This blog is born out of the conversations I have had / seen about about Black Breastfeeding Week in September 2019.
If you have thoughts like these, read on.
- Black breastfeeding week is a USA thing.
- I support everyone who seeks my support.
- I do enough, this week does not apply to me.
It is uncomfortable
If you meet me in real life, or online, you will know I am willing to have the uncomfortable conversations and as such, I have had requests for resources from others like me, who want to work through the issues around undeserved populations and parenting / breastfeeding support in the UK.
I do not write this blog to stoke my own ego ( although it is cathartic!), I write it to share things that helped me on my journey of self discovery so far. Please do share with me what helps you on yours, let us learn together and change the unacceptable.
From the beginning
Familiarize your self why black breastfeeding week has come to the UK.
Bais (see video) needs active self reflection to unpack – this is NORMAL and a continuous process & takes time.
Understand the lack of representation in supporters affects us all, from the angle of the text books to the ‘accepted wisdom’ of breastfeeding support.
Now, if you are ready, read on.
Last year, the first UK black breastfeeding week caught my attention. I was transfixed but unsure of it’s relevance to me, confused by what it all meant and still wrapped comfortably in my own privilege.
I read blogs about why black breastfeeding week was coming to the UK and I felt unsure what I could do to effect the change needed. I started conversations that met walls. I retreated, for a while.
Roll forward to the 2018 MBRACE report, and I was firstly aghast at the statistics before us. Black women where 5 times more likely to die in the perinatal period than white women, and for no obvious reason.
I repeated steps above, hit walls and retreated again. As time passed, I became confused by the lack of public outrage. I saw more voices in the circles I enhabit, talking louder and louder about bias, racial in equality and it just couldn’t keep it in along longer.
It became clear to me that I needed to know more and so began my own personal journey into the world of my own bias, privilege as a white, middle class, woman in the UK.
In April, I poured my energy into a poster about bias, I took it to a a place with many breastfeeding supporters and I met silence. I cannot know what this means, but I assume that it means, they where not ready to do the work. You can see the poster in its full glory, by downloading it bellow.
Maybe now you are a bit further along and think..
- I don’t know where to begin
- I want to fix this
Here are some things I found helpful and you might want to look at ;
Blog – a 2019 piece, with lots to think on. Good if you feel you need to ACT NOW.
Dear white women are you behind whats suppressing black breastfeeding rates by Kimberly Seals Allers
Food for thought
Why people of color need spaces without white people by Kelsey Blackwell
Work book – Unpacking White Privilege in her book (formally downloadable workbook) – Me and White Supremacy by Laya F Saad
Book/ Audio Book – Fabulous book about the UK perspective of being a person of color, in the UK Why I am no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
In person events
Attend a Black Breastfeeding Week event near you, this one is streaming online for £5 tomorrow !
One to wait for…
I am Not your Baby Mother by Candice Brathwaite
To sum up…
When we stop and examine our own behaviors, we can check ourselves having different expectations of and reactions to people who do not look like us. It is unethical, once a harmful practice or action has been pointed out to us, to continue to act in the same wayTessa Clark April 2019
Social Media accounts to follow..
Nov Reid – Anti Racism speaker
Abuela Doula – Doula trainer for BAME familes
1-2-1 Doula – Doula, educator, running BBW 2919 in London
Aunt bossy, nosy neighbors and pushy parents at the school gates all feel like they have a say on when your growing breastfed little one weans.
You might feel pressure to wean due to cultural/historical reasons, religious reasons and even medical reasons. If it doesn’t feel or sound right, I encourage you to question it and seek second, more specialized or culturally appropriate opinion.
Here’s why you can (and probably should) ignore them with confidence.
Spend any time with a breastfeeding family and you will quickly see the many reasons a little one will ask to feed. A loud noise scared them, they bumped their head, someone new is in their home, they are tired, their teeth are sore and on and on. Breastfeeding is more than just food, and for many families its a mothering tool they wouldn’t quickly give up.
Ask any sibling to a breastfed little one what they need at any moment of upset, they will tell you the baby needs boobie, mummy milk, or whatever their phrase for it is. If small children can see this one thing fixes many, why do us grown ups struggle with it so much?
2 years OR beyond.
The World Health Organisation recognize the important part breastfeeding has in a child’s early years, recommending breastfeeding continue to 2 years OR beyond. This is the bit people get stuck on or forget all together.
Most places I go, I will end up talking to someone about breastfeeding in some way or another. I think of it like smokers all getting the urge at once, see a breastfed baby and ops all the other breastfed little ones want some. Similar happens with grown ups wanting to talk about it. Yes you probably hear more about the disapproving public in the media but this has not been my experience.
ABM’s recent social media campaigns #feedon give brilliant visual proof of the many parents feeding beyond babyhood with such tender moments captured.
I remember when a guy saved my toddler from some impending calamity at a conference center. Next it was time for cuddles and milk and we had a long chat about his own nursing toddler at home. I listened as he told me of the wonders of breastfeeding beyond babyhood, how it was a fabulous parenting tool but his wife where fretting how to get her to stop as she was turning two next week.
I listened as he (mis quoted) the WHO guidance for breastfeeding duration and validated his feelings and concerns. I let him into the secrete that over the next 48 hours, the conference center was going to be filled with very normal, very well adjusted breastfeeding 3,4,5 + year olds who all still breastfeed.
These families knew the ease of breastfeeding though Chicken pox, travel on airplanes, though to reducing sibling rivalry with tandem nursing.
When ever we passed each other over the weekend, we shared a smile, I hope I gave him the gift of another perspective.
Science measures for us the nutritional reasons why breast milk continues to be designed to continue beyond babyhood, but when we look at only this, we are missing how as a parenting or mothering tool, there is nothing that can do so much within one package!
Learning to Dance
Many parents find as their little ones grow, the breastfeeding relationship becomes more like a dance with both a partnership element and need for your own boundaries. Without them, parents can get to a point of feeling so overwhelmed that they want to give up breastfeeding all together. This is rarely necessary and by working alongside a skilled breastfeeding supporter, it’s nearly always possible to find some adjustments to try to maintain all the benefits of breastfeeding a little longer.
Wherever you are at, I encourage you to acknowledge all the ways breastfeeding is the seamless answer to so many parenting problems. Don’t be in a hurry to give it up for someone else’s reasons.
La Leche League – Still Nursing?
Kelly Mom – Breastfeeding Past Infancy
La Leche League – Thinking of Weaning?
Have you listened to the Beyond Babyhood podcast yet?