Growing up I always heard my black mother brag about how my sister and I were healthy babies because she breastfed us. Right before I gave birth to my first child we attended a breastfeeding class taught by a black nurse and learned about all the great benefits of breastfeeding. My homegirl who is black also breastfeeds. I am black and I never questioned whether or not I would breastfeed once I had children. It just seemed like the natural and right thing to do. So, I was very shocked and surprised when I recently found out that, according to the statistics, black women typically don’t breastfeed! We are the least likely to initiate breastfeeding, and the least likely to continue after we initiate. I was not aware of this.
But, what’s the big deal? So what if black women are not breastfeeding? How is this an issue for OurHealth?
Is it because we can't separate the sexual nature of our breast from the motherly nature? I remember when I was about 12 years old there was a foster child that stayed with my family who became a teen mother. She cringed at the thought of breast feeding and said to me, “My breast are for my man, not for a baby.” Her expression stayed with me. Even though I was a child at the time, I remember thinking that her comments were ignorant.
Is it because when we return to work, we cannot handle the busy schedule of a breastfeeding/working mother? When children get sent to daycare, it becomes much easier to buy formula than to pump throughout the day, label, and store milk for the baby. It takes much more time and energy to prepare breast milk when the baby is apart from the mother, than to use formula. And, for mothers who are dependent upon government subsidies, such as WIC (Women, Infant, Children), formula comes at little-to-no cost.
I think about it over and over again and I just don't get it. I just don't understand. How did we go from being this country’s wet nurses during slavery to those most reliant on formula for feeding our own children? Why aren't WE breastfeeding?