It’s been well over a decade since I was a breastfeeding mom, but there are so many beautiful moments I remember as if they occurred just yesterday: the first time Mari latched on, with the assistance of a La Leche League angel who grabbed my boob and put it in my newborn’s mouth; laying next to my babies in my bed, nursing them until their bellies were full and they were drunk with the liquid gold that made them float off into a deep slumber; the time I boldly breastfed my baby in the middle of the mall, without a care in the world who was watching; the time I breastfed Lila on a beach in Cape May, N.J., with the cool ocean breeze washing over us and peace making its way into our bond, just days after I buried my mother; the time my father, caravaning to New York with me, pulled over to the curb in lower Manhattan and waited patiently for me to feed my child, understanding that if the baby needed to eat, the baby should eat, no matter where we were, no matter what time it was, no matter how much we were rushing. I relish, to this day, singing “Ribbon In the Sky,” and India.Aire’s “Beautiful Surprise” to my babies while I nursed and rocked them to sleep every night. It was pure, unadulterated joy.
Breastfeeding wasn’t all unicorns, glitter and rainbows, though: when I went back to work, I had to pump, literally, in the car on the curb of the West Side Highway because the only place I could do it at work was in the bathroom, which was a huge no-go. Neither of my babies wanted to take a bottle when I went back to work, making me feel like the worst mother ever for leaving them hungry and screaming for my breast while I was away. I missed my own mother’s eulogy because I thought it better I breastfeed Lila out in the vestibule rather than nurse her while the pastor helped us say our final goodbyes. And man, to this day I still feel like a sucker for letting my mom’s friends make me feel bad for breastfeeding my babies long after they thought it was acceptable to.
Being an African American breastfeeding mother ain’t no crystal stair. Outside of my immediate family and close circle of friends, really, there was very little help, resources or support for me and other Black moms who skipped the formula to feed our babies naturally. Despite all the evidence showing that breast was best, despite my desires as a mom with the right to feed my daughters as I saw fit, society truly conspired against us in every way—institutionally, culturally, and personally. That I was able to breastfeed my daughters for a year and 10 months respectively is a miracle.
I’m so grateful, then, that 12 years later, mothers and advocates are making it their mission to give Black mothers the resources, encouragement and support we need to breastfeed our babies. It means the world to me to join in with a clear, unified voice in uplifting the second annual Black Breastfeeding Week, a celebration of black families and their beauty, power and ability to support healthier babies and healthier moms with breastfeeding.
Black Breastfeeding Week (#BBW14), celebrated August 25, 2014 to August 31, 2014, comes during Breastfeeding Awareness Month, when advocates nationwide educate and give support to breastfeeding mothers, even as they help to build a vital foundation for them to breastfeed successfully. Understanding the unique challenges that black mothers face on our breastfeeding journeys, a committee of nationally recognized breastfeeding advocates came together to address those challenges with a series of events designed specifically with black families in mind. The theme: #BlackFamsRock.
In honor of Black Breastfeeding Week and #BlackFamsRock, the #BBW14 committee has put together a pretty awesome week of events, including:
- August 25-31: The #BlackFamsRock Experience. Created in partnership with Lowekey Media’s SongBooth App, the #BlackFamsRock Experience invites families to upload a 30-second video of their family “rocking out” to their favorite family song, and then share it with their social networks, using the hash tag #BlackFamsRock. A fan favorite video will be highlighted every day during Black Breastfeeding Week.
- August 25: Kick-Off Monday. Stories of success: Celebratory memes on Facebook.
- August 25–31: Virtual Mama’s Milk Hotline. Virtual Q&A with Breastfeeding Peer Counselors, Certified Lactation Educators and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants.
- August 26: #BlackFamsRock #BBW14 Twitter Chat. Live chat about family, breastfeeding and social support with @BlkBfingWeek, @BMBFA, @MochaManual, @FreetoBF, @EbonyMAG, @matermea
- August 27: Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Club Webinar. Replicating what works for mothers: Learn about a Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Club model.
- August 27: #WellnessWed Twitter Chat. What does breastfeeding have to do with overall wellness? Join the live chat with @BlkBfingWeek, @BMBFA, @MochaManual, @FreetoBF, @MomsRising, @Support_ROSE, @USbreastfeeding, @nycHealthy
- August 28: Black Breastfeeding Week Facebook Party. “Natural, Naughty, Nasty: Real Talk on Breastfeeding and Parenting,” hosted by Ashley Wright a.k.a. MsWrightsWay and Sholanda Smith a.k.a BlackWomenDoBreastfeed.
- August 29-31: Community Events. Communities are invited to host their own events, such as a Black Families Rock Summit, A Black Families Rock Talent Show, or an It’s Only Natural informational session about breastfeeding (for which facilitation resources are available from the U.S. Office of Women’s Health).
Join the #BlackFamsRock Black Breastfeeding Week movement at www.facebook.com/BlackBreastfeedingWeek and https://twitter.com/BlkBfingWeek for resources, support and an awesome celebration of Black motherhood, Black families and breastfeeding. Also, check out the brand spanking new blackbreastfeedingweek.org for updates and more details on #BBW14.
PHOTO CREDIT: Dominique, from the Black Women Do Breastfeed Facebook page.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.