Hey Fam,

We just wrapped up World Breastfeeding Week (Aug 1st-7th) and are on the cusp of celebrating the 10th anniversary of Black Breastfeeding Week (Aug 25th-31st). All bodies with nipples are able to lactate, and so you will find that I may switch to terms like chestfeeding and bodyfeeding to honor and support all lactating parents of all genders and body composition. 

Why do we need a Black Breastfeeding Week (oddly acronymed to BBW which has a whole other meaning these days… awkward). Well, journalist Kimberly Seals Allers, public health advocate Kiddada Green, and writer and activist Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka recognized the huge racial disparities when it came to bodyfeeding. There is a lack of diverse representation within the lactation field, lack of access to lactation resources and food sources for Black families, high rates of diet related diseases in Black infants, and disparaging cultural and generational myths about chestfeeding. All of these factors have a direct effect on Black maternal and infant health. So, they created BBW to educate the masses, encourage the training of more Black and POC lactation professionals, support disenfranchised communities with lactation resources, and advocate for more funding to address the Black mortality rate.

As a full spectrum doula and peer breastfeeding coach, I emphasize the importance of discussing lactation goals during the prenatal period. Best to start early so that the individual, couple, and family can have a plan to mitigate any barriers or complications during postpartum. Bodyfeeding is a challenging and rewarding journey that requires much support. It is emotionally, mentally, and physically taxing, BUT chestfeeding is so helpful for bonding and attachment, infant sleep, infant gut health, topical healing treatments, disease prevention for the parent, blood pressure regulation, and so much more. Give yourself grace, be patient with yourself and with baby.

A few tips: Have your baby assessed for any functional issues that may affect latching, such as a possible tongue tie/ lip tie. If you birth at a hospital, try and get that assessment done before you are discharged home. You can absolutely feed with an inverted nipple, and there are options for folks who have had breast augmentation or mastectomy. There are also options to induce lactation for adoptive or non-gestational parents. If you are currently breastfeeding and/or have plans to bodyfeed, I highly encourage you to have 1-2 support persons who are also receiving the same information and education as you regarding lactation tips and strategies. Your personal Titty Committee, if you will. Ask your doula or birth provider for a referral to a lactation counselor or International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and have your support person(s) accompany you to your visits. If you plan to pump, have a lactation professional help fit you for the correct sized flange, be sure to properly wash all parts of the motorized breast pump, and try to replace the parts if they look loose or worn out after repeated use. If you lactate before giving birth, try and save as much of that liquid as you can in a small syringe and store in the freezer until needed. Don’t let anyone dictate to you how long you should breastfeed your child.

Breastfeeding is a challenging journey but with the right support, you can find ways to continue on or to allow yourself the grace to consider other options; whatever decision that brings you the most peace and comfort and provides the best care for your baby. What are you doing to contribute to and celebrate Black Breastfeeding Week?

Happy Lactating,

Luna Doula Jo