|Photo: Lakisha Cohill|
By Winnie Gaturu
Some of the best things in life come free of charge; sunlight, oxygen and breast milk for babies.
Breastfeeding has all the nutrients babies need, it strengthens their immune system, and it’s the cheapest option when it comes to feeding newborns. With all these benefits, it’s no wonder that pediatricians recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months after which solid foods can be gradually introduced.
However, for African-American women, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is a bit difficult. In fact, a report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that between the years 2011 and 2015, the percentage of women who initiated breastfeeding was 64.3 percent for African-Americans, 81.5 percent for Whites, and 81.9 percent for Hispanic women.
Clearly, African-American women have a lower percentage. This is attributed to many factors including: lack of proper information on the benefits of breastfeeding, a work environment that doesn’t support breastfeeding, having to return to work too soon after childbirth, fear of being stigmatized while breastfeeding in public and cultural belief that breast milk doesn’t make the baby full. To address this problem, a group of Alabama moms decided to take action by spreading a positive message about breastfeeding and encouraging other black moms to follow suit.
Their journey started when one of the moms, Angel Warren, was searching for a group of volunteers in Alabama for a photo shoot during ‘Black Breastfeeding Week.’ After that first photo shoot, the moms became friends and formed a support group called the Chocolate Mommies of Birmingham. They did the second photo shoot as a group again, where each mom posed topless while breastfeeding their young ones, wearing black dresses, gold accessories and crowns. Their message is that breastfeeding is a natural act that shouldn’t be discouraged or sexualized. Although the aim of the shoot was to spread awareness about breastfeeding and eliminate the stigma associated with it, they didn’t expect their photo to go viral. However, they are all delighted that it did.
According to Angel Warren, all the women in the group are tired of breastfeeding being treated like a dirty or shameful act. As a result, they’ve created a website that serves as a resource for black women who breastfeed, and they also started the hashtag #BlackWomenDoBreastfeed to encourage more black women to nurse their babies.