Later this week is the kickoff of the fifth annual Black Breastfeeding Week (25 August – 31 August, click here to learn more). We asked the leadership of U.S.-based National Association of Professional and Peer Lactation Supporters of Color (NAPPLSC), one of International Lactation Consultant Association’s® (ILCA®) Global Partners, to share with us top ways to support Black Breastfeeding Week. We are honored to share with you this guest post by Stacy Davis, BA, IBCLC, and NAPPLSC executive director.
Year after year lactation advocates, supporters and professionals of color are challenged with the responsibility of defining why Black Breastfeeding Week is imperative to the survival of black families and communities. So much so that many have just stopped responding to the dissension that takes place during Black Breastfeeding Week.
The support, and the celebration, of Black Breastfeeding Week is not intended to refute the fact that all families need and deserve support, but that black communities need a little more “love” than its white counterparts. The week of August 25th to August 31st is more than just highlighting the inequities and disparities that exist in lactation support and care, it’s about uplifting black communities that lack the education, support, and socio-economic resources needed to survive and thrive. Black Breastfeeding Week is, also, about spotlighting the “boots on the ground” that educate, empower, and support black communities on a day-to-day basis, with minimal to no support or recognition.
Breastfeeding rates for black babies in the United States are low; thus, causing significantly high infant mortality rates in urban populations across the nation. In July 2017, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a study of 34 U.S. states, which concluded, between 2010-2013, 64.3% of non-Hispanic (NH) black infants initiated breastfeeding, as compared to 81.5% of non-Hispanic (NH) white infants. The contributing factors to low breastfeeding rates, and high infant mortality rates, are due to: early return to work, in some cases as early as 2 weeks postpartum; poor education and support from health care providers; and lack of access to professional support and care. Furthermore, the National Vital Statistic Report, published in August 2015, reported the average infant mortality rate, in the US, was 5.96 deaths per 1,000 live births, as compared to 11.11 deaths for NH black infants and 5.06 deaths per 1,000 live births.
In honor of Black Breastfeeding Week, here are 7 ways in which you can support and bring awareness about Black Breastfeeding Week:
#1) Support emerging leaders of color in building equity-based initiatives. Support their initiatives by volunteering your services and expertise, make an annual monetary contribution, or assist in building their network by linking them with potential partners and collaborators.
#2) Support community-based organizations and organizations of color. Many community-based organizations, and organizations of color, rely heavily on the support of private and public donors, and lack sustainable funding revenue to support their work. A small, or large, annual donation can go a long way in a community of color.
#3) Sponsor professional development opportunities for People of Color. Aspiring and new lactation professional and supporters lack the resources to personally invest in professional development opportunities. Organizations of privilege, and established professionals, can provide opportunities to People of Color by paying an additional contribution fee to a professional organization or making a donation to an organization that provides trainings, webinars, conferences, etc.
#4) Collaboration, Collaboration, Collaboration! Partnership is essential to the survival and sustainability of any successful initiative, program, or organization- large or small. Collaboration is inevitable especially when it comes to seeking funding from private and public donors. However, some do not recognize the extreme value of collaborating. No one individual or entity can achieve optimal success without aligning itself with at least one partner; alignment with more than one partner increases the likelihood of success and impact. Larger organizations can seek out small organizational partners to help increase the outreach and impact of both organizations’ work and target community. Smaller organizations can benefit from doing the same practice.
#5) Utilize promotional and marketing materials that are reflective of the community. Engage and co-create with members of the community to develop marketing and promotional materials. If community members are not available, seek out individuals that resemble the community.
#6) Employ lactation professionals and support persons that represent and reflect the service/target community. Employing community-based lactation supporters and professionals from the invested community adds to the overall organization, and possess an intimate and trusting relationship with the members of the community.
#7) Sponsor People of Color to become a member of a professional organization. Memberships to professional organizations can be very costly, depending upon the organization.
Stacy Davis, BA, IBCLC is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant with a Bachelors Degree in Health Services Administration and 17 years of healthcare experience, including clinical and community-based lactation support. Her specialty is organizing and managing grassroots, community-based lactation-related programs. Stacy is tirelessly dedicated to improving the level of equity, diversity and inclusion in lactation support; she wholeheartedly believes that community-based programs provide an invaluable service as a continuity of care that bridges the gap between the healthcare provider and community, offering families the socio-cultural support to birth, nourish and nurture healthy children and communities. Currently, Davis is the Executive Director of the National Association of Professional and Peer Lactation Supporters of Color (NAPPLSC) and a lactation consultant for Ascension Health System, where she assisted two hospitals in achieving Baby-Friendly Hospital designation and mentored aspiring IBCLCs of color. Stacy owns a private practice in her hometown of Detroit, MI, and resides there with her husband, Jessie, and four sons – Lawran, Devahn, Jessie, and Jace.