August is Breastfeeding Month. Many already know this, but we are HUGE breastfeeding advocates. Now that we think of it, this is another area where we feel so passionate about empowering other women and helping mommas out! It takes a village, am I right?! We have both been lucky enough to exclusively breastfeed our babies (for 3+years each time!) So, we know a thing or two about the challenges and importance of breastfeeding.
I (Sarah) will never forget the feeling of nursing my little boy - the way he would look up at me with love and awe in his eyes; the milk comas that left him a snuggly little squish. I felt like Super Woman - being able to nourish my nursling. But I also remember the struggles - the insomnia, the attachment (every mother has a point where they get "touched-out"), the demand - I don't know how many times I nursed in the aisles of Target (#sollybaby wrap for the win), the obsession - my kid would try to whip 'em out in public any chance he got! The biggest challenge for me as a full-time working momma was pumping. I had to defend my right to have adequate breaks and time (breastfeeding is ALL supply and demand). This was an extra challenge that mothers shouldn't have to face! However, despite the challenges, breastfeeding will always be one of my favorite parts of motherhood.
Today I gained a new perspective. My "challenges" were put in check. The last week of August is dedicated to Black Breastfeeding Mothers. At first this irritated me, I won't lie. I thought #AllLivesMatter and #AllMomsMatter. But, after my soul-sister (Melanie) shared some information on this topic I found myself ashamed for not knowing this part of our history sooner! And it lit a fire in me to immediately write my thoughts down and share what I have learned!
It's Black Breastfeeding Week. Wondering why? Some may wonder why such a week is necessary. After all, that's a pretty narrow niche, isn't it? Aren't black moms included in all breastfeeding awareness and education campaigns? Is there something special about black breastfeeding? The answer is yes, there is something unique about black breastfeeding. Several somethings, actually. But one reason Black Breastfeeding Week exists is summed up in a gut-wrenching poem by feminist author Hess Love.
"I wish I dried up I wish every drop of my milk slipped passed those pink lips and nourished the ground Where the bones lay Of my babies Starved while I feed their murderer I wish I dried up So the missus babies would dry up too And be brittle So I could crumble them to dust Return them to the ground Where all children of my bosom lay equal" - Hess Love
As Parenting Decolonized points out, black parents have only been able to raise their own children for less than 160 years in America. (This SHOCKED me!) That's basically two 80-year-old grandmas living back to back. For most of U.S. history, generation upon generation upon generation of black families were torn apart. Black mothers were often not allowed to nourish and raise their own babies, but were forced to nourish and raise the babies of their enslavers. For most of U.S. history, black breastfeeding meant wet nursing white babies, often at the expense of a black woman's own children.
When I say "most of U.S. history," I mean that literally. Slavery was the standard for close to 250 years on our soil, compared to the 154 years since slavery was legally abolished (almost 100 of which still allowed legal discrimination). The impact of that reality doesn't just disappear because slavery ended and the Civil Rights Act passed.
However, the historical effects stemming from slavery are not the only reason Black Breastfeeding Week is important. Black mothers face higher maternal and infant mortality rates in the U.S., and according to the CDC, there are "substantial" differences in breastfeeding rates between black mothers and white mothers.
Add in cultural and social issues surrounding black women's bodies, ongoing perceptions of breastfeeding in black communities, and a lack of representation in the lactation support field, and the answer to the question "Why Black Breastfeeding Week?" becomes apparent.
I know there will be people in the comments saying, "Slavery ended more than 100 years ago. Get over it." These people don't understand the far-reaching effects of historical trauma. They don't understand that centuries of violent oppression followed by another century of blatant, legal discrimination impacts generations, and that the racism at the heart of all of that is still present in the health statistics of black mothers and infants in America.
The poem by Hess Love punched me in the feels. I am so grateful that I have been enlightened to this terrible history so that I can do my part to ensure HISTORY IS NEVER REPEATED!
All mothers deserve support. Big hugs to all momma goddesses out there!
For you milky mommas out there - I hope you get a chance to enjoy a warm cup of coffee (or whatever drink is your jam) and take a minute to pat yourself on the back, because you are a freaking superhero.
Share your thoughts below! We LOVE to hear from you!