It's Black Breastfeeding Week (25-31 August) and the theme this year is "Revive, Restore, Reclaim". Black Breastfeeding Week was created because for over 40 years there has been a gaping racial disparity in breastfeeding rates. The most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that 85% of white women have ever breastfed versus 69% of black women.
The Covid-19 pandemic, as you might know, has tragically exposed the impact of racial inequities in health. Black communities have been hugely impacted by the virus compared to their white counterparts, nearly three times as many Black people died from it. Covid-19 has magnified the effects of pre-existing barriers to breastfeeding and has also caused the disruption or discontinuation of evidence-based interventions for Black breastfeeding support, such as peer-led support and community-based interventions. The burden of providing breastfeeding education, promotion, and lactation is shifting to online spaces, and it's more important than ever for Black communities to be equipped with the tools needed to repair the harms to breastfeeding norms among Black families.
Andora Pyatt, Doula and Chair of Black Maternal Health with Breastfeeding Family Friendly Communities of Durham (BFFC) said: "It is a difficult time with somber and pressing challenges for communities to support families, and we may be wondering how events intersect with the protection, promotion, and support of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is an underrepresented health equity issue, although the health inequities around breastfeeding continue to compromise the optimal growth and development of children and families. Our goal is to continue to support families in our community during this unprecedented and stressful time and support organizations that are working with families of color to aid in minimizing the financial barriers to provide educational resources and services to them."
Maternal & Infant Health Strategist, Kimberly Seals Allers also gave a powerful speech for the Annual Unicef Baby Friendly Intiviate Conference 2019. She talks about the lived experience of BAME women in birth and breastfeeding. Click here to watch the video.
Here are six things you should know from Kimberly's speech.
- There are eight million black people living in the UK, which makes up 13% of the British population
- Black women in the UK are five times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than white women.
- In 2019, 21% of Black mothers and 19% of Hispanic mothers hospitalized for childbirth reported perceptions of poor treatment due to race, ethnicity, cultural background, or language.
- The Health of black women begins to deteriate in early adulthood as a physical consequence of socioeconomic disadvantage.
- Racial inequality persists for black women with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that 85 percent of white women have ever breastfed, versus 69 percent of Black women. This disparity actually goes back to when, during slavery, Black women were actually stopped from breastfeeding their own children and forced to feed the children of their white slaveowners.
- Racial bias in care has been directly linked to black maternal mortality and morbidity crisis, high rates of infant death and other poor health outcomes.