Breastfeeding while Black is powerful, radical, not always easy—yet is ultimately rewarding, as these moms made clear on Instagram this week.

By Taylyn Washington-Harmon
August 06, 2020
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This week is the eighth annual Black Breastfeeding Week—an initiative to raise awareness about the health benefits of nursing for moms and babies as well as the racial disparities in breastfeeding rates. Only 69% of Black mothers breastfeed compared to 85% of white women, according to Centers for Disease Control data.

This gap is troubling, as is the higher rate of infant mortality for Black babies and greater risk of food insecurity in Black households. So Black Breastfeeding Week seeks to normalize and uplift breastfeeding in the Black community—and all week, Black mothers have been taking to social media to share the joys and struggles.

Tash Haynes, a mother of two based in Tacoma, Washington, reveals that she was shamed for nursing her firstborn child. “When Wisdom was born, I nursed for 2 years and was shamed by most of my family because no one before me had chosen to breastfeed and it didn’t make sense to them.” Haynes wrote in an Instagram post. “With Courage, I have nursed for the last 18 months, and I have served as a milk donor, helping to provide supplements for my girls and 3 other babies."

LaTashia M. Perry shared a funnier side of breastfeeding, including the rather interesting pose her son, Nixon, took as he nursed. "My hubby snapped this picture because he said as I watched my movie I was so unbothered by Nixon’s nursing shenanigans," Perry wrote. "We went 3.5yrs strong!!!! Some days I miss it. He still asks for milk at least once a week. But this shop is closed lol."

Breast may be best, according to many experts, but breastfeeding isn't always an easy practice. Mother of five Candace Wright shared her struggle to produce enough milk for her baby. 

"I went [through] a lot of my own struggles~thinking my milk was never coming, getting that perfect latch, supplementing formula, being an exclusive pumper for 2 days, creating a unnecessary milk supply and stash, wearing a nipple shield for two months, being insecure about feeding in public, blocked nipple duct, cracked bleeding nipples, people judging because you’re still nursing after 12 months," Wright said in an emotional Instagram post with one of her babies. 

Despite the ups and downs, Wright is happy to have persevered, and she hopes she inspires other moms. "The immunity Caleb’s body was able to build and the bond we share is all that’s important," she wrote.

Breastfeeding posts on social media tend to glamorize the practice, but mom of two and influencer Bri McDaniels acknowledged more of the downsides in her Instagram post. "I have gone through all of the struggles. Bleeding nipples, clogged ducts, and low milk supply. All of it," she wrote. She also noted how breastfeeding her younger child often made the oldest feel left out.

"I have been breastfeeding Baby D for over a year now. We have built such an intimate connection because of it. I have a very intimate connection with Luna too, but I can't shake the feeling that she isn’t being included enough," McDaniels continues, illustrating her story with a photo of herself and her two children. "It will always be a feeling that lingers and I will do my best to overcome it."

Sarah Jean took to Instagram to share an intimate nursing photo while revealing some sobering facts about breastfeeding while Black, including that Black new moms are 9 times more likely to be offered formula than white new mothers and that Black women have the lowest breastfeeding success rate of any race.

Jean also offered some advice to new moms. "I don’t believe breastfeeding comes 'naturally.' It is a new journey for both you and your baby," she wrote. "It’s a journey you’ve never experienced before. Give yourself grace and have people in your corner who 100% supports your breastfeeding journey.⁣⁣"

Deciding when to wean your child is often controversial, leading to judgement from others if your child stops too early or keeps nursing into the toddler years. Randi Theresa had some choice words for those who seem concerned about how long she chose to breastfeed.

"I breastfed A’mei until she was 17 month and Aíko is 15 months. And NO they’re not too old to be on the boob in fact maybe your mom should’ve left you on the boob a little longer," Theresa wrote in a tongue-in-cheek Instagram post featuring her two little ones. "So, just in case you are one of those and you know who you are, I will not compromise my babies health for your small minded opinions."

Hess Love, a Black queer poet based in Baltimore, wrote and posted this poem riffing on the traumatic history of Black breastfeeding and touching on how slaves were unable to breastfeed their own babies in lieu of the infants of their masters. "I wish I dried up / I wish every drop of my milk slipped passed those pink lips and nourished the ground / Where the bones lay / Of my babies / Starved while I feed their murderer," she wrote in her Instagram post. With this history in mind, her post serves as a reminder that breastfeeding as a Black mother is not only necessary but also radical.

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