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Why I'm Celebrating Black Breastfeeding Week

When I found out I was having a baby I was undecided about breastfeeding. I didn’t grow up watching my mom or relatives breastfeed. I knew some of the benefits, but I’d also heard the challenges. And as a full-time working mom I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pump enough to keep up with the demands of nursing. I decided I’d try to breastfeed through maternity leave — If I could, then I’d see how it went from there.

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Once my daughter came along, nursing her was easier than I expected. Of course I didn’t expect she’d want to nurse as much as she did, but I quickly became comfortable breastfeeding her while we were out and whenever she needed to be fed. I had to pump every day during my maternity leave and I stored over a hundred ounces of frozen milk to use as my emergency stash when I went back to work.

There is still a gaping racial disparity in breastfeeding rates. CDC data shows that 75 percent of white women have ever breastfed versus 58.9 percent of black women.

I wasn’t able to turn to my mom with my breastfeeding questions, but she supported me in my decision. Surprisingly enough, social media though was a great place for me to discuss nursing challenges.

Statistics show breastfeeding among black women is less common, but people are working to change that. August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month and a group of nationally recognized breastfeeding advocates have declared August 25-31st as Black Breastfeeding Week, this year marking the second annual celebration.

According to the organization’s website, there is still a gaping racial disparity in breastfeeding rates – citing a comparison of 75 percent of white women who have ever breastfed versus 58.9 percent of black women.

Riling up support among black mothers is one of the goals of Black Breastfeeding Week, because supporting and educating one another can go a long way.

As the article states, "This is a week to discuss the lack of diversity among lactation consultants and to change our narrative. A time to highlight, celebrate and showcase the breastfeeding champions in our community who are often invisible. And to make sure that breastfeeding leadership also reflects the same parity we seek among women who breastfeed."

My younger sister had her daughter almost two years ago, and when she wanted to give up she called me. I gave her some tips and encouraged her to try again. With the help of my mom and lots of love and support, she decided to keep going and she breastfed her daughter for nearly a year.

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When I had my son last year, deciding to breastfeed again was an easy decision. He’s been nursing for nearly 17 months, and although my breastfeeding experience is winding down, I have no plans to let up my support for other breastfeeding mothers.

For more information about celebrating Black Breastfeeding Week and to see what events are going on near you and online visit their website.

Image via Jennifer Borget, by Paige Wilks

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