This post was written for ICEA’s blog last year by Angela Tatum Malloy, MAT, BS, CLC, owner and operator of Alpha & Omega Lactation Services. We thought it important enough to re-release during Black Breastfeeding Week. If you’d like to read more on why this week is needed, please visit the Black Breastfeeding Week’s official page.
There are more and more new mothers making the decision to breastfeed their babies or at least try to breastfeed. (1) Among those mothers, women of color have the lowest rates of breastfeeding but those rates are slowly increasing. (2) Many factors affect whether a mother chooses to breastfeed her baby and whether she will continue to breastfeed beyond six months and up to a year of her child’s life. Black Women Do Breastfeed (BWDBF) uses its presence on social media to address many of the breastfeeding barriers that prevent mothers from reaching a breastfeeding goal that correlates with the objectives set by the Healthy People 2020. Our job is to use social media to promote breastfeeding in the Black community. We do this by addressing many of those factors which include:
- Lack of knowledge about breastfeeding. On our Facebook page, we receive numerous of messages in our inbox from mothers asking questions about how to prepare for breastfeeding, will breastfeeding hurt, are there special foods they must eat, and what to do about things like increasing milk supply, breastfeeding a baby with teeth, and when is the recommended age to wean a baby from breastfeeding. We allow the moms to have their questions answered by other breastfeeding moms who have had experience with the same topics and can share their knowledge to help provide them with information they may not have received because they did not know where to seek help.
- A lack of support from family and friends. Another use for our inbox is to allow breastfeeding mothers the chance to seek out the support they need to reach the goals they have set for themselves and their babies. There are many obstacles that Black mothers must face within their communities. Many mothers are the first in their family to breastfeed and do not receive the support they expect or need. These mothers turn to social media to get support from other Black women who understand their unique situations and can offer advice on how to deal with them in order to have a successful breastfeeding journey. Below are just a few of the messages we receive from mothers on a daily basis.
“I’m a second time mother but a first time breastfeeder. The first time around with my daughter I didn’t have the support or encouragement to breastfeed. The picture I’ve sent in is the day my milk came in…this was the worst day of my breastfeeding journey. Swollen and aching I still continued to breastfeed and didn’t give up. This page helped and encouraged me to offer my son the best start in life #breastisbest. Thank you for creating this page.”
“I was truly discouraged after the birth of my son about breastfeeding. Couldn’t latch. Low supply. Tired. Stressed. Etc. This page got me through! Reading other women’s struggles helped me know that I’m not alone and seeing them get through their struggle let me know that I would too! This is me and my little man EB 16 weeks strong!”
“Our first time bfing and now almost at six months! Most of my family is so adamant about wanting to give her a bottle and don’t fully understand my love for breastfeeding and why I am still continuing this journey. Especially my mother which hurts. I do however have a very supportive partner through my entire breastfeeding journey. Here’s to six months and six more!!!! Thank you for this page!”
- The age of a mother. The chances of a baby being breastfed depends on the age of the mother. For various reasons, mothers over the age of 30 years old are more likely to breastfeed their babies than mothers under the age of 20 years old. (3) The numbers are even lower for young, Black mothers whose breastfeeding rates are a dismal 30% compared to other maternal groups. (3) The demographics of mothers who follow our page show that the second largest group of women who engage in some type of activity on the page are women who are 18-24 years old. (4) This allows us to reach young mothers to help encourage them to breastfeed and provide them with the support they need to be more successful than if they were not part of the community of women on the page.
- Social norms within the Black community. The main mission of the page is to make the community of Black breastfeeding moms visible with the hopes that the more women are seen breastfeeding, the more normal it becomes. Along with the pictures, we also promote breastfeeding beyond the age of one, breastfeeding twins, tandem nursing, milk sharing, and natural child-led weaning. These are topics that can be viewed as abnormal, even to those moms who make the choice to breastfeed their babies. We provide articles from various breastfeeding websites and testimonials from other Black breastfeeding moms to help change the perspectives in the Black community and create a new “norm” for breastfeeding women and their families.
Social media plays a significant role amongst Black mothers who are making the decision to breastfeed. With the use of internet tablets and smartphones, it makes information about breastfeeding and breastfeeding support more accessible. Although social media groups can never take the place of the adequate care provided by CLCs and IBCLCs, it supplements the work of lactation professionals by providing additional educational resources and mother-to-mother support in a more innovative way that helps to promote breastfeeding in the Black community. Black Women Do Breastfeed will continue to use social media to help eliminate the barriers that affect a mother’s breastfeeding journey as we help to increase the number of Black babies being breastfed one mother and baby at a time.
- The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. (2011). Retrieved 2/23/2015 from http://www.cottonwood-kids.com/pdfs/calltoactiontosupportbreastfeeding.pdf
- Progress in Increasing Breastfeeding and Reducing Racial/Ethnic Differences-United States, 2000-2008 Births. (2013). Retrieved 2/23/2015 from http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/resources/breastfee’ing-trends.htm
- Breastfeeding in the United States: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2006. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db05.htm
- Black Women Do Breastfeed. (2015). Retrieved 2/24/2015 from https://www.facebook.com/Black-Women-Do-Breastfeed-109639955730943/messages/
Angela Tatum Malloy, MAT, BS, CLC, is the owner and operator of Alpha & Omega Lactation Services offering breastfeeding counseling, education and support to her community. She is also the Program Director for Momma’s Village, a nonprofit breastfeeding support group for African American families, and Program Director for Mom2Mom-Ft. Bragg, a breastfeeding support group for military families. Angela is currently serving on the board of two nonprofits, Mom2Mom Global as Outreach Director and Black Women Do Breastfeed as Program Manager. She recently completed the Mary Rose Tully Training Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill, currently the only Pathway 2 lactation program world-wide. Angela also provides breastfeeding education to healthcare providers in her community. She is very passionate about promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding in the African American community and the military community. She is currently preparing to sit for the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) exam this October. She can be found on Facebook at Mom2Mom Global, Black Women Do Breastfeed or Momma’s Village North Carolina, on Twitter and Instagram at @mom2momglobal and @mommasvillagenc or at www.mom2momglobal.org and www.blackwomendobreastfeed.org