Black Women Do Breastfeed! How Nanobébé’s Expert Community Is Feeding Babies Better While Educating Families
If you’re a breastfeeding mom or know a breastfeeding mom, you should look into Nanobébé. Nanobébé is a bottle system created with the purpose of making breastfeeding easier, from pumping and storing to warming and feeding, especially for moms who have to (or want to) incorporate bottle feeding into their routines. The bottles are ergonomically designed, quick warming, and help retain nutrients from mothers’ milk to feed babies fully and comfortably.
In addition to bottle products, there’s also a Nanobébé community featuring a diverse array of experts who consult with the brand and contribute to blog posts, sharing tips and support for breastfeeding life, which can sometimes be rough. Two of those experts are Dr. Michelle Davis-Dash, a board-certified pediatrician based in Baltimore, and Tayo Mbande, birth and postpartum doula who founded Chicago Birthworks Collective.
Both women are on a mission to deliver more education about breastfeeding to the world, especially to Black women, who have the lowest breastfeeding rates (for a variety of reasons). Through Nanobébé, they have been able to elevate their respective platforms in an effort to boost rates of breastfeeding in the Black community.
My daughter is almost three now, but I breastfed for 18 months (my daughter self-weaned), and it’s not as easy for everyone as people may believe. There are many variables that might make moms want to quit. One issue, in the beginning, is isolation. Once you get home from the hospital you’re on your own. Lactation consultants outside of the hospital can be expensive, as in upwards of $100 an hour. However, more of them are throwing lactation parties, where you pay an entry fee of $10 or so and a group of nursing moms and their partners network with each other as the lactation consultant mingles with everyone and goes over individual issues. Another issue is if you have to go back to work you may not be able to pump and your milk can dry up. Thankfully, more information is starting to become available to women who need assistance around the clock. That’s why I caught up with Dr. Davis-Dash and Mbande to get the facts about why breastfeeding is important and how they plan to educate more Black women about the benefits.
MadameNoire (MN): Dr. Davis- Dash, should pediatricians be knowledgeable in postpartum health and how is that helpful?
Dr. Davis-Dash (DDD): Absolutely, yes! In my clinical practice, we screen mothers for postpartum depression, but also ask mothers about any other conditions that could also affect the newborn.
MN: What are the benefits of breastfeeding and how does that impact Black mothers and babies?
Tayo Mbande (TM): The nutritional benefits of breastfeeding are the same for Black babies and Black nursing people as they are for every other racial group. Just like the placenta is relentless in meeting the needs of a fetus in the womb, breastmilk of the birthing person is equally assertive in providing your baby the most perfect nourishment outside of the womb. It offers proper fat, hydration, vitamins, minerals, antibodies, hormones and more for their specific body. This is especially important when considering the health disparities that exist between Black babies and other racial groups.
If Black parents have the lowest breastfeeding initiation rates and Black babies have a mortality rate that is more than three times higher than the lowest mortality rate by ethnic group, it may be important to explore how breastmilk can substantially increase the health, quality of life, and lifespan of Black babies in their first year of life. From the beginning of the breastfeeding experience, Black mother’s bodies are working with vigor to perfectly rebalance themselves and graciously transition her body and mind into motherhood. Immediately following birth, breastfeeding a baby at the breast releases one of the body’s most powerful hormones, oxytocin. This hormone is produced in large amounts and levels off accordingly during the feeding. It can do so much for a mom including sufficiently cause her uterus to contract immediately after birth to assist with releasing the placenta as well as encourage her uterus to clot off open blood vessels and prevent hemorrhaging.
This hormone also lets our bodies know it is time to make lots of milk. On top of all of those physiological processes, the release of this hormone is usually a joyous one that aids in incredible connections being formed between mom and baby. This hormone will continue to be released during feedings and can help with boosting mom’s mood as oxytocin is known as the love hormone. Breastfeeding is also a mighty way to burn calories and thus helps mom’s shed weight after pregnancy. Breastfeeding has been proven to decrease the chances of a woman developing breast cancer, which we know is an exceptional health benefit for Black women considering that Black women typically develop more aggressive forms of cancer that can be protected against with even short periods of breastfeeding. Alongside these physiological benefits, it is equally important to acknowledge the emotional and social benefits of breastfeeding for both Black mothers and Black babies. We are living in a social era where Black mothers are taxed to the maximum in our home, work, social and personal lives; breastfeeding can mean time to sit, to rest, to check in and connect with yourself as well as bond with your baby in incredible ways that can lead to Black babies feeling secure, supported and healthily attached to their mamas and Black moms feeling competent and strong as mothers.
MN: There has been a lot more light shed on how negatively Black mothers can be impacted by the medical system lately, particularly with maternal death rates. How does that lend itself to postpartum help, especially when it comes to breastfeeding?
DDD: There must be a conscious decision by caregivers to check their biases and deliver competent, compassionate care to each mother. This includes instructions on cultural competency given to providers.
TM: The medical system, as much as it has emphasized the importance of breastfeeding, has done very little to address the social and cultural factors that influence our choices around pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. This may help us in understanding why the medicalization of birth has been so troubling for Black women in particular. Pregnancy and birth are both highly managed by medical professionals and the ball is dramatically dropped when it comes to postpartum care.
We have been taught the the importance of receiving thorough and consistent prenatal care during pregnancy, the importance of birthing with medical professionals who can assist with the intricacies of birth, and are then sent home to tend to ourselves and our babies after nine months of consistently visiting with medical professionals who in most cases led us through our pregnancies with information average mothers either do not have access to or are simply not aware of.
So much of what we learn about pregnancy, birth and postpartum specifically breastfeeding, is packaged to us through a very White-centered medical lens not considering the aspects of Black culture, Black social and racial experiences that influence our postpartum and breastfeeding experiences. Our medical systems simply are not providing and emphasizing those who do provide appropriate teachings on comprehensive mother care after birth. This too often leads to severe negative impacts on breastfeeding. Mothers choosing to breastfeed need care for their bodies as they heal through the postpartum in addition to care through growing a body that will produce nourishment for a newborn completely on its own.
Hospitals are working to bring more breastfeeding professionals into the birthing and immediate postpartum experience but must be assertive in addressing breastfeeding as a racialized experience with numerous cultural factors by incorporating more professionals of color who are thoroughly aware of these experiences for black women.
MN: I didn’t get the hang of breastfeeding in the hospital when I gave birth almost three years ago because my daughter was so sleepy she wouldn’t latch. Then I got home and struggled because I had no support at all. I eventually found an affordable lactation consultant. It worked out, but my point is being in the postpartum space can be very lonely even if you have encouragement. Also, having to do research for quality care is the last thing on your mind after giving birth so what are some solutions for helping women on their breastfeeding journeys after they leave the hospital?
DDD: The Internet has truly changed the game in terms of finding information, instructions, and helpful videos. In the digital space, one can now find support groups, expert help, and several products to help support mothers in their breastfeeding journey. The caveat to that is to always check the source of the information and to understand that none of it is a substitute for seeking care in person.
Also, a growing number of organizations and companies, such as Nanobébé, are working to educate moms (and dads) on the benefits of breastmilk. Nanobébé gave a large platform sharing information via their blog and social posts on the need to support the education of new moms in the black communities and highlighted Black Breastfeeding Week with large-scale outreach. One of the main reasons Black women switch to formula so quickly is the need to return to work. Their flagship breastmilk bottle makes the opportunity to continue baby’s breastfeeding journey possible for mom and baby.
TM: We have to be diligent in doing do whatever work we can to educate ourselves fully and to the best of our capacity about pregnancy, birth, postpartum care for mama and baby. We have to hold ourselves and people in our communities accountable to increasing culturally informed knowledge about these processes so that in cases such as yours, we have done the work in identifying who in our circle can provide care or support when it is needed.
Postpartum doulas are excellent resources here. We’ve got to be committed to building strong communities before we birth our babies that can assist us in navigating these specific experiences. Working with a doula during your pregnancy and postpartum can be such an awesome solution for this! Preconception education is also tremendously important! Large portions of women are disconnected from their bodies and rely on the medical establishment to care for their needs when concerns arise.
We absolutely have to work towards building awareness and educating ourselves: what works, what doesn’t prior to conception, etc. This is how we establish ourselves as experts on what is normal for our specific bodies and babies and what is not. Lastly, knowing what kinds of tools you can use for the various breastfeeding situations is important! If you plan to return to work or have help at home with someone feeding the baby, do your research and find the products and tools that can help you the most. Nanobébé bottles are one of our favorite recommendations for moms who plan to incorporate bottle-feeding into their breastfeeding journey! They are designed specifically to preserve the nutrients in breast milk. They are easy to pump directly into, store and reheat for baby’s feeding time. This is the kind of tool that can really make breastfeeding and the postpartum experience a lot less of a hassle. Lastly, there are so many online communities for women of color around breastfeeding. These spaces are critical for sharing information as well as providing a community of support and encouragement where women can comfortably share their stories with women who look like them.
MN: What do you hope your impact will be when it comes to educating Black women about breastfeeding?
DDD: I truly hope that Black women will return to the traditions that have sustained us since the beginning of time. I would love to impact young girls’ perceptions of breastfeeding as being the standard of infant nutrition, not a luxury for well-off stay-at-home mothers. I also hope to make some impact on the national conversation on normalizing and supporting breastfeeding for all mothers.
TM: We hope to remind folks that human beings have been breastfeeding for centuries and Black women are not exempt from that experience. Our bodies have not changed much where this is becoming increasingly more and more difficult. Social structures have changed. We hope to re-tell our story as Black women about how long we’ve been making healthy choices for ourselves, our babies and our bodies and affirm the women who are choosing to breastfeed their children for whatever amount of time, providing evidence-based support and knowledge to those who need it and continuing to spread the message that black mothers are capable and competent parents who are able to make great choices for their babies.