Black Breastfeeding Week 25th – 31st August 2019
Authored by Ruth Dennison
There has been a look into what has been happening in the breastfeeding community of black families. It has been documented in the UK showing that black women have the highest breastfeeding rates of 1-3% . Many are questioning this, as there are many factors within the black community which causes black women to not exclusively breastfeed their babies until 6 months and beyond as recommended by UNICEF and WHO. Evidence shows that Black families suffer the highest infant mortality in the UK and it is strongly believed breastfeeding could help reduce the numbers. Breastfeeding/breastmilk have countless health benefits for mother and child, it can help prevent many illnesses, infections, diseases and reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden infant death syndrome).
In the black community it is very common for mothers to offer their babies alternatives from early, 2-4months, if not earlier. The top on the list is introducing water, why? because baby has a bad tummy. Black families have a culture of introducing solid foods from as early as 3- 4 months, why? because their milk is not satisfying baby, because baby is looking at the dinner plate and trying to grab the food off, she is now ready to eat, because granny said baby keeps crying, because your breast milk is not enough, mum needs to rest and let someone else feed baby (this can be done with expressed breast milk and breastfeeding actually makes mothers have to sit their busy bodies down, bond, heal and nurture their babies while they rest), because you never knew what to expect, because no one told you, because you never had any breastfeeding support, because breastfeeding is painful (which is should not be). I would say I have listed a good few things on why many black women don’t exclusively breastfeed their babies in the early stages of their babies life and there is so much more to this which will be high lighted at the “Why Black Breastfeeding Week?” event.
Do you know there is a history of breastfeeding trauma which has passed down through generations in the black community, this may still be hindering breastfeeding in the black community today, many black women tend to not seek breastfeeding education, they tend to listen to their family elders, especially grandparents, as they are placed as the veterans in parenting. Learn more about the history of breastfeeding trauma within the black community here: Slavery, Wet-Nursing, and Black.
This table below shows research on the reasons why breastfeeding mothers in the Caribbean introduce supplements to their babies, this also effects black mothers in the UK.
The most common reason was that water was given as it was felt the babies were too hot, baby was constipated or have grip (wind), to wash baby’s tongue, to settle baby, supplements were started in the hospital nursery or when mother were ill, to prevent baby getting gas from breastmilk, or on doctor’s orders. Learn more here: Breastfeeding patterns among six week old term infants at the University of the West Indies.
How many black women do you see in your local community breastfeeding support groups? A qualitative study of baby cafe services was carried out in the UK, within this it states, older, more highly educated mothers are more likely to seek help with breastfeeding difficulties. Which ethnicity/colour do you think these mothers are.
I do get a lot of hate when I speak on colour and breastfeeding, especially on my BBW Youtube video I made last year, it did get to me to begin with but now I do not worry about the negative comments, because those who don’t want to learn about the issues which lay in the black breastfeeding community, don’t really care and to be honest that is life, you can’t please everyone no matter how much you try. BBW is not a race war, it is a call for action as evidence show black babies die at a higher rate than any other race.
Yes, we all know the world needs major improvements in breastfeeding, but when working within breastfeeding, noticing how badly this is effecting the black community more than any other race, it is only right that someone waves the red flag and alerts the UK breastfeeding community. Yes, black mothers may have a higher initiation of breastfeeding, but it is also very common for black mothers to introduced their babies to alternatives from early days, weeks and months due to culture influences, social pressures and lack of skilled breastfeeding support.
Here I have attached a link of 3 black breastfeeding mothers stories, with hope that you see it through the mothers eyes.
There are many risk factors contributing to infant mortality such as birthweight, mother’s age at birth of child, and the parents’ socio-economic status, some of these same factors are also what contributes to the high drop off breastfeeding rates in the black community. Black African origin in the UK, had the highest infant mortality rate at 54.1 deaths per 1,000 live births, you can learn more here.
My name is Ruth Dennison, I am a Doula who specialises in breastfeeding. I have been supporting families in breastfeeding since 2007 in the NHS and privately. On Friday August 31st 2018, I hosted the ‘Why Black Breastfeeding Week?’ event, because many don’t understand why we need it and it is important for families, breastfeeding practitioners and organisations to learn the reasons why. When we learn the reasons why, is when we can then help make a change, help reduce infant mortality and better the health within the black community as evidence shows breastfeeding has long term health benefits for mother and child and this lengthens the longer you breastfeed.
After speaking with Kimberly Seals Allers Author of The Big Letdown and Mars Lord from Abuela Doulas, at the Birth and Breastfeeding While Black UK event, it made me more determined to host this event. I know it may not be everyone’s cup of tea but neither is it mine when I know how much improvements need to be made for black families and breastfeeding.
I would like to thank all who turned up to this event, with a big shout out to ABM (Association of Breastfeeding Mothers), The Breastfeeding Network, La Leche League and Lactation Consultants of Great Britain for coming down, showing your support and learning why black breastfeeding week is needed.
Black Breastfeeding Week Celebration 2019 – Breaking Barriers & Uplifting Education.
1-2-1 Doula & Breastfeeding Support Ltd will be celebrating Black Breastfeeding Week 2019 by hosting their 2nd public event in the UK. This is going to be a fun, interactive, educational and informative event.
The event will take place on Friday 30th August 2019, 10am – 4pm | London, N17 8AA | Get Tickets