Feature: Supporting Black Breastfeeding In Wichita

For many Black birthing families across the country, breastfeeding intention and initiation continue to pose a challenge. From the presence of infant formula in maternity wards to the failure of healthcare providers to encourage Black Breastfeeding to the lack of community support for Black Breastfeeding, the breastfeeding inequity gap continues to widen. At HealthConnect One, our First Food Equity project tackles this issue head-on, by strengthening resources and support within Black communities that will increase available breastfeeding support by diverse, community-based peer-to-peer providers.

HealthConnect One identified over 20 organizations to support community-led projects from identified Black, Brown, Indigenous, and People of Color leaders WBBC, based in Wichita, Kansas. As a part of the First Food Equity project, WBBC’s objective is to motivate Black and Brown women in Wichita to begin contemplating breastfeeding initiation in the antenatal period. During Black Maternal Health Week, we spoke with Joyea Marshall-Crowley, the coalition coordinator for WBBC, to understand the coalitons work and its vision for Black maternal health.

What’s the origin story of WBBC? 

Wichita Black Breastfeeding Coalition was started in October 2020 under the Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition non-profit organization. The creation of this coalition serves the purpose of giving black and brown mothers a safe place to get resources and support when it comes to breastfeeding. 

What issues are facing the Black communities WBBC serves in Kansas? 

The current issue in Wichita is representation and normalization. Black and brown women are not being asked about breastfeeding and their healthcare providers assume they are going to formula-feed compared to their racial counterparts. They are not offered the same resource and information during pregnancy and delivery about breastfeeding and there is a lack of black and brown IBCLCs in Kansas and currently none in Wichita. 

Share a success story within your program. 

Our program, “Latched Legacy” set out to normalize those black women who do indeed breastfeed. The campaign video highlights mothers with their families while displaying confidence to share that they breastfed, and their children are their legacy from that. The video was so powerful and touching that it has been a part of breastfeeding 101 classes, shared during black breastfeeding week, breastfeeding conferences, etc. 

We have been able to not only highlight normalization but also provide breastfeeding kits that include supplies and information to pregnant women to encourage them to initiate breastfeeding as their first choice upon delivery. We have successfully been able to 97% of the women who received kits initiate breastfeeding upon delivery. 

What is WBBC’s vision for Black Maternal Health? 

When this coalition started, there were no credentials in lactation within the group. We had nurses, chiropractors, and women who are passionate about breastfeeding and want other women to have a successful journey. As of today, we have two certified breastfeeding specialists (CBS) working towards their IBCLC, three doula-trained workers, three Chocolate Milk Café trained facilitators, and two in the works of getting their midwifery license. 

Our vision is to become the resource and information where Black women can seek help from the coalition, people who look like them and do not have to be outsourced because of “credentials”. 

How is your participation in the FFE community projects cohort helping you realize this vision? 

Our Latched Legacy Project is allowing us to build that foundation with the community and be consistent with providing information and supplies for free with the grant funding. We realize that this project has the possibility to be bigger than just Wichita, once we improve on our Latched Legacy Project and get a good system going, we want to start implementing the program in hospitals, local practices, WIC offices, etc.

To learn more about Wichita Black Breastfeeding Coalition, visit their website.