Beyond Controversy: Black Breastfeeding & Social Media
When it comes to breastfeeding, major media outlets have pretty much decided that it’s a leisurely activity that some women may engage for their entertainment. Seriously, discussions of the topic are deemed newsworthy by the extent of controversy they create. Last year, there was this thing with Time magazine exoticing extended breastfeeding, there was this thing about the breastfeeding doll, and numerous op-ed pieces debating whether or not breastfeeding and its proponents were anti-feminist. The trouble with controversy dictating the terms of public discussion about breastfeeding is that it stinks of a privilege that is literally shutting out important conversations about breastfeeding among African-Americans.
Many health conditions presenting a heightened threat to the health of African-American children can be prevented with increased rates of exclusive breastfeeding. Studies shows that breastfeeding reduces the chances of a child developing serious conditions including obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and asthma - 3 conditions that overwhelmingly affect black children. For mothers, there's great news to be found here as well: exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months reduces the chances that she will develop the most aggressive and hard to treat form of breast cancer, which also happens to have the highest mortality rate among black women. All of this information is widely publicized and often accompanied by stories about how low breastfeeding rates for African-American women. In other words, more controversy when what we need is support. More specifically, we at least need for our breastfeeding images and narratives to be normalized, culturally competent lactation professionals and greater support in our health, community and cultural institutions to support our continued breastfeeding.
There are consistent breastfeeding advocates responding to the media’s silence on topics important for African-American breastfeeding families. We are a steady chorus of voices harmonizing for anyone who will hear. Our songs present a fuller, more complex picture of a black family's breastfeeding experience:
Black Women Do Breastfeed - It began as a blog to feature narratives of black breastfeeding mothers and counter the prevailing narrative that focuses on comparatively lower breastfeeding rates. Now, Black Women do breastfeeding is a thriving Facebook community with daily active users sharing advice.
Free to Breastfeed - Free to Breastfeed began as a project to increase the available visual images on the internet of black women breastfeeding through the Brown Mamas Breastfeed Project (also here). It grew into the Free to Breastfeed book due to be published this spring and it's companion blog. We are also active on Facebook and Twitter.
Mahogany Way Birth Cafe - Mahogany Way Birth Cafe regularly features important topics relate to birth and breastfeeding. Through the active Facebook community, this is another destination where African-American mothers connect and share.
Kimberly Seals Allers - With numerous projects from books to opinion pieces, Allers has one of the most amplified voices in the world of black breastfeeding. She regularly publishes insightful pieces on the topic and recently launched the First Food Friendly Campaign.
V. Kuroji Patrick - Author and illustrator Kuroji makes waves in the online world of breastfeeding advocacy for two major reasons: he's an enthusiastic male breastfeeding advocate and he's an illustrator. He's published illustrated books, released a breastfeed rap video and regularly creates humorous cartoon strips on breastfeeding through his Facebook page.
The Breastfeeding Chef - The breastfeeding chef is a new mom with a passion for supporting moms who breastfeed through nutrition. She maintains a popular Facebook community where she shares recipes, food tips and elicits discussions about parenting.
We show you that there are many of us who do breastfeed to shatter the prevalent image of it as solely the domain of white women. We highlight black celebrity breastfeeders to recognize our own heroines that they may inspire future breastfeeders among us. We critically analyze the cultural and societal barriers to breastfeeding to make it clear that successful breastfeeding requires support on many levels and should not solely rely on the mother's determination. We leverage Web 2.0 to offer support, advice and humor with each other in the same places where we get our news, family updates and celebrity gossip. We are here, celebrating that there are many African-American breastfeeding families and we can help make that reality possible for other families through our stories and advocacy.