Black Breast is Best

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Before taking any advice from a mom's blog, please check with your doctor/pediatrician first!

Is black breast best? Black women breastfeeding in America right now looks like more than 64 percent of black women struggling to initiate nursing their newborns and, according to the CDC, the shortest duration black mamas nurse is 6.5 weeks! This is incredibly disturbing and needs to change. And it will if you are open to help!

black mom breastfeeding It’s Black Breastfeeding Week, and if you have a black mama in your life who wants to nurse her baby whether that is a friend, sister, daughter, or niece, just shut up and support her! It means more to her than you know! My goal is not to sound harsh here, but I definitely want to make sure you get the point! 

A lot of black mothers fail to nurse because of the lack of support and resources, work environment disadvantages, the snotty looks people give when nursing in public, the unsolicited opinions, and SO MUCH MORE! Those challenges, I believe, barely scratch the surface. Comments like, “Oh wow! Good luck with that!” or “Dang girl! How long are you gonna nurse for?!” are never words that should come out of your mouth. It’s quite rude, and a HUGE confidence killer to a mom you may not know is struggling silently! I will digress on that topic! But I need you to understand before we delve deeper into this topic, according to the CDC black women have the lowest breastfeeding initiation rate of all racial groups at 69.4 percent, compared to our caucasian neighbors and the shortest breastfeeding duration. 

“Breastfeeding has many known health benefits for infants, children, and mothers and is a key strategy to improve public health.” says www.census.gov  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants are exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months with continued breastfeeding while introducing complementary foods for at least 1 year. As soon as some women give birth, in the hospital specifically, there is an automatic assumption that we aren’t nursing and formula is pushed by nurses in labor and delivery-this is the FIRST disadvantage we have as black mothers. Not only are women exhausted after labor and tired, we don’t know the amount of trauma she may have endured to even get her baby here! So the push of formula shows us that you do indeed believe us to be incapable of nursing our own and shows that hospitals lack resources to help these mamas nurse!

I watched as a client wanted to nurse, but there was only ONE Lactation Consultant on the postpartum floor. That alone is terrible. Here you are with not much support from the lactation consultant on duty at the hospital, but now you have to go home to struggle, and then go to work in six weeks and your job only gives you one break the entire day to pump; that is a set up for failure and very disheartening! This month needs to be recognized because there are so many disadvantages black women face today and it needs to be confronted. For some mamas, nursing is an honorable, messy, yet rewarding accomplishment and mamas need to hear that. For the ones that don’t care, that is okay, but this week is for those mamas that do care!

If you are not sure how to help, here are quick, supportive ways you can help. Remember S.G.H.A.R (sh-gar):

  1. SHOW HER that you genuinely care about her goals to nurse her baby. Challenge her to seek out help if she’s struggling. DON’T MENTION FORMULA or PUMPING! 
  2. GIVE HER things to support her supply- it’s simple as just buying her water, her favorite snacks, doing dishes for her, etc. Allow her time with her baby to bond (this BOOSTS oxytocin- the hormone that helps milk let down and bonding with baby which is important for milk production.
  3. ASK HER about the things she enjoys about nursing, and even the things she finds difficult. Seriously there are some challenges that come with it, but I find the more we talk about them and normalize them, the more moms won’t feel alone in it!
  4. REMIND HER of how great she is doing. Affirm her decision to nurse her baby. 

If you are a Memphis mama needing/wanting help I would highly recommend these things:

  1. A CHIROPRACTOR. When a baby is born they have anywhere from 60-100+lbs of pressure applied to the neck and spine. YES, you read that right. So because of this, nursing can be extremely uncomfortable for them. Chiropractors are trained to identify and correct subluxations (misalignments) to allow your baby’s spine to return to the correct alignment and allow optimal health to be expressed. This can help with nursing tremendously! I love Tammy Henry, search her name on facebook! 
  2. REACH OUT to a local lactation counselor or consultant here in the Memphis area. Both are trained to help spot things like shallow latch, different ways to hold/support baby’s head and neck while nursing, and so much more! Hospitals have them if you are having a hospital birth, but sometimes that is not enough and can often be rushed so have a backup lactation consultant lined up to meet with after the baby is born because let’s admit it, breastfeeding can suck at times!
  3. FIND A TRAINED Tongue Tie/Lip Tie specialist. This is a VERY unpopular opinion, but MOST and I mean MOST lactation consultants, ENTs, pediatric dentists, OBGYNs, and midwives are under trained in tongue and lip ties (which can greatly impact breastfeeding by causing painful breastfeeding, shallow latches, low milk supply, etc.). This is because some ties are harder to see. I love the facebook group Tennessee Tongue and Lip Tie Support because it provides support and resources for parents of babies and young children. There are also a handful of medical or allied health professionals in the group that you can view that are trained in searching for ties that often make breastfeeding so painful!

I hope this is all pretty helpful to not just black mamas, but any mama out there wanting to nurse that baby!!