Black Women Breastfeeding: Obstacles and Motivation

by Isreal Jean Holland

If you spend any time on social medial, you’d have no idea that black women nurse their children just like white women do. Most of the images you see are those of white moms and their kids. In most movies it’s always the white granola mom whipping it out in the park, at the café and at church. There are magazine covers, movies, and more all focused on white women nursing. This is a shame because black women nurse their children too.

Historically, black women were the wet nurses for the white masters’ children. This caused them to end up neglecting their own children. This fact has left a lot of women of color questioning whether or not they want to nurse at all. You see, we don’t want anyone to think of us as subservient. However, nothing is better in life than serving your child in this manner. No matter how much infant formula has improved over the years, there is still nothing better than what God has made for your baby. This National Breastfeeding Month, let’s go over why mother’s milk is best.

Isreal Jean bfdg image - 2016

Mother’s milk is full of nutrients for your baby. What’s more is that those nutrients are specifically designed and created just for your baby. The design is so amazing that your body will produce exactly the type of milk your baby needs if he’s sick, healthy or going through a growth spurt. Breast milk, according to The Lancet is actually “very specialized medicine” created just for your child. Many women report the milk changing texture or color when their baby has a cold or is vaccinated.

Even though the milk is individually designed, any mother’s milk can nourish another baby successfully. Donated mother’s milk keeps the babies in neonatal units healthy. It does wonders for the babies and is often thought of as the only reason these special babies grow and get healthy. Think on that for a moment. Even highly funded neonatal units use breast milk to save the babies. That says something. There are even ingredients in breast milk that we don’t fully understand and cannot duplicate in the lab.

Today, black women don’t have the same blocks to giving their own children this highly nutritious food like they did in the past. However, there are still forces that try to interfere in the education of women about nursing. For example, anytime a woman signs up for W.I.C. she’s often given free formula. Many formula companies often target women of color in poor neighborhoods because they assume they’ll get W.I.C. to pay for the formula.  

As a Black American Jewish woman from D.C brought up in a not so great neighborhood, I can vouch for the fact that women like me have to overcome a lot of obstacles and stigma to succeed in one of the most natural acts a woman can do. I know, because I am part of the first generation of black American moms to breastfeed in my family. Breastfeeding isn’t supported or encouraged and those in authority seem to be doing everything that they can to stop black women from being successful at nursing. I want to change that.

I believe that we can get more women to nurse by showing more images of black women nursing, fighting the powers that be by encouraging breast feeding education in inner cities and lower middle class neighborhoods and right in the W.I.C. office. If nursing starts as the norm, the thing one does unless there is a serious problem, more black women like me will nurse their children. Nursing has proved to improve I.Q., keep kids healthier, lower obesity rates and the act itself has shown to even improve self-esteem. When you know the truth, why wouldn’t every mother who can nurse?

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Isreal Jean Holland is a Black American Jewish woman from a bad neighborhood in Southeast DC who is part of the first generation of Black American women in her family to nurse and she wants to empower black women to take back their bodies and nurse their young regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances. You can learn more about Israel at www.breastfeedingincolor.com.
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Comments

  1. Israel is so right. Hopefully in the black community breastfeeding will be seen as the default in the near future.

  2. Kelly Burrello says:

    I wonder, could some of the obstacles Black women have with breastfeeding be attributed to lack of information about “How to Breastfeed your child to maximize nourishment?” There are clearly obstacles to women using WIC. Specifically, mothers are restricted to specific brands. This certainly interferes with a mother’s ability to choose the types of formulas she believes are best for her growing infant. Seems obvious that breastfeeding would be the best alternative to a government program

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