

  28. Lauren says:

    THANK YOU!!!!! A Black Breastfeeding week is a fantastic thing, and kudos to you for taking the time to explain why, even though the fact that black babies are DYING should be reason enough.

  29. Chanell Gaines says:

    Yes! Last year I was working on a Masters in Public Health. I had to develop health awareness campaigns…I work hard to develop and oresent a campaign to increase breast feeding among African American women in DC. Way to go!

  30. Gwen Marshall says:

    You rock! You women do whatever you need to do to save your health and the health of your babies. Higher infant mortality rates for black babies, the erosion of voter’s rights, Stand Your Ground Laws, etc.

    Who are those who would judge you?!

    You go!

  31. Annette says:

    I have been breastfeeding my little girl for 14 months now and have no intention of stopping at this time. As long as she wants and needs mama’s milk I will do what I have to do to produce it for her. I wish more black women did breastfeed, too many go the formula route without a thought or they think that it will hurt too much all the time. Once you get past the initial stage that pain goes away and you fall in love with feeding your baby the way God intended and I get tremendous satisfaction in knowing that I kept my baby girl alive strictly on breastmilk for the first 6 months of her life before introducing home made baby food. We need this special week to help educate mothers and mothers to be on all of the benefits to child AND mother, and you cannot help but melt as you watch your little one look up at you while getting nourishment from her mama!

  32. Why any white woman would have a problem with this is beyond me. Let’s have 52 breastfeeding weeks a year and they can all have demarkations. Single mom breastfeeding week. Asian breastfeeding week. Etc. Who cares! You are helping an undeserved community. Raise awareness and spread the word however we can. This is a juicy post and I’m off to amplify it.

  33. Jodi says:

    I think ALL mothers of ALL races and backgrounds should be educated on the benefits of breast feeding their babies. The information needs to be more readily available to all expectant mothers. Maybe even have it be a class attended while pregnant and if they attend the class or classes have a gift bag for them with nursing pads and the lansinoh ointment and some other little goodies. Mama’s like goody bags!
    My race doesnt matter but ALL babies matter. Dont listen to the haters. If it takes a more focused week to help get the word out to the communities that need it then go for it! Talk to OB offices and clinics to get them on board to help all moms get the info they need!

  34. I was disgusted to read about your experience with readers at the Leaky Boob – I’m not sure why women who join FB pages like that propagate hate among other women instead of banding together to lift breastfeeding, parenting, whatever the cause is up.
    I hope Black Breastfeeding Week takes off – as a lactation consultant I know its best for all babies and my wish is that all mothers receive the support they need from within and outside of their communities in any and every way possible.
    Good luck.

  35. This post is brilliant and I’m currently in the process of writing my own article about Black Breastfeeding Week. Today I shared Black Breastfeeding Week on my blog’s Facebook page and received so many hateful and ignorant responses I ended the day in tears. I know the color of my skin grants me privileges that others don’t receive. I’m a white woman who loves these 5 reasons why we need a Black Breastfeeding week and I can think of about 25 more. I can’t wait to share your article and how wonderful it is!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  36. Eva says:

    BRAVO!! Some of my friends don’t understand the need for a Black Breastfeeding Week but I do. I grew up in Detroit ( I’m white) and I never ONCE witnessed a black momma nursing. Not once. Thankfully my beautiful cousin ( she’s black) is nursing her new daughter and I’m THRILLED! the infant mortality rate is way to high in the black community. Something has to change and things, nursing your babes, is the best way to start the change. I wish there were more black woman roll models ” whipping it out” for all to see. =) I’m excited to witness the beginning of a healthier community. ALL babies deserve Momma’s liquid gold. =)

  37. I feel sad that people felt the need to attack this week.. so sad. I wish we didn’t need to have a week that is different, but I think we all see there are unfortunate biases and differences out there still. There are probably some other groups that could benefit from an exclusive week. The more the merrier, I say. The message is not diminished because it is there.

    If this week helps any woman breastfeed her baby-easier, better, longer, at all- it should be embraced by all mothers. We all need support to make this work. We need to support each other most of all.

    Come on people- let us not fight each other. I think we all agree breastfeeding is good for babies, and it doesn’t matter what color they are.

  38. Laura says:

    I am a white woman currently breastfeeding my fourth child. I wholeheartedly believe in the benefits of breastfeeding for both moms and babies. I have not read any posts on any other sites or pages, but I am appalled at what it sounds like. I would like to see a group of women support another group of women in any endeavor, but especially one as important as this. If naming a week for black breastfeeding helps more black moms feel supported, then I am all for it. Whatever it takes to spread the word and the support!

  39. Z Franklin says:

    Sending good luck wishes and support for Black Breastfeeding Week from the West coast of Sweden.

  40. Z Franklin says:

    Good luck with Black Breastfeedingweek. A Fantastic initative. Best regards and support from the midwives and IBCLCs on the west coast of Sweden!

  41. Vanita says:

    What can I do to support this week? I dont have any children and am (clearly) not breast feeding, but I would like to support my sisters.

  42. Adele James says:

    As a black women of Afro British decent I salute the work you are doing. I breast fed all 3 of my babies into toddlerhood and beyond. My youngest baby was 3 when he weaned. Breastfeeding was my ultimate female strength. I birthed here in Australia where we have great resources across public health and higher breastfeeding rates than the USA. Black Aboriginal women in Australia have generally higher rates of breastfeeding and good collective community knowledge of how to make breastfeeding work. Breastfeeding is a natural thing but it is also a learned skill. When I visited Britain with a nursing 13 month old I was surprised at the negativity I received by members of the Black and White community.
    The 5 reasons you quote are well presented and I wish you all the best of luck to get Black Breastfeeding week up and running. Basic human nature is to feel a sense of familiarity with our peers, people who are alike and share a lived experience. Simple, it is not about racism – it is about equality.
    I did have to laugh when I read some of the comments though, seriously sisters don’t hate, support each other:)

  43. Mande says:

    I am thrilled to see this! I think this is an awesome step forward for all involved. When one steps out of the “everyday norm” others will follow suit. I look forward to when other cultures step away from the mass group statistics and begin to create their own advocacy and awareness for breastfeeding and putting out there how it is important in their own community to encourage and advocate for breastfeeding. It shouldn’t be a hard sell. This is how we survived for the longest time! Off of mother’s milk! Thank you for taking the first step, not just for the Black Community, but for all minorities! I can’t wait until all advocates of all cultures will be heard across the country, across the world!

  44. Marisa says:

    Thank you for writing this, so I, and fellow other lactivists, can more fully support women of all ethnicities in their Breastfeeding journey. Bing able to more fully understand the specific challenges women of color face with nursing is helpful to me, as a white lactivist and nursing mother, because it helps me to be able to look beyond my own perspective and be more fully able to help, encourage and support ALL women who breastfeed. Great article, and definitely one I will be linking in my Breastfeeding group, as this discussion is valid and necessary!

  45. Wendianne says:

    I cannot believe you even had to write this. I am not a Black woman, but I completely understand the need to promote breastfeeding in Black communities and I am just shocked that you would have to deal with anyone questioning a Black breastfeeding week. This just made my white ass so angry.

  46. This is such a well-written piece. As a white woman, I was struggling with how to explain to other white women all the reasons this week’s event is necessary, simply because I am too far removed from the issue. I’m glad I have such a great article to point to from someone who has lived it herself.

    Unfortunately, I DID happen to catch most of the horrendous racism on TLB the other day, and I feel terrible for Jessica and the other admins who had to deal with the mess. However, I will say that the supportive comments outweighed the negative ones, and that gives me hope for the future of the mom community.

    Thanks for speaking up for black mamas and promoting #BBW13. It’s really a great movement, and I’m pleased to be able to support it myself in whatever way I can.

  47. gribblet says:

    White privelage in action: I’m trying to think of issues white mothers face when breastfeeding that are specific and particular to them only – and I’m failing. Ok, I can think of one maybe. Really really pale women like me may have very pale aerolas, so the baby may not be able to see the areola as well in the first few days. Did this affect my breastfeeding experience? I have no idea. Because I was supported and guided every step of the way towards breastfeeding success – because the programs that exist to assist women breastfeed assume whiteness and are tailored by default to my needs.

    I do think you left an important one out that someone brought up in another forum. As black women are systematically financially punished for being black, they are more likely to be looking at shorter maternity leaves in order to minimize financial risk, with less time to establish breastfeeding and learn to pump and carry, (a challenge for any woman.) With your beautifully researched stats on the other 5 you provided here, I’d love to see statistics on this issue, if anyone’s done any studies.

  48. Betsy says:

    Congratulations on your energy and drive in launching an initiative that has garnered so much attention so quickly. The negative backlash is disgustingly inevitable. I only hope that learning results, that even a few of the creepers who made such nasty comments learn something that moves them forward. And I hope that you continue to reach, support, and uplift many more women of color with your endeavors. I’m cross-posting this article widely. I’ve got your back. Because. We. Said. So. <<epic!

  49. CJ says:

    Hi everyone,

    as a white British twenty year old who hasn’t even considered kids yet, this makes interesting reading on many levels! Black Breastfeeding Week sounds awesome and very much needed. I want to say thanks for writing about this kind of thing. Yes it should be obvious “just because you say so” is enough to have Black Breastfeeding week, but to a lot of white people it isn’t that obvious. Privilege, after all, is invisible (i.e. it’s things you DON’T have to think about, like whether your skin colour affects your job applications), and personally I found that I didn’t “see” my privilege until someone pointed it out a few years ago, and I had a chance to think about it. Because of this I firmly believe that it’s important for lots of people to keep repeating the same apparently obvious things, ’cause they aren’t obvious to everyone.

    My experience of ignorance-through-whiteness is a lack of knowledge about, & lack of contact with, racial issues. Articles like this are a great resource for those of us trying to understand more about racial disparity and privilege. The tone is (rightfully) annoyed, enough to get the frustration across while still providing really useful information. So… I think it has something to appeal to a broad spectrum (heck, even someone childless like me).

  50. Amy Laskey says:

    Excellent reply to a controversy I missed. I did see an announcement in my FB newsfeed and saw the single comment (at the time) questioning the need for the special week. I just assumed it was one ignorant person because I thought the disparities were well known. I am (now) a suburban white woman and I understood so please don’t assume we are all so foolish!

  51. Mimi Green says:

    I love this! I breastfed my soon to be 9 year old son for 14 months, 7 years later I breastfed my 1.5 year old daughter for 14 months. I’m proud to say I did it and my children have never had a taste of formula of any kind. They are both very healthy children, very smart, they’ve never had an ear infection or anything.

    When I breastfed I didn’t know anyone else that did it. So I had to learn as I went, thanks to good books and a supportive black man I survived it not once but twice. I breastfed because my boyfriend of 10 years wanted me to. He was my biggest support start to finish and I’m so glad that I did.

    I encourage women to do it and I frequently get calls from friends and friends of friends for advice/info/help on breastfeeding. I happily encourage them every step of the way.

  52. Abi says:

    On behalf of my people, OMG I am so sorry. If I could shut the other white ladies up, I would, but they just keep acting like the kid who didn’t get invited to a party rather than adult women with a mature understanding that their experience of life isn’t the same as the experience of every other woman.

  53. Karen Western says:

    Beautifully written! During my 7 years as a La Leche League Leader (1985 – 1992), I saw only a handful of black women breastfeeding. You deserve all the support we white women can give you as you try to change a mindset that desperately needs changing. babies are counting on you to save them and we’re there in whatever capacity you need us to be. This is a fight for humankind.

  54. rabbitviola says:

    Babies cute helpless, wonderful, future leaders that’s what this issue is about. It’s about keeping them strong and healthy, and for us as WOMEN to stand up and help each other through a sleepless worry strewn time in our lives. It is necessary to have these weeks and slogans as young mothers don’t often want to breast feed. As sad as it is we truly need these programs in the schools but what you all need to remember is that whatever our color we are a community of women we should work first in our own neighborhoods and towns then spread the word further. Remember not every issue has to be black and white. Isn’t that what we learn as adults there is no black and white no right and wrong just a foggy grey area of oppinions

  55. Kerri S says:

    WOW! Is this all black and white? Or is there some breastfeeding thrown in too! Awesome to see breastfeeding encouraged and supported. Great read and nicely provocative enough to get some heated discussion happening. The more discussion, the more heated, the more publicity and the more exposure. All you naysayers, well done for helping the cause just by commenting on blog posts, and initiators of this initiative – you go girls! Keep up the good work everyone, maybe one day breastfeeding will just be so normal and common that no-one will even bother talking about it… :)

  56. summer says:

    My daughter is half black. Her father is black. im white/Spanish/Mexican. theres a lot of babies in his side of the family and ive never once seen them breastfeed. I do know some were breastfed for a month or so but thts it. My daughter will be 2 in oct. and she is still breastfed. his fam wasn’t completely on board with me nursing without a cover or nursing past one. they never said anything to me personally, probably because they know im such a huge advocate. he would always relay the messages to me. I kept on going strong though and now I rarely hear of a complaint and some of his family has learned a thing or two. and they all know im here for support. I hope when the next generation of babies are born my advocacy and efforts will have affected them in a way that will empower them to breastfeed.

  57. Michelle says:

    I love this article! I was so ecstatic to hear about Black Breastfeeding Week. I am a white woman, and one of the first things I noticed at my first LLL meeting was that there were no minorities there! I lived in a town with a very high black and hispanic population, but the meeting was 10 white women and one 2nd generation Hispanic American woman who was married to a white guy.

    I have actually, on more than one occasion, spoken with young black mothers as I was breastfeeding in public, and they told me they wanted to breastfeed, but had no education and no support. Some were pregnant and some had young babies, and I could see the hurt in their eyes. Ignorantly, I recommended LLL, thinking that diversification in the group would be awesome but not realizing that it was asking them to meet me where I was at instead of the other way around. If I had it to do over again, I would ask for their phone number and make sure they got the help and support they needed in the future.

    Kudos and congrats and thank you for taking on this important mission to save babies and mothers. God Bless You!

  58. Dwan Bray says:

    I am so proud to say as a community of Black women that we are standing together to educate, advocate and empower our culture to do what’s so natural for babies to be nourished and to thrive. I too have a Facebook group which is very new and growing. I have read the ignorance and choose to move past it, because as you so eloquently put, anytime we show areas of growth as a community of people, we are morally dismembered by some Whites. My group is primarily focused for ethnic women however we do have a handful of white women who have joined for support. I am also an Admin for another group: Ohio Badass Breastfeeders, who are majority white, however these women are a network of supportive breast feeding mothers. My group is Mocha Milk Mommys and it is my mission to increase the awareness, support, education and interest in Black mothers breastfeeding . Together we WILL make a difference. I exclusively breast fed my two daughters and am currently exclusively breast feeding twins.

  59. Susan Taylor says:

    Thank you very much for your mentorship and incredible article, Kimberly. Also, congratulations on starting Black Breastfeeding Week! I experience this is a crucial step in addressing the issues you raise. I am a white IBCLC recently retired from a WIC clinic as a breastfeeding peer counseling coordinator and will continue to volunteer there. I will be able to do so in a more supportive way as a result of your and your colleagues’ actions. I’m dismayed that you’ve received so much flack for your actions from many white women. I posted your video on my facebook page in order to spread the word and continue to raise awareness.

  60. G says:

    I support breastfeeding and breastfeeding education in any and all forms. Education by nature is best when tailored to the specific needs of the person(s) involved. You can break it down into any number of categories, race, creed, economic, locale…etc. etc..
    Which ever and how ever a person is reached with information they need to improve their lives and the lives of their children is completely supported by me and most everyone I know. Thank you for your efforts!

  61. anne says:

    that was beautiful. thank you.

  62. jo says:

    it’s really too bad you had to spell it out to us well-meaning white people. just shows how huge the gap is. thank you for writing this, and especially for the gloves-off tone. we white people who think we’re not contributing to the disparity and racism in this country need to be challenged to take our good intentions to a higher level. best of luck with your endeavors. you have inspired me to contribute more.

  63. Jesse Petke says:

    I can’t imagine why anyone would be against something meant to help. I think your letter is very well written. I believe that this is a great idea.

  64. Bianca says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!!!

    Thank you.

  65. Kurlyn Drums says:

    While I do not yet have children of my own, I received a forwarded message from Malik Yakini from the DBCFSN about the comments being made by Caucasian women on Facebook. I read some of the post and I could hardly believe what I was reading. The fact of providing a explanation about a Black Breastfeeding Week. was a noble one. If I were in your shoes, I probably would have kindly ignored the madness and continued on with the plan of implanting a fabulous Black Breastfeeding Week. I applaud you for shedding some light on a topic that needs dialogue. Just this morning, I just read a article about China’s elite hiring wet nurses and it brought me back to your blog post. Thank you for all of the work that is put in regarding African American health and even though I am not in this stage in my life, I am sure there is something that I can learn. Here is the article on China using wet nurses should you be interested.

    http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1275313/adult-breast-feeding-report-angers-chinas-netizens

  66. passerby says:

    great article, awesome points, many sad-especially about WIC not promoting it everywhere.my wic office and hospital were very supportive and its a shame that’s not a given everywhere. at first I was on board for supporting your cause, but it excludes other minorities who also have less resources available. plus, my husband and I were just talking about how racism still exists because its still being brought up. we are an interracial couple and our kids would not see color except for everything in our American culture keeps POINTING it out!! by having a specific black week it tells my kids one race deserves special attention over another, JUST BECAUSE of race! it teaches them its ok to set people apart due to skin color. Even if its for a positive cause, still- I would like them to grow up not even considering that people should be grouped by ethnicity. I feel like by one culture claiming something for themselves(like a week of an event or their own radio station,etc) it only appears they want to segregate themselves and make white people feel like everyone else wants to be identified by color. im not saying we should all forget our history, or that we should do away with celebrating our pride for our heritages. I just believe in America someday being all inclusive and wish my kids didn’t have to have any race pointed out to them all the time. instead of a breastfeeding week or month I wish there were more tv shows incorporating it, while not making it a big deal. breastfeeding needs to be seen as a normal thing that moms just do. we need media to change the ideas of whats common practice, then society will start to follow.

    • Sonja says:

      Sorry but it’s to garner the attention of the people that it applies to NOTexclude anyone. If you support our causes what makes you think we won’t support Asian Heritage week, or Latinas United or any other cause. It’s only when Blacks become supportive of one another and uplift each other that other races feel threatened. Hmmm I wonder why? Its not about race its about community and culture. You don’t really believe that BLACK is a race do you? You should start by first educating your children by teaching them this. AND since when does AMERICA agree on a culture? Good day

  67. Sonja says:

    I had the hardest time getting my now 7 year old to latch properly, she tore me up and I had to give up according to the non-advice of the lactation consult. I pumped a bit but it wasn’t enough with her taking formula SHE WAS BIG. With my now 3 year old I tried and it worked. Im glad I did. My mother didnt breastfeed she told me the story of how in the late 70s early 80s they gave HER pills to dry up the milk and didnt teach breastfeeding was best. So when you dont have it in your culture and everything is sexualized breastfeeding is taboo. My BFF that is now 30 like me said she thought it was gross to breastfeed and couldnt bring herself to do it because the breast are for her “man”. Please. We NEED this we need this and much more. And you are right because. we. say. so . NOW GET OVER IT. Go breastfeed mamas!

  68. Christine says:

    I’m white, I get it and I support you. It makes sense. I think it shows true ignorance that the Western White woman, a woman who knows almost no discrimination, would complain about this.

  69. Pat Young says:

    You go girl! Everything you said is correct and black mamas need loving support to breastfeed. Breastfeeding a baby empowers a woman. Let’s try to empower every woman to breastfeed her baby! Pat in SNJ

  70. emilia says:

    “BECAUSE WE SAID SO!” that’s all the reason we need. Very sad to see how ignorant some people are! I breastfed all my 4 children and will support anything that advocated breastfeeding, especially among women ethnic minorities! We need more awareness..

  71. Sherri says:

    While the commonalities that bind us all as women are evident, we are human, we are mammals, we have breasts, we give birth, etc., there are still issues that divide us because of societal divides. Black people can best speak to their own in the struggle we have. Case in point, some white professionals when dealing with such some issues don’t understand their affect on the black community because they have never experienced it and can’t adequately speak to or show the compassion that is needed to help them to overcome the obstacle. What normally gets in the way are ethnocentricies, superior thinking and positioning, paternalism, and other such barriers to progress. If black people weren’t brought to this country to serve white people as a slave class, weren’t stripped of their culture, religion, dignity, forbidden to marry or keep their families together in that holy matrimony, forbidden to read, etc,. they wouldn’t still be suffering from the lingering maladies that are generation in some instances. These things that separate us should have long been purged years ago, but sadly, they still exist. I take it that the white people who made disparaging and racist comments know not what they say or do or where their attitude comes from but I believe it was like many who sat down and watched “Roots” for the first time. I remember whites apologizing to blacks for their experience, as if they had a first hand responsibility in their plight. You can’t change the past, only the way you go forward from today. If you are still racist, exclusionary, prejudice, etc., then you still have a problem. There is such a thing as white privilege, something black people haven’t experienced and you will not know what it is like to be black, to be profiled, to be discriminated against in housing, jobs, etc,. because of the color of ones skin. That being said, allow us to shine the spotlight on this important issue for what it is, a public health crisis, without getting your feathers ruffled, thinking that you are somehow being indicted for something you are not. It is not about you, it is about black babies and all babies needing to be connected to their mother’s milk. We must speak to our children, they must be comfortable with our approach. We do not make it an issue of color we just focus on the needs of our community, nothing more, nothing less.

  72. Kimberly – you said it.
    Why did anyone else think to deride such a positive effort?!
    Sometimes I KNOW I don’t understand people….

    Hugs,
    Miriam

  73. Jodi says:

    I applaud your work. As a white woman, I know I don’t and can’t truly comprehend the cultural change that needs to take place and I may at times even say something that isn’t supportive, even if it is well intended. I used to be a breastfeeding counselor with WIC (many years ago as my babies are grown now) and I knew there were cultural differences that I could not be taught in a classroom, no matter how much I wanted to learn it and no matter how much the teacher wanted to teach me. I would love it if you shared how I could help with something like this. I am no longer in the breastfeeding community but I do still try to keep up with current events. How can well intended white women better support the black community? Please keep shedding light on this for us. We are ignorant, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to help. I do feel that many of us white women have good intentions but are often just sticking our foot in our mouth when we try to help. We just make matters worse when we have good intentions. We may be looking at the situation through the lens of white privilege but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to help. Please, please help show us the way. This is written with all sincerity and no sarcasm whatsoever.

  74. Katie K says:

    Thank you for writing this. It’s ALWAYS a positive when I get an opportunity to re-examine my privilege. As a doula (which is a whole different jumble of privilege), I’m trained to ‘hold the space’ for the laboring woman and her support team – keep the lights low, guard the door from emotionally inept med students etc etc – and as a white woman, I try to remember to do the same for woc around me. Use my privilege to say “no. let them have their space as THEY define it.” you, and other woc have every right to your own spaces.

  75. Well said, Kimberly. It’s a thoughtful post.

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  78. smatled says:

    Yay for Black Breastfeeding Week!!! I’m white, I have 6 black legally adopted sisters, and I say whatever helps MORE people (regardless of race) breastfeed without keeping others from breastfeeding is just ridiculously awesome! Yay for breastfeeding!

  79. Tricia says:

    As a Caucasian IBCLC, I couldn’t be more thrilled that you have named the last week of August as Black Breastfeeding Week. I work in a low-income area of Chicago and this is a population that is under-served and desperately in need of education about and support for breastfeeding. Please, please don’t listen to the haters! You are doing a great job and please keep it up! In Illinois, only 42% of low-income black mothers ever start any breastfeeding at all. There is so much misinformation and usually no family support. Your efforts are not divisive it’s supportive. For those people who are being unsupportive of you, why don’t you come to my workplace for a day and see the massive challenges that these women are facing. And then come and tell me that they don’t need extra support. They don’t know what they are talking about!

  80. Maggie says:

    I completely agree with Kay up there thank you for that beautiful disagreement!

  81. Veronica says:

    This is incredible! While I was pregnant, I read a lot about breastfeeding to prepare. During that time, I came across the statistics of white nursing mothers vs black nursing mothers. It was something I had never noticed or considered prior to then. Unfortunately in our society, white women are commonly afforded certain privileges that make breastfeeding easier… being a stay at home mom, living in wealthier areas with better access to resources and support, and better hospitals and doctors. While it would be amazing if all women could have those privileges, regardless of race, that is not a goal that is easily attainable. But what is attainable is a world where we, as mothers, support one another. Just because it is called “Black Breastfeeding Week” doesn’t mean us white mamas can’t celebrate. In fact, we should be celebrating it… by supporting all of the black mamas in their quest to have happy, health babies. I mean, isn’t that something we should all be striving for? A world full of happy, healthy babies.

  82. Teresa Youngblood says:

    Excellent post. Really glad to have found it. Shared on Facebook, and hoping the article and idea get mad momentum!

  83. Erin A says:

    I agree that there’s a great need for Black Breastfeeding Week, in light of the disparities you listed. Those are truly some staggering numbers! But you really made this reader (a white, breastfeeding mom who very much agrees and wants to support your cause) feel a little left out with your quip about “those who may be confused by their view from suburbia, blinded by their white privilege.” I found your language to be demeaning and hurtful, and my first reaction was to not want to support you…but this issue is too important for that. Instead I’ll just leave a friendly reminder – using racially charged language like that is a potential divisor in a situation that already has enough obstacles as it is. This is a great idea overall, and I’d like to see it succeed without demeaning people of any race.

  84. January Johnson says:

    I love you. That is the sum of my emotions right now. I have four boys. I have breastfed them all and it has been nothing less of battle. A battle with doctors and nurses who insist on TRYING to force formula down my little ones throat. It’s been a battle to deal with loved ones who don’t understand, a spouse who didn’t know how to support and groups for breastfeeding moms filled with faces that look nothing like you and wonder why you are there. A battle with prejudice nursing consultants, La Leche League leaders who offer little or no help. I tell you it’s been a battle. But I have been vigilant. And as I type theses words with tears streaming, feeling some remose that if only I’d known you when, but overwhelmed with joy, happiness, appreciation and extreme gratitude that because of you and others like you some mom out there just like me will have better and be able to do better for her children. All I can say is thank you. All my love.

  85. shana says:

    I think there’s a 6th reason that there needs to be a black breastfeeding week. The black female community disproportionately works in low wage jobs that may not be accommodating of a nursing and pumping mother, no matter what the law says. And even if they do give a mother time to pump, that time is unpaid, reducing the amount of money being brought home. If a woman is lucky enough to be in a job situation where she is entitled to FMLA, none of that time is paid unless her employer decides to pay her. So many women are taking little to no maternity leave and aren’t given time to establish a nursing relationship with their baby. It took me four months to finally get into a groove with breastfeeding. I can’t imagine if I’d still be nursing at 13 months of I’d gone back to work so soon.

  86. Sam says:

    (White New Zealander) I think it is awesome you’re doing this.
    I used to be an exclusive pumper, we (the EP group) were talking about this at Christmas- Black woman don’t bf. Keep up the awesome work.

  87. Morgan says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I consider myself a breast feeding advocate and had no idea there was such a problem in the black community. Any effort to educate ANYONE on the advantages and need for breast feeding is a step in the right direction, if you ask me. Keep doing what you’re doing! You are making a difference.

  88. A breastfeeding mom says:

    Okay even Im beyond OVER this White/Black foolishness with these events where we give attention to people who don’t get it! In all of your getting please humans let’s get UNDERSTANDING. Seriously! Im sharing this because I believe in the necessity to increase a “Black Breastfeeding Awareness” week, month & lifestyle. ..why? Because obviously, I’m “Black” & very aware (

  89. Hi Kimberly!!

    This is awesome! It was such a pleasure meeting you and being on the Huffington Post Panel with such a knowledgeable and positive sistah. Keep up the good work and know I’m right along with you.

    Sisterly Love,

    Yvette
    Well Done Babies, Inc.

  90. Cherie says:

    Thanks for sharing this piece, it is very much needed. Anything I have shared on my FB breastfeeding page (Beautiful Breastfeeding) about Black Breastfeeding Week has been met with racist or ignorant comments. I’ve tried my best to explain it out why it is desperately needed, but I think this article does it much better and have shared it to the page. Here’s to more breastfeeding in the black community!

  91. Julie says:

    Anything that helps mothers (especially with breastfeeding, eek!) is amazing. Stay strong and ignore all the negativity!

  92. Hi to every one, it’s truly a pleasant for me
    to pay a quick visit this web site, it consists of useful Information.

  93. I believe that whenever and where ever we can shine a positive light on African American breastfeeding we should do it. I support what ever it takes to help my sisters feel the need to give their babies their human milk.We also need to keep a open network to be there for them when they have questions. Can we get more mentors some of these sisters need a little help and we need to train up a army to be the lifeline.The real proof is in the pudding,if you want to breastfeed you need to stay committed and inspired.This #BBW13 inspires so we need for us !!!!! to rally around us.We spend too much time trying to get permission as to what is best for us.
    Someone once asked me why does Indiana need a Black breastfeeding coalition, just join in with the rest.
    I just said,do you really want to go there with me.I don’t have time,nor do I have patience to explain.There is work to do so don’t you try to slow it down. I appreciate your support if you willing to get us where we need to be.
    IBBC has MD,CLC, CLS, IBCLC Peer Counselors,Mamas, GrandMammas ,Dads,who ever will fight for the cause.So I want to take this time to personally say to them.
    Happy Black Breastfeeding Week- Yall

    Terry Jo Curtis IBCLC
    Founder/ Outreach Coor. Indiana Black Breastfeeding Coalition

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  1. [...] Week. One member wrote an excellent rebuttal to their bigoted hate-explosion entitled “Dear White Women: Top Five Reasons Why We Need a Black Breastfeeding Week” which I encourage everyone to [...]

  2. [...] an entire month, but let’s be women that can applaud those that struggle to defeat the odds. DEAR WHITE WOMEN: TOP 5 REASONS WHY WE NEED A BLACK BREASTFEEDING WEEK Take Our Poll [...]

  3. [...] women need their own week of breastfeeding promotion, head over to the Mocha Manual and check out this post by Kimberly Seals Allers. It spells out the top five reasons Black Breastfeeding Week is needed, and why you should spread [...]

  4. [...] My final response received over 100 comments and reached more than 9,000 people.  Black Breastfeeding week was started by black women to bring awareness to heartbreaking statistics, celebrate those who choose to breastfeed, and most importantly to save lives.  A recent study by the CDC found that black women are the least likely to breastfeed and infant mortality rates could be reduced by as much as 50% if they did.  I encourage you to read Kimberly Seals Allers’ brilliant post -  Dear White Women: Top 5 Reasons Why We Need a Black Breastfeeding Week. [...]

  5. [...] Seals Allers at Mocha Manual presents a five-point response to folks who are opposed to the Black Breast-Feeding Week social [...]

  6. [...] Seals Allers at Mocha Manual presents a five-point response to folks who are opposed to the Black Breast-Feeding Week social [...]

  7. [...] Studies consistently show that breastfeeding boosts the child’s immune system and reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which kills black infants twice as often. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control finds that 59 percent of black mothers have breastfed compared to 75 percent of white mothers. While the proportion has been increasing over the past decade, Allers remains diligent. “When I say breastfeeding is a life or death matter, this is what I mean,” she writes. [...]

  8. [...] am linking this piece by Kimberly Sears Allers who spoke to some criticisms voiced by mainstream breastfeeding advocates. It’s a very [...]

  9. [...] About two weeks ago, I wrote a piece suggesting the need for a Black Breastfeeding Week as a way to highlight awareness to a community that desperately needs more breastfed babies.  Days later, while attending the ROSE summit in Atlanta, I sat with Kiddada Green, founder of Detroit’s Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association and Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka, co-founder of the Brown Mamas Breastfeed Project and Free to Breastfeed  and in our excitement and passion for saving black babies, we agreed to launch it this year. The week will be marked with celebratory “fist bump” images to be shared on Facebook, a live interactive webcast via You Tube and a groundbreaking twitter chat, under the inaugural theme: #BlackLivesMatter (get all the info & shareable images here). [...]

  10. [...] Why is it so difficult for some people to grasp this concept? [...]

  11. [...] August has been Breastfeeding Awareness Month in the United States for several years now.  It kicks off with World Breastfeeding Awareness Month on August 1-7th.  This year, a group of concerned lactivists proposed a Black Breastfeeding Week to close out the month.  It has been met with unexpected and vehement opposition. [...]

  12. [...] Breastfeeding Week continued, because it’s necessary and “because we said so”, writes Allers. We, the people who are from and of the black community. Those of us who are respected for leading [...]

  13. [...] in cultural competency and sensitivity when dealing with African American families. Kimberly has an excellent article detailing the “racial disparities in breastfeeding rates and breastfeeding leadership” [...]

  14. [...] really began.  Kimberly from Mocha Manual writes about that and why the week is needed in her post “Dear White Women: Top 5 Reasons Why We Need Black Breastfeeding Week”.  (She also helped to organize the event!  Kudos to all [...]

  15. [...] in cultural competency and sensitivity when coping with African American families. Kimberly has an excellent article detailing the “racial disparities in breastfeeding rates and breastfeeding leadership” in [...]

  16. [...] community aimed at supporting has been torn apart by race. How is this post-racial? More about why we need Black Breastfeeding Week here. P. S. Happy Women’s Equality Day Share this:MoreLike this:Like Loading… Lactivism [...]



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