By Christina Caldwell
Thursday, November 8, 2012
Christina Caldwell never saw a black woman breastfeeding before she gave birth. Now she’s glad that two advocates are working to increase visibility in their communities and at work.
These are the emotions that too many African American mothers feel regarding the decision to breastfeed.
Instead of having the cheerful “breast is best” line sung to them from family members, colleagues and even physicians, some black mothers have to fight through a host of assumptions, ill-informed statements and unsupportive banter.
The opposition that was thrown at me was overwhelming after I told family members I was choosing to breastfeed. It was as if they couldn’t tell me enough about how the baby wouldn’t get full, that my milk wouldn’t come in, that my milk would run out, that it would be painful. And my personal favorite: I was being too cheap to buy formula.
Fortunately, more voices are chiming in to support black women who breastfeed. Kiddada Green, of the Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association, and Sojourner Marable Grimmett, of Table for Two, are among the growing number of women seeking to erase the stigma of breastfeeding.
Since 2007, Green’s Detroit-based organization has been promoting the importance of breastfeeding, as well as debunking the myths about black women and breastfeeding. In June, the Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association received a $100,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to boost the fight to eliminate breastfeeding disparities.
Grimmett’s organization, Table for Two, is an online resource for breastfeeding mothers. She also recently launched a campaign to build more public accommodations for lactating mothers in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.
The work these women are doing is crucial as the racial disparities in breastfeeding rates persist. Only 54 percent of black mothers initiate breastfeeding compared to 74 percent of white women and 79 percent of Latina mothers. The numbers dip considerably after the recommended six months, as only 27 percent of black mothers continue to breastfeed.