Black Breastfeeding Week

attachment parenting, Women's Health

In leu of National Breastfeeding Week (which was last week) and Black Breastfeeding Week coming up on August 25th, I felt it was important to write about ways we can encourage breastfeeding in the black community as well as how to create a more positive experience for yourself.
A large portion of your experience begins before birth, often times black women aren’t even presented with the information to breastfeed because healthcare professionals assume black women don’t breastfeed at all. This is a preconceived racial bias that we can only combat with knowledge and adequate representation. If breastfeeding is something you are truly considering do a little research on your own and be sure to bring it up in your initial appointment. With this solid first step your doctor/midwife can refer you to the professionals that will be necessary for a positive experience should there be any complications during your breastfeeding journey. By no means does this relieve the personal responsibility of your healthcare provider, but it does get you the information that you need. In addition to arming yourself with knowledge, it may benefit you to seek out a black obstetrician/midwife. Many black women have had positive experiences when their team of health care providers represents them, and understands their needs. This also prevents racial bias, and guarantees you will get the information you need.
Be sure to let the medical staff on duty know that you want to breastfeed as well, be clear about your efforts and put them in your birth plan. I was sure to tell the labor and delivery nurse that I didn’t want them to offer my baby a bottle or pacifier at any time, and I initiated breastfeeding immediately after birth and skin to skin contact. Many hospitals are making the transition to baby friendly facilities, this includes encouragement to breastfeed and letting the baby sleep in room (instead of wheeling them off to a nursery).
Another way to create and encourage a positive and effective breastfeeding experience is building or being a part of a support system. Express to your family and friends how important breastfeeding is to you and the development of your child. Many black women choose not to breastfeed simply because they don’t know anyone else that breastfeeds or due to a preconceived lack of support amongst friends and family. Your spouse/partner will more than likely be your biggest form of support during this time. Although we understand the bonding experience of breastfeeding it may make your spouse feel disconnected. Offer different forms of support during the feeding process as a way to make your spouse feel included. If pumping is part of your feeding plan have your spouse aid you in preparing bottles and taking over feedings when you’re out or when simply when you feel touched out. If you continue to feel a lack of support, or even if you have the support necessary reach out to local breastfeeding organizations and support groups, even online forums can be helpful.
In addition to support at home and in your community be sure to utilize the information and contacts your doctor gave you! I’m sure there was a ton of it but it can be very beneficial, especially if you are having a difficult time adjusting to breastfeeding. Reach out to your pediatrician, let them know if there any feeding or latching issues during appointments. Also reach out to La Leche League, its free and they make house calls! The resources are there it’s just a matter of accessing the information.
If you are able to, please be sure to take adequate maternity to leave. I know this is a difficult request here in the U.S. where we receive minimal maternity leave and for many women it isn’t paid leave. Nonetheless adequate time at home can establish a great breastfeeding relationship, experience, and supply. Adequate preparation for returning to work also makes a huge difference, whether it be supplementing formula or pumping beforehand. If you qualify for WIC you can most definitely get formula every month, for those that do not there are many opportunities to obtain formula at discounted prices via coupons or on sale. Utilize your maternity leave to stock up! Your maternity leave is also a great time to build up a significant back supply of breast milk for baby as well! All of these things help provide a smooth transition back into the work place, because stress also has a negative impact on your supply and experience. In addition to this make sure to get adequate sleep, drink enough water, and eat well! It’s bonding time and resting time, enjoy your time, trials and tribulations with your new bundle of joy.
I know this seems like a ton but your experience is greatly affected by what you do before you even start breastfeeding, such as the support system at the hospital/birth center and the knowledge you receive! Be sure to do as much research necessary to put your mind at ease, and put together a team of supporters (health care professionals, mom, sisters, friends, spouse). I hope you have an amazing experience like I was able to have, in the next few days I’m going to post a list of products that ultimately changed my breastfeeding experience and helped make it more positive.

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