12 Organizations Supporting & Celebrating Black Moms Breastfeeding

In celebration of Black Breastfeeding Week (Aug. 25 through Aug. 31), we compiled a list of organizations and online groups that provide breastfeeding support for moms. If you’re an expectant mom who wants to learn more about lactation or you’ve already delivered your baby, it’s important for you to get the support you need to breastfeed successfully.

There are many health benefits for breastfeeding moms and their babies including antibodies found in breast milk. These antibodies help babies fight off bacteria/viruses and lowers the risk of asthma, allergies, and respiratory illnesses. Breastfeeding moms also lower their chances of breast cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Recently, data on breastfeeding children indicated that “83% of U.S. mothers breastfed their babies at birth. However, when the research was broken down by race 85% of white mothers breastfed more than Black mothers who only breastfed 69%.”

This disparity is attributed to systematic racism within hospital networks who don’t encourage breastfeeding initiation to Black moms and often promote formula. The other obstacle moms face is dealing with the possible stigma of being shamed in public for breastfeeding their child. These things can impact a mom’s breastfeeding confidence and discourage her to breastfeed.

We honor and support organizations and online groups who are working hard to show off Black families representing breastfeeding. We support them in their efforts to promote and protect Black families and their desire to provide only the best for Black families.

Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association

Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE)

African American Breastfeeding Network

Black Breastfeeding Week

BirthMatters Spartanburg

United States Breastfeeding Committee

National Association of Professional Peer Lactation Counselors

MoDaBa (Fatima Muhammad Roque)

Early Dawn Birthing Services (Chelesa Presley)

Blooming Moon Midwifery Services (Toni Hill)   

Northeast Mississippi Birthing Project (Natasha Enos)

Southern Birth Justice

(Photo credit: Flint Chaney 08)

Power of Breastfeeding Reflection

I had my son and the hospital told me to go straight to the WIC office and that’s what I did.  I needed to figure out how to feed him. I can recall when I got to the WIC office they asked me for insurance and proof of income. I didn’t have any of this paperwork and they told me they were unable to give me any formula for him. I sat in the waiting room and began to cry. The lactation counselor, asked me why was I crying? I said I couldn’t feed my baby and they (WIC) wouldn’t give me any milk for him. She said to me: “you can feed your baby!” I asked, how?  She pointed to my breasts and began to teach me in the waiting area how to breastfeed my child. That is how my breastfeeding journey began for me and my child. In my community, no one I knew breastfed.

If the lactation counselor was not there that day, I would have gone home, and my grandmother probably would’ve given my son Carnation milk and Karo Syrup or Similac with iron, which is also a staple in the African American community. Sometimes, I would feed my baby in the bathroom because I felt embarrassed about breastfeeding at home when relatives were present. I did not have the education or support which is widely available today. I thought of my breast as sexual objects which is another reason it was uncomfortable for me to nurse in front of others. However, today I recommend breastfeeding with the same confidence and assurance as the lactation consultant did with me!

Infant Mortality Rates (IMR) is much higher among African Americans 4.7% Non- Hispanic White we need to give our babies a chance and it starts by putting them to our breast. If you need help learning to breastfeed your child a breastfeeding support counselor can help you latch your baby on today. Here is a list of organizations that are providing breastfeeding support or you can send us an inquiry at info@healthconnectone.org and we can refer you. – Tikvah Wadley, HC One Lead Doula

World Breastfeeding Week: Interview with Cata Contreras Guajardo on Breastfeeding

In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, we wanted to share a short interview with Cata Contreras Guajardo, the woman featured in the powerful photo above. We thank Cata for taking the time to share her thoughts on breastfeeding.

Why is breastfeeding important to you and your family?

Breastfeeding is not just food. For me and my children, it’s been caresses, shelter, and comfort. It’s also important to us because it’s consolation on nights when they are sick.

What was your breastfeeding experience like with your child?

The first few months of breastfeeding my second daughter was complicated. I didn’t enjoy breastfeeding. I would get in a bad mood and this impacts babies. As time went by, things began to improve and only positive things came from breastfeeding.

What kind of event were you participating in when you were breastfeeding your child?

Throughout my pregnancy, I had participated in the traditional Tinkus dance. On this day, I went to the festival early to rehearse and breastfed my four-month-old son during the break. My parents came with me and took the photo before the performance began. Amaru is going to be five-years-old and since he was a baby has been going to the festival and Andean ceremonies

What advice do you give moms who are trying to breastfeed?

To the moms reading this post: Don’t give up! Breastfeeding is our natural right. Sometimes, it hurts, makes us tired, and can overwhelm us but it’s not impossible. If you’re struggling with the process, find a breastfeeding/lactation peer counselor to help you with any breastfeeding issues.

Photo credit: Parents of Cata Contreras

***

Entrevista con Cata Contreras Guajardo sobre la lactacion materna

¿Por qué es tan importante la lactancia materna para usted y sus hijos?

la lactancia no es sólo alimento. Para mí y mis hijos han sido, caricias, cobijo y consuelo. Es importante para nosotros, fue la base de la alimentación, el consuelo de caídas y noches de enfermedad.

¿Cómo se han visto afectados usted y sus hijos por la lactancia materna?

Los primeros meses de lactancia de mi segunda hija fueron complicados, tuve heridas y no era agradable lactar, me ponía de mal humor e irritable y eso también afectaba a los bebés. Pasando los días fue mejorando y sólo fueron cosas positives.

Cuéntanos sobre la foto de ti con tu hijo

en esta foto mi hijo tenía 4 meses, había bailado Tinkus todo mi embarazo y este carnaval en específico me encantaba, así que mis padres me acompañaron cuidando a Amaru y me tomaron la foto ensayando antes de partir a bailar. Amaru está por cumplir 5 años y jamás ha dejado de asistir a carnavales y ceremonias andinas

 ¿Por qué es tan importante la lactancia materna para usted y sus hijos?

Mamá que estás leyendo esto: No te rindas !! La lactancia es nuestra naturaleza !! A veces duele, cansa y agobia, pero no es imposible! Buscar asistencia profesional puede resolver todos los problems!

(Autor de la photo: Padres de Cata Contreras) 

Eng Span webinars

Apoyando a Familias | Supporting Families During COVID-19 and Emergencies

“Supporting Families During COVID-19 and Emergencies led by Lourdes Santaballa, Executive Director, Alimentación Segura Infantil (ASI) in Puerto Rico (PR) presented their approach to supporting families during emergencies and this public health pandemic.

“Apoyando a Familias Durante COVID-19 y Emergencias” presentado por Lourdes Santaballa, Directora Ejecutiva de, Alimentación Segura Infantil (ASI) en Puerto Rico (PR) compartió su enfoque para apoyar a las familias durante emergencias y durante esta pandemia de salud pública.

Resources/ Recursos

Guía Operativa para el Personal de Socorro en Emergencias del IFE  | Operational Guidance for Emergency Relief Staff and Programme Managers of the IFE Core Group

Global Health Media Video (in English only) Extracción Manual de Leche/How to Express Breastmilk

Guía express para la Alimentación Segura en Emergencias | Express Guide for Safe Infant Feeding During Emergencies

woman in lavender blouse speaks from audience at Chocolate Milk screening

Chocolate Milk Photo Gallery

In August 2019, HealthConnect One partnered with UIC’s Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health and EverThrive Illinois during Black Breastfeeding Week. They hosted a film screening of CHOCOLATE MILK, a documentary on the racial divide in breastfeeding. HC One’s Tikvah Wadley, led a successful post-show discussion with the audience. Here are a few photos from the evening!

Supporting My Community as a CLC

by Ambar Rivera

I don’t know when exactly I saw the opportunity to apply for a scholarship to take the CLC (Certified Lactation Counselor) certification. What I do remember is that I didn’t apply right away. Probably very busy, as usual. I set it up for later.

Then, at the almost very last minute, I was posting on my Facebook profile asking for testimonials from people whom I had helped in their breastfeeding journey. The response was so humbling. I got so many, and from people I didn’t even know I had helped. I had simply answered their questions, provided them with information, and to me, it was minimal, but it was definitely crucial for them. At that moment, I knew I HAD to take the course. I wasn’t even aware of the impact I was already having in my community. There was the woman who was nursing right after a C-section, the mother nursing her toddler all throughout her pregnancy, the mom with Raynaud syndrome, the one who worked full-time and benefited from my own experience exclusively breastfeeding and working full-time away from home, and many, many more. Again, thank you!

I applied, waited to hear results, and this I remember clearly…. I GOT IT!! I was sitting in the parking lot waiting to go pick up some mail and then, the e-mail came! YES!! I will never forget that excitement.

I felt like I would now be more and better equipped to help those families in my community on their breastfeeding journeys. I have always believed and stand by the notion that breastfeeding is a choice parents make, but when parents decide to breastfeed, I want to make sure that they get all the information and support possible, starting from providing prenatal education to assisting them once they have their baby.

I particularly enjoyed that the training was based on very recent scientific evidence and how knowledgeable and accessible the faculty was. It was an experience I truly enjoyed and will cherish for a long time.

I am so thankful for HealthConnect One and the Birth Equity Leadership Academy (BELA) for making this dream a reality. I can now continue serving my beloved Puerto Rico.

Breastfeeding in L.A.

Photo by Mu-huan Chiang

My name is To-wen Tseng. I am an independent journalist based in Los Angeles, California.

My commitment to birth equity began five years ago when I returned to my previous newsroom after giving birth to my first child. I got a rude awakening when my previous employer refused to provide breastfeeding accommodations and harassed me for pumping at work. That was when I realized that I didn’t want to choose between my career and my baby. Before that, I never knew that breastfeeding was so important to me.

And I realized many mothers in my community might have experienced the same barriers I experienced.

At that time, I wrote for one of the largest Chinese-language newspapers in North America. I hoped no mother would have to go through what I went through, so I quit my job and sued the company for sexual discrimination.

During that period of time, the newspaper published two discriminatory articles. One was titled “Breastfeeding photos embarrass Chinese-American to death” and described breastfeeding in public and sharing breastfeeding photos on social media as “disturbing” and “disgusting.” The other one was titled “Nursing room shouldn’t be required” and indicated that it’s unnecessary and useless for employers to provide mothers space for pumping.

The two articles angered many nursing moms in my local Chinese-American community. Hundreds of mothers wrote to the newspaper to protest. A friend of mine and I wanted to organize a nurse-in to demand an apology from the newspaper, but we couldn’t recruit enough Chinese-American mothers who were comfortable about breastfeeding in public.

The nurse-in did not happen. We then wanted to start a photo voice project to show that breastfeeding photos are beautiful instead of “disturbing and disgusting,” but we once again faced multiple challenges: It’s hard to recruit models and put the money together for a professional photographer.

The photo voice project didn’t happen, either. However, my case was settled, and I started to volunteer for local breastfeeding organizations. Last year, I gathered a group of like-minded individuals and founded the Asian Breastfeeding Task Force of Greater Los Angeles. I also became a leader with HealthConnect One’s Birth Equity Leadership Academy (BELA). I see this as a great opportunity to make that photo voice project happen — I can finally recruit models with the Asian Breastfeeding Task Force and hire a photographer with BELA Community Project funding. I submitted the application and was selected.

Now I’m working with my team at the task force to put the project together. Thanks to HealthConnect One and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, after five years, the photo voice project is finally happening!

Read more by To-Wen Tseng at:

And I’d rather be breastfeeding.
One mother’s thoughts on family friendly policy, gender equality at workplace, among other things.

The Growth of Licensure in Health Adjacent Fields Reduces Access to Care

by Jaimie Cavanaugh

In 2011, the Surgeon General released the Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. The report highlights the health benefits associated with breastfeeding and recognizes that community support is necessary to increase breastfeeding rates. In response, Kimarie Bugg and Mary Nicholson Jackson founded Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (“ROSE”) with the goal of offering community-based breastfeeding support to communities of color.

Kimarie and Mary have both worked as breastfeeding counselors for three decades and are pioneers in their field. In fact, they helped develop the curriculum that is taught to Women, Infant and Children (“WIC”) Peer Counselors. Peer Counselors are women who have breastfed who are then trained to provide education and emotional support to their peers.

The Peer Counselor program has positively impacted breastfeeding outcomes around the country. Receiving support from empathetic peers makes breastfeeding less daunting. New moms are more receptive to support from a community member—someone who talks like them and shares common cultural beliefs—than from a stranger at a hospital.

Photo by Institute for Justice

Based on the success of the WIC Peer Counselor program, ROSE established a similar program. Women who have successfully breasted for at least six months can complete a training to become Community Transformers. Peer Counselors and Community Transformers are often so inspired by their initial training that they go on to become Certified Lactation Counselors (“CLCs”) or complete other advanced breastfeeding trainings. Thus, not only are breastfeeding rates increasing, but these programs are providing a new path to employment for many women.

But all of these benefits may be thwarted by efforts to license lactation consultants. For example, Georgia enacted a lactation consultant license so strict that only International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (“IBCLCs”) are eligible to apply for a license. In 2013, there were over 800 active CLCs in Georgia as opposed to around 335 active IBCLCs. If Georgia’s licensing law takes effect hundreds of CLCs will lose their jobs. And as you might imagine, IBCLCs are concentrated in urban and affluent areas, leaving many rural and minority communities without breastfeeding support.

The lactation consultant license includes an exception for volunteers and government employees. Those individuals can continue providing breastfeeding support without a license. So a Community Transformer can work for free, but if she receives payment for her work, she faces fines of up to $500 per incident. Likewise, a WIC Peer Counselor can work in the WIC office, but she can no longer offer in-home support for payment.

Photo by Institute for Justice

As a result, I have personally heard from several CLCs who are apologetic that they charge modest rates for in-home visits. They truly care about helping their community members, but they have their own families to provide for, too. I tell each of these women not to apologize or make excuses for why they should be paid. They deserve to be compensated for the services they offer! In fact, it appears that the only people who stand to benefit from Georgia’s lactation consultant license are IBCLCs who will have a monopoly on the lactation care industry.

Because Georgia’s law would force hundreds of women out of work, Mary and ROSE have partnered with the Institute for Justice to sue Georgia to stop the lactation consultant license from taking effect. But a victory in one case will not solve the greater problem.

Thanks to the mania for credentials, new occupational licenses keep popping up—especially in health-care adjacent fields. For example, at least 12 states have created licenses for art therapists. Proponents of licensure argue that licensure will increase access to care. But as is the case with lactation consultants in Georgia, licensure generally creates barriers to entry and decreases the availability of services. Maybe the answer to increasing access to health care is less government intervention, not more.

Jaimie Cavanaugh is an attorney in the Minnesota office for the Institute for Justice, a national public interest law firm. The Institute for Justice seeks to preserve the right of all Americans to work in the profession of their choosing, free from irrational government interference. To find out more, visit ij.org

Photo by Institute for Justice

 

Black woman breastfeeding old black and white image

Black Breastfeeding after a History of Trauma

by Mekha McGuire

—–
In the conversation on Reproductive Justice and Birthing Equity, the climate is one of immense urgency.

With public breastfeeding now legal in all 50 states as of July this year, there’s a lot of momentum around birth equity, breastfeeding, and the rights of mothers in both the private and public spheres, but with every institutional reform and public shift, the question begs to be asked: Where does this leave Black mothers?

In the context of reproductive justice and the history of our communities in this country, the answer is non-extractable from the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the practice of slave breeding in the Americas. This Black Breastfeeding Week, like many others in the past, meets the crucible forged by white supremacy, medical racism, and heteropatriarchal state violence against the bodies of Black mothers and their children.

The history of the controlled reproductive capacities of Black and afro descended women is the foundation on which this country is built. The legacies of terror, oppression, and gendered dehumanization still impact the ancestors of those who survived the vast grief of enslavement. The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities reported in 2017 that 64.3% of Black American parents breastfed, in comparison to 81.9% of Latino and 81.5% of White parents breastfeeding. Now, those statistics can look very different when breaking down the racial variations within the Latino statistic (as people can be both Black and Latino as well as any race and Latino.) The enduring legacies of slavery are part of this equation.

Certified Nurse Midwife Stephanie Devane-Johnson of Greensboro, North Carolina conducted research as to why Black women weren’t breastfeeding and found that, “The echoes of slave women being forced to give up their milk still resounded. And black women didn’t talk to their sisters, daughters and granddaughters about how to feed their babies; the bottle was just assumed. And for some women, breast-feeding was a ‘white thing.’”

Devane-Johnson’s Findings

As part of her research for a doctoral degree at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Nursing, Devane-Johnson held focus groups to ask Black women about breast-feeding. She presented her research at the annual UNC-Chapel Hill Minority Health Conference, held recently at the Friday Center. Devane-Johnson described how she recruited 39 women ranging in age from 18 to 89 years old and asked them what conversations they’d had with family members. Turns out, many hadn’t had conversations at all.

“In the formula-feeding group, it was just assumed,” she said. Some women who had breast-fed said it was a topic that couldn’t be addressed in their families. “If they did breast-feed, they didn’t breast-feed at, say, their aunt’s house, they would tell them, ‘You can’t do that in my house. Breast-feeding is nasty,’” Devane-Johnson said. “You don’t talk about ‘boobies,’ because breasts are sometimes seen as sexual and not as functional.”

And then there was the enduring legacy of slavery. “There were some older black women who wanted to disassociate themselves from the past, from slavery and the wet-nursing,” she said, explaining that often young slave women were pressed into giving their milk to white infants. “That image of a ‘mammy’ when people would say that,” reads one of the quotes Devane-Johnson collected from her focus groups. “It did conjure up those pictures of the women feeding the white babies and all that.” And the cultural memory has been passed down even to younger women. “It really was amazing…. In my 18-to-29-year-old breast-feeding group, there was a young lady in there who said, ‘Yeah, the white men used to steal the slaves’ milk,’” she said. Devane-Johnson explained that often slave women had to be away from their own children, at the cost of their own children’s lives.

“A lot of slave babies died during slavery because they weren’t breast-fed. They were fed concoctions of dirty water and cows milk,” she said. Meanwhile, those children’s mothers were giving white children their milk. And women reported that oral histories have been reinforced by modern technology. “These pictures are all on social media,” Devane-Johnson said. “Then someone gets pregnant and people talk about breast-feeding. They’ll say, ‘You don’t have to do that anymore.’”

A study on Enhancing Breastfeeding Rates Among African American Women by Angela Johnson, Rosalind Kirk, Katherine Lisa Rosenblum, and Maria Muzik included this graphic for mapping and understanding the various factors that influence breastfeeding in Black American mothers. (Fig 1.)

Within the realm of influences that contribute to the comparative low numbers for breastfeeding amongst Black Women are slavery, racism, implicit bias, and discrimination from care/treatment providers. What creates a more nuanced and complex take on this data is also the influence that mental health and personal history have on the breastfeeding parent. When we consider the material realities and sentiments around mental health that exist inside our community, as well as the structural violence we face, a completely different picture around Breastfeeding is painted.

To center the history of these legacies, material realities, and subjectivities, I talked with a Black mother named Christena, who is based in Washington, D.C. and has a two year old son named Thiago. I wanted to center her experience with Breastfeeding, discuss some of the situations, structures and resources she had in place that made her feel supported and NOT supported, and learn what would make breastfeeding a better experience for her and for other Black mothers in her community.

Christena has been nursing her baby for two years and counting!

She’s a working class mother who has been though the ringer — having been illegally reprimanded for pumping at work, and having nursed through postpartum depression. Hopefully, her truth and her experience dealing with the structural inequalities around feeding her baby and mothering can provide a mirror to support other Black mothers who may be doing really well but need inspiration to go further; or mothers who are struggling with trauma or resource capacities (emotional, financial, and otherwise) and need some honest affirmation in their journey.

Christena Nataren, 27 | Breastfeeding her son Thiago 2 years+

My decision to breastfeed was both a financial and deeply personal choice. I knew breastfeeding was incredibly important to infant health and it lowers rates of infant mortality. The anxiety around keeping a baby alive and thriving was only slightly eased by breastfeeding. I’m thankful for the connection I was able to establish with my baby through breastfeeding. I left my OB/GYN halfway through my pregnancy and opted with a birthing and family center in my area instead. I didn’t feel supported by my OB and that changed when I switched to midwives. Even then, I felt a little hostility from medical professionals and I can only assume it’s because of my race and low income status.

I have a lactation consultant available to me through the birthing center and they offer a lot of help and literature. Outside of the medical structure, I have no support besides my partner. I don’t know anyone that has ever breastfed, so I was met with skepticism from my family. My baby’s birth wasn’t easy and I didn’t feel supported during and labor. The hospital’s lactation consultant was hostile and impatient with my questions. The nurses assigned to me also pressured me to use formula, so I did.

There were many times I wanted to stop, but the convenience and zero cost of nursing was a major factor to continue to nurse my baby.

I suffered an extreme bout of PPD. I suffer from PTSD from CSA (Childhood Sexual Abuse) and it was really hard to associate a sexualized part of my body with functionality. These are no longer parts of my body where I feel shame, but parts of my body that I feel sort of proud of — I have a healthy, bouncy baby that thrives on my breast milk. I feel so much pride in that.

When I had to eventually return to work, I was harassed by management about pumping breast milk at work. I was eventually fired and accused of wage theft over my 15 minute breaks on $2.77 an hour.

My experience with breastfeeding has been traumatic, overall— but I’m still nursing my son at 2 years old. I don’t feel ready to stop nursing and he doesn’t seem ready either, so I’m okay with extended breastfeeding. I’ll be ready to stop when he is. I’m hoping to make my next pregnancy and experience with breastfeeding an infant better than my first experience. I wish I had more emotional support and understanding from both medical professionals as well as coworkers and family members who were purely ignorant on the subject.

I don’t believe Black women are supported enough to breastfeed. Based on my experience, there are no conversations that are had with us from OB/GYNs or other medical professionals. More importantly, there isn’t access to this knowledge.

This inspired me to start a new project to help other mothers. I’m currently working on an app and a website that does the work of mapping out breastfeeding-friendly areas in the DC, Maryland, Virginia area — had I known, I would have ventured out with my baby more. You should be able to feed your baby anywhere you are, but I personally like to know when I’m going to feel safe. That’s where the idea for my project came from.

Christena is an essential part of the community we resist for, support, work with and build with to close these structural trenches. Her story highlights a truth that endures over many centuries of life in diaspora. It’s a truth that propelled our ancestors while they endured inconceivable dehumanization.

Together, our dreams, hopes, resistance, and survival will always drown out the labor of empire to keep us where we are. In the words of Gwendolyn Brooks “We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

My hope is that other Black parents who are breastfeeding — and struggling to be in congress with themselves through this time of immense repression — can read these words and be supported.

This Black Breastfeeding Week, let’s uplift breastfeeding LGBTQ parents, and breastfeeding parents who have postpartum depression, mental illness, or traumas, and aren’t routinely represented in birthing community conversations and support models.

#BBW #LoveOnTop


Mekha McGuire’s transdisciplinary labor is informed by her work with Black girls as an educator and community worker, as well as her service as an abortion doula and Black birth equity advocate. Her research and organizing is built on ethnographic and Black feminist frameworks that analyze and center conversations around Black girlhood, collective memory, femme genealogies, Reproductive Justice, solidarity politics and intergenerational gendered trauma within the African diaspora. Ms. McGuire is a leader in HealthConnect One’s Birth Equity Leadership Academy (BELA).

Black Breastfeeding in Philadelphia, a Q&A

In honor of Black Breastfeeding Week, breastfeeding advocate Faith Peterson asks Rudina Jackson, a certified lactation consultant and doula, to share her own experience with breastfeeding.

FP: What has been your experience with breastfeeding? 

RJ: My experience with breastfeeding has been an adventure. I have overcome a lot of nursing difficulties. I have three children, a 4-year-old and 1-year-old twins, all boys. I am breastfeeding all three children.

I practice natural child weaning. When my children are ready to wean, they will. The 4-year-old goes days without wanting to nurse but is still not ready to completely stop, and that is okay. I enjoy breastfeeding, but it is not always enjoyable. But in times of aversion, I remind myself they will only need milk for a short while, and one day they won’t need it at all.

FP: Why was it important for you to breastfeed?

RJ: It is important to me to breastfeed because this is natural and what is healthiest for my children. Breastmilk saves lives and the infant mortality rate in our community is at an all-time high. It is important to me because I want to raise sons who support women and encourage them to breastfeed their own children and to show them there is nothing shameful or nasty about breastfeeding.

FP: What are some of the structural and interpersonal supports that you have in place that make you feel supported?

RJ: My sisters both breastfed until 3.5 years old. They made that decision to breastfeed even though they were never really exposed to breastfeeding. I have always had the support of my sisters and my mother. (I was the only child of my siblings who she breastfed).

My partner has always supported breastfeeding our children, and that’s important to have your spouse support your breastfeeding journey and defend you to those who have never breastfed or are uneducated on breastfeeding . Also, when my oldest was 10 months, a friend added me to an online breastfeeding group, Breastfeeding Support Group for Black Moms. Through this group, I learn so much about breastfeeding and pumping. The group had about 3,000 members at the time, and now it’s over 52,000 members of black women supporting one another in their nursing journey. Also, through this journey, I have become a Lactation Consultant (CLC) and Community Birth Doula and have met many women like Jabina Coleman and Ileana Berrios who are IBCLCs in Philadelphia serving to support and encourage Black and Latina women in breastfeeding.

FP: What are the situations, structures, and resources that make you NOT feel supported?

RJ: Honestly, nothing can make me not feel supported. I had some doubts nursing my oldest in public but those quickly vanished when I realized I would rather argue with a stranger than starve my baby. I went into nursing my twins with the idea that breastfeeding is the only way. Although I struggled in the beginning with latching and not pumping, I was encouraged by my Doula Mia that things would get better and they did.

FP: Were there any times you felt that your current community does not have what you need or needed to make breastfeeding a better experience?

RJ: I do believe that my community lacks education on breastfeeding. This is why I strive to educate women in my community with facts and wisdom on breast milk, so they do not unintentionally hinder their own or another woman’s breastfeeding relationship with incorrect information. Being a mother of twins, I did have a hard time finding other women of color in my direct community that strictly breastfed twins.

FP: Is there anything else you would like to say to encourage a mom who is struggling with breastfeeding?

RJ: You are enough. It’s okay to get frustrated. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, but never quit on your worst day.

Faith Peterson, M.D. is the founder of the Philadelphia Birth Equity Project and a leader in HealthConnect One’s Birth Equity Leadership Academy (BELA).