August 27, 2019
Recognizing Black Breastfeeding Week: 7 Simple Steps that Childbirth Educators Can Take to Support Black Families
By: Sharon Muza, BS, LCCE, FACCE, CD/BDT(DONA), CLE | 0 Comments
August 25 through 31, 2019 is the seventh annual Black Breastfeeding Week, which is also the last week of Breastfeeding Awareness Month in the United States. This year’s Black Breastfeeding Week theme is "The World is Yours: Imagine. Innovate. Liberate!" The Black Breastfeeding Week website is a rich collection of information where people can find out about events both local and national occurring during this week. It also includes a compelling essay about The Top Five Reasons We Need a Black Breastfeeding Week, written by author, journalist, and maternal-infant health expert Kimberly Seals Allers, one of the three women, along with Kiddada Green, M.A.T. and Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka, CNM, MSN, MSEd, who founded Black Breastfeeding Week.
Black infants are two to three times more likely to die in their first year than white babies in the United States. (Murphy, 2017). Black breastfeeding rates are the lowest amongst all the rates for all populations in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Two months or more of breastfeeding – even when supplemented with formula – is significantly related to a reduced occurrence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), one of the leading causes of infant mortality.” Additionally, according to researchers “in an urban area with high infant mortality and low breastfeeding rates, initiation of breastfeeding was significantly associated with reductions in overall infant mortality, neonatal mortality, and infection-related deaths. Breastfeeding promotion, protection, and support should be an integral strategy of infant mortality reduction initiatives.” (Ware, 2019).
Childbirth educators have an opportunity to help raise awareness, offer support and provide resources to the Black families in their communities as everyone works toward the goal of improving outcomes for Black families and their babies this week and every week all year long.
Here are seven things educators can be doing right now to support Black families to meet their breastfeeding/chestfeeding goals.
Use images of Black breastfeeding/chestfeeding dyads in your class handouts and presentation materials. One such image collection is the Naomi and Ruth Project. If finding such images is difficult for you, consider hosting a photoshoot with a local photographer and families in order to make those images available to both you and the photoshoot participants.
Collate and maintain a list of resources that include Black perinatal professionals. Black lactation consultants, peer to peer support counselors, breastfeeding/chestfeeding supportive doctors, therapists and clinicians in your community can be referred to so that Black families find support that is comfortable and accepting. Make sure your resource list includes online tools for Black families to get virtual support as well. Be sure to include Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association, Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE), Momsrising.org and Allers’ Mocha Manual on your resource list.
Use breast models and newborn dolls that include an assortment of Black and brown skin tones. Black families should be able to use learning materials that look like them. If you do not currently have these materials on hand, take the time to acquire them now.
Invite Black families to come in and share their nursing experiences with your classes. Mixing up voices and having guest speakers are always well received in classes and when that speaker brings in a cute baby to boot, it is sure to be a hit. Inviting a Black family from a previous class to share their personal story will be a welcome change. When you host panels or conferences in your community on the topic of breastfeeding/chestfeeding, be sure to include Black professionals as part of your panel of experts.
Offer reduced registrations and scholarships to Black families to attend your breastfeeding/chestfeeding classes. Making classes financially accessible will help Black families feel prepared and informed when their baby arrives. Consider finding a local community space where you can take your class on the road and offer free classes for the Black families that live in that community or help a Black educator to do so.
Promote the local Women, Infants and Children’s (WIC) Peer Counselor Program as a resource for Black families to receive evidence-based support. At reunions and in post-class communications, consider encouraging people who may be interested to explore becoming a Peer Counselor for WIC.
Invite new or training Black perinatal professionals (or those who are interested in becoming a childbirth educator) into your classroom. Support and mentor them as they learn and practice the skills they need to be a confident and skilled childbirth educator. Help them prepare for their certification exam and provide support when they start out on their own. Also, help to connect new Black educators with Black perinatal leaders in your community.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Breastfeeding among US children born 2009–2015, CDC National Immunization Survey.
Kuehn B. Breastfeeding Report Card. JAMA. 2018;320(14):1426. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.14608
Murphy, S. L., Xu, J., Kochanek, K. D., & Arias, E. (2018). Mortality in the United States, 2017.
Ware, J. L., Chen, A., Morrow, A. L., & Kmet, J. (2019). Associations Between Breastfeeding Initiation and Infant Mortality in an Urban Population. Breastfeeding Medicine.
Image source: The Naomi and Ruth Project
TagsBreastfeeding Childbirth education Black Breastfeeding Week Sharon Muza Black Breastfeeding Week 2019 Lactation Education Breastfeeding/Chestfeeding