Celebrating Black Breastfeeding Week!

Breastfeeding While Black: Support

Our guest blogger this week is Charnise Littles. She is a mom, IBCLC and birth doula within the D.C. Metropolitan area. Follow her on IG @charnisebridgette.

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Entering into motherhood was a complete shock for me! I was introduced to the many options on birthing and infant feeding, not through the community and family around me but from my overflowing Amazon cart!

My main concern was how to get through natural birthing and how to breastfeed without losing my mind. I knew that my family was use to bottle feeding and hospital births, it was considered the norm. I knew how to bottle feed like a pro! But I also knew that breastfeeding was the better option.

I am no stranger to shaking things up a bit, and being the odd ball out! Some days I truly thrive on it. I was just so worried to be bold during my most vulnerable moments.

I hit the books and focused on natural parenting, natural birthing, breastfeeding and created what I thought was one of the greatest birthing and nursing plan ever. It was evidence based, thorough, and had impeccable organization!

Note: The physical copy was left at the house when I rushed to the hospital. My partner hand wrote it in the car, in between contraction. $h!+ happens!

I explained to my family and friends my wishes of a natural water birth and exclusively breastfeeding then the culture shock set in. I never thought people would be so resistant to my plans; especially when they weren’t the ones doing it. For some reason what I did with my body was a huge concern and it was met with negativity left and right. I compromised for a hospital birth due to the lingering fear my mother experienced during my birth. I am one of those micro premature infants born 2 months too soon. My parents never healed from the trauma. I did not compromise on breastfeeding.

Remember my ridiculous Amazon cart?  Those books made me wonder why everyone in my family wasn’t breastfeeding. I found out why but that is another post for another day! I made breastfeeding one of my first parenting goals. I knew I needed to claim the joys of bonding with my son, I wanted my snap back helper and I wanted to provide the greatest and only milk truly made for humans.

More than ever we, humans, need to create a truly supportive environment around maternal and child health that begins before conception and never ends, especially for black women. In childbirth and nursing we are constantly distrusting of our bodies, our instinct, our partners and our babies! That narrative has to change but support is definitely needed along the way. It’s the same support I wish had from the very start of my pregnancy.

What does that support and encouragement look like?

One example is Black Breastfeeding Week! It recognizes the fact that racial disparities exist within our country regarding breastfeeding initiation and duration rates. BBW understands that having these 7 days, every year, dedicated to highlight and commune with one another, either in person or online, is absolutely necessary!

Today, there are huge disparities in infant mortality and maternal mortality rates. In BBW’s blog post, “Top Five Reasons We Need A Black Breastfeeding Week,” they share that according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention infant mortality rates can decrease by 50% if us black women increased our breastfeeding rates.

The theme for this year’s BBW is ‘Love on Top.’ It’s a reminder that love encompasses everything we do as parents and it’s how we overcome difficult challenges.

In this moment, I am in love with my profession because I am able to help serve and guide families in a practice that can literally save our lives.

When support is needed make sure seek out those around you with breastfeeding experience and if necessary seek out a lactation professional. A good consult should lay down a foundation of support and care through guided practice and education. When learning a new skill, it is important for you and your support persons to get all of your questions answered. Bring your partner, parent, and bestie along for the ride if needed.

Need some encouragement? Visualize your goals. On some days I just needed gentle reminders that I am not alone and that people before me have done the same thing I am trying to do. We all know that images are powerful. I simply needed to see black women comfortable breastfeeding. As the millennial I am, I ran to social media. Check out these amazing platforms!

@blkbfingweek

@blactavist

@bwdbf

@breastfeedingincolor

I have a goal that requires my generation to prepare the next generation of parents before they even become parents. It’s my hope that the support and education we give to one another reclaims the practice of breastfeeding within our communities and allows it to become an active tradition.

Let’s take it one day at a time and put our love for mothers and babies on top!

Have a great Black Breastfeeding Week!

#LoveonTop

#BBW18

Jacquelin Knighton