Why Aren’t More Mocha Mamas Breastfeeding?

Posted 09-27-2013 at 11:46 AM by yoliyoda

It's Only Natural National Campaign Recent figures released from the US Department of Human and Health Services indicates that only about 55% of African American women attempt to breastfeed their child. It’s actually a figure that is up for the 35% in the 1970s. The specific areas with the lowest numbers come from the South. Unfortunately the figures don’t surprise me.

I am an African American woman living in the Southeast. To be clear, my family background is actually Caribbean, but I was born in the states. The difference may seem slight, but often when it comes to ideology “Caribbean American” doesn’t always equal “African American”. By my own experience, this is often the case in the view of breastfeeding, usually more accepted and prevalent among my Caribbean female friends.

It’s been hard for me to find breastfeeding role models within my own ethnicity. That really isn’t a priority to me, but I do find it troublesome. With the proven benefits of breastfeeding including lower risk of childhood obesity and diabetes, and lowering risks of cancer for the mother–all things that plague the African American community–I’m left wondering why so few of us are taking advantage of the obvious.

Then again, maybe it’s not so obvious. I consider myself an educated woman, yet I didn’t know about all the benefits until I got pregnant. There was no bases of experience, or voices of encouragement, trumpeting the joys of breastfeeding to me. And I understand part of the reason: before the years of La Leche League many women, some of whom were not only in the healthcare profession, but specifically OB-GYN nurses, found the art of breastfeeding mystifying. When the change in mindset came, and help started to emerge for woman who wanted to breastfeed, it didn’t trickle down to the African American community so easily. Let’s be honest: when many had little or subpar health care for themselves, they’d be hard pressed to find someone, anyone, that could help them demystify breastfeeding. My mother was one of women lost in the shroud. She tried and failed, with no support, to breastfeed. She didn’t even know there was support available.

Now that it’s my turn, my own mother has little words of encouragement. Her experience was sour, and honestly so it her advice. It’s not really her fault–it is what it is. What is left for me, the generation that follows, is to be OK with being the only African American mom in my local chapter of La Leche League. I’ve met some fabulous women and learned some really great things from the LLL. They are in my community circle–”mamas in the milk”.

In the same breath, it’s my job to speak against any negative talk amongst mamas in my ethnic circle. I can show them that breastfeeding doesn’t have to be a mystery. It’s normal, natural, and definitely within their range of possibilities. I can let them know its worth it for them, and their next generation to try.

Filed Under: Family Health


4 Responses to “Why Aren’t More Mocha Mamas Breastfeeding?”

  1. Tiffany on September 27th, 2013 12:09 pm

    I just had my third child a few days ago and I am breastfeeding her just as I breastfed my other two. There wasn’t any other consideration in the manner, and it wasn’t because my mother breastfed me. It just felt like what was to be done. To me I find it ironic that “educated” mothers (who generally maybe better off financially) breastfeed more than “uneducated” mothers, due to the fact of the economical benefits of breastfeeding instead of purchasing formula for $25+!

  2. dagmomma on September 27th, 2013 1:45 pm

    Great post!

    I remember going to Barbados and having a discussion with a woman there. She told me she extended breastfed her son to around 6. She is amazed and shocked that women may not nurse in the states. It was a foreign concept to her.

    Not sure why the African American community have such low numbers in this area. For me (Caucasian) with my first I was made to feel as if I was doing something disgusting by family members. Had had jokes from my family and family members from both sides making comments how they don’t like it as they left the room.

    Thank goodness I did not live close to family bc not sure I would have made it feeling like a freak while feeding my son.

    Now though they no better not to comment!

  3. yoliyoda on September 28th, 2013 2:50 pm

    Isn’t it amazing that in some countries extended breastfeeding is the norm, like many Caribbean islands like Barbados. Yet here in the states many of us have our own family tying to discourage us?

  4. negrapy on September 30th, 2013 10:52 am

    I would think the is a link to the soci-economic reality of

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