This week we are honored to celebrate and bring awareness to the Black Breastfeeding journey. We know Breastfeeding to be one of our greatest gifts to motherhood; one that provides the ability to feed and nurture our babies. An ability that is too often not acknowledged for the tremendous power that it holds. From the antibodies the milk develops to keep our babies immune systems strong, to the awesome emotional and physical benefits it provides for the mother. Breastfeeding is truly a Gift.
Yet, with all of the great properties of Breastfeeding, Black women are still less likely to nurse their babies compared to their white counterparts.
Well, What is the issue?
Some may say it could be that Black women do not have the support within their families to promote breastfeeding. Some may say that Black women do not receive good lactation support within the hospital systems. And some may even say that Black women do not want to nurse their babies.
Although all of these things may be true, there is one aspect that is typically neglected as a reason why Black women have generationally had difficulties Breastfeeding – The past trauma of forced wet nursing.
Wet nursing, defined as breastfeeding a child who is not you own, was a practice that was apart of the legacy of oppression and dehumanization that Black women experienced during slavery. Once an enslaved mother delivered her baby, she would be then given to a white mistress and forced to breastfeed her white baby rather than her own, forcing her to feed her baby concoctions that were believed to be good substitutes for breastmilk. Because of this forced neglect and improper feeding, many enslaved babies died. If women were reluctant to nurse their mistress’ baby, they were beaten and milked like cows.
After centuries of this level of terror and abuse, we can only imagine the psychological toll it has taken on our journey through breastfeeding.
With that being said, it may seem like an uphill battle to change the negative narrative surrounding Black breastfeeding, however, there are many Community based organizations that are working diligently to push that shift.
As Black women, we too must be a part of that push to shift the narrative. Let us continue to encourage the mothers around us and to deliver support when needed. Our breastfeeding stigmas will change when we come together to make it happen.
Happy Black Breastfeeding!
Krystina Muhammad is a mother, writing and a communications specialist at The National Birth Equity Colloborative.
Follow her on Instagram @krystinamuhammad and twitter @Krystina_M
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