Does breastfeeding have to become a race issue?

August is Breastfeeding Awareness month. The month starts off with World Breastfeeding Awareness week. Firstly, this is about bringing the normalcy of breastfeeding to the public’s eyes. Breastfeeding is absolutely normal and the awareness should be everyday, but just like Black History month, Women’s History month, Native American History month, Breastfeeding Awareness month takes all of those everyday efforts and focuses them into one month, where several countries put together their efforts to inform not only pregnant mothers, but all women that can have children and their families; after all, breastfeeding awareness is also about supporting the mother who is breastfeeding.

So if there is a month that is specific to breastfeeding awareness, why is it necessary for a Black Breastfeeding week? The Leaky B@@b posted a photo to commemorate the launch of Black Breastfeeding week (The Leaky B@@b: It’s Black Breastfeeding Week). Unfortunately, the comments didn’t go as expected. It was immediately met with questions such as “When’s white breast feeding week? Asian? Indian? WORLD breast feeding week covered us all why does one race once again have a week?” or “Breastfeeding mothers are breastfeeding mother. Not sure why it matters what color or race we are!” or ” This is so ignorant. BLACK breastfeeding week???” Why is this such an issue?

I suppose growing up in a mixed race family, I understand why this immediately went to a race issue. Yes, World Breastfeeding week and Breastfeeding Awareness month encompasses all women, no matter race. I do not believe Kimberly Seals Allers meant for this to be viewed negatively at all. In fact, this, I believe, was meant more to encourage women of color, not just black women. Why, you may ask again? Have you seen the breastfeeding stats for black women?

This is an article from the CDC that may help answer the reason for why there should be an awareness week for minorities and why it shouldn’t be considered a “racial thing.”

Breastfeeding Among Black Women

  • The gap between black and white breastfeeding initiation rates narrowed from 24 percentage points in 2000 to 16 percentage points in 2008. The 6-month duration gap also narrowed from 21 percentage points to 17 percentage points during that same time.
  • Black infants consistently had the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration across all study years. Black mothers may need more, targeted support to start and continue breastfeeding.

Reading the second point, is there a better understanding about why it is important for a Black Breastfeeding week? Breastfeeding awareness isn’t just about bringing breastfeeding to normalcy. It is about bringing awareness to the different races/cultures that are at a far greater risk of health issues than other races/cultures that are not as greatly affected by diabetes, heart disease, and other such diseases that plague many races/cultures, but greatly afflict the black community.

A response was made on The Leaky B@@b: A debate over what???. Some of the comments were very positive, stating thanks or stating how very well said the response was. However, where there are positives, there are also negatives. There is still a misunderstanding of why there is a Black Breastfeeding week at all. I wish there were more open minds to think about what a great step this is. This is the first step for other cultures to take the same step. This actually could create more research for each race/cultures than data just on women in general and women in specific countries. This could potentially show that there is a need for research for each culture. Though most of this information is already out there, the idea created here is that women of other races/cultures can come forward and advocate the same with research/statistics on breastfeeding that is relevant to their specific needs.

The data out there now is great, but it is even greater with more personal research and statistics. Each race/culture needs their own voice. We don’t want to be just one voice. We all want to be heard. I want to touch on some comments that I saw that greatly confused me. Maybe I am not understanding it correctly, but I have read a few comments that say breastfeeding is more privileged to white people than any other races. I was reading a comment saying there is more support for white people than any other races.

As I mentioned earlier, I grew up mixed race. My mother is Anglo and my father is Spanish and Pascua Yaqui. I grew up in the Marine Corps and didn’t really grow up knowing a lot of my heritage. I grew up more Anglo than anything else. My mother was unable to breastfeed me and my brother, so my Grandmother helped by bottle-feeding us formula. I knew nothing about breastfeeding until I had my own kids. My kids look more Anglo/Scottish than they do brown, yet we are not privileged. In fact, we are considered part of the lower class, nowhere close to the low middle, but just above poverty. We use resources available to us because we qualify, such as WIC. And I attend free meetings through La Leche League. If I ever have any issues, I contact the lactation specialist at WIC or a leader through La Leche League.

My breastfeeding support doesn’t come from the money we spend, because we have no money to spend, just as many of the women who earnestly begin to breastfeed after the birth of their child and persevere for as long as they can. I, like many of the women I call my friends and associate with, get much of my breastfeeding support through free meetings and government supported programs. There is nothing “white privilege” about that. Living in Mississippi, I have seen many races/cultures attend meetings through La Leche League, and I have seen a number of women attend breastfeeding classes through WIC.

If we consider breastfeeding a white privilege because people feel white women have more support to continue breastfeeding, than we make this a race issue. However, if we look at breastfeeding support as just that, we would see that all races/cultures need much support. Even if that means personal race/culture support. Shouldn’t we actually help to encourage Black Breastfeeding week by telling black women that they are doing a great job by defeating the odds? I look forward to when other races/cultures follow suit and create their own week for awareness. It’s not just women that need support, it is the races/cultures that need support as well. I believe when you break down the data into each race/culture and create the research for them specifically, it will only help the advocacy of breastfeeding.

I would like to part with the link to Kimberly’s introduction to the first annual black breastfeeding week. Perhaps if people feel they can survive this week of congratulating black women on their breastfeeding accomplishments, they may further understand that this is just the first step. I look forward to when Native American Breastfeeding week or Spanish Breastfeeding week can be celebrated among my peers.

NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED ADVOCATES LAUNCH FIRST ANNUAL BLACK BREASTFEEDING WEEK, AUGUST 25-31, 2013

Yes we are all women that celebrate for 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

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