The International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) is proud to celebrate Black Breastfeeding Week (25 August – 31 August). We asked Stacy Davis, BA, IBCLC, and executive director of U.S.-based National Association of Professional and Peer Lactation Supporters of Color (NAPPLSC), one of ILCA’s Global Partners, to share with us the importance of this week and how professional lactation supporters can support Black families.
Why is Black Breastfeeding Week important for International Board Certified Lactation Consultants® (IBCLC®), around the globe, to celebrate?
Black Breastfeeding Week is incredibly important and necessary for professional lactation supporters to celebrate for many reasons. Black Breastfeeding Week is not simply about celebrating that Black women are breastfeeding, but rather about affirming the experiences of a Black woman, acknowledging the disparities for Black women and their children, and addressing the lack of support and resources in Black communities.
In the United States (and in many other places in the world), Black women are often not understood by women of other races and ethnicities. Black women often suffer from “strong woman syndrome” – the need to be strong and resilient in all situations and circumstances. This is often perceived as aggressive and militant, even in instances where we feel feeble. We grapple with the need to be the best and look our best AT ALL TIMES. We have to give even when nothing has been deposited.
Black women are charged with so much in our daily lives – we are breadwinners, caretakers, nurturers, educators, social workers, therapists, and so much more. We bear the burden of our families and our communities, while paying little to no attention to ourselves . . . and most of us struggle with self-care. When we fail (or feel as though we are failing), we internalize that and it tends to impact other areas of our lives.
So, when a Black woman decides to make breastfeeding a priority for herself, her child(ren), her family and her community, we need to celebrate that! We should not question why Black Breastfeeding Week exists. It is imperative that we, as professionals, providers, supporters, advocates, leaders, from around the globe celebrate all the Black women who sacrifice to chestfeed/breastfeed, as well as those who make sacrifices to support another Black woman. Black lactation professionals make DAILY sacrifices to support other women in, and out, of their community. Overall, Black Breastfeeding Week is about celebrating disadvantaged Black women and children and the boots on the ground doing the work with little to no recognition or pay.
How can IBCLCs support families of color in their communities?
IBCLCs can support Black families and other families of color by seeking training in equity, cultural sensitivity, cultural responsiveness, and cultural humility. It is essential that we incorporate these lessons into our lactation care and practice. Moreover, IBCLCs can embrace the LOVE model of care:
L – (actively) LISTENING with a open heart and open mind
O – (asking) OPEN-ENDED questions for better understanding
V – VALIDATE and affirm feeling
E – EDUCATE with focused, individualized messages (not blanket, textbook information)
What can national and international organizations do to increase the number of skilled lactation providers of color?
There is much that national and international organizations can do to support aspiring IBCLCs and increase diversity in the IBCLC profession, such as:
- Create affordable mentorship programs in communities including opportunities for free and reduced-cost mentorships
- Offer financial assistance through personal or organizational donations
- Support the work and efforts of organizations such as NAPPLSC and the Reclaiming, Improving and Sustaining Equity (RISE) Lactation Training Model, and others
- Help to create adequate job opportunities for current and aspiring non-medical IBCLCs
- Be an advocate or an ally for diversifying the field
- Ask an IBCLC of color what she/he believes is lacking and needs addressing
There is so much to be done, now and for years to come.
Want to learn more?
We encourage you to register for NAPPLSC’s 2nd Annual Black Breastfeeding Webinar. As an added bonus, NAPPLSC will be doing raffles and giveaways for FREE trainings and memberships. Click below for more information and to register.