Black Breastfeeding Week
At the beginning of this month, we had breastfeeding week (which was amazing), and this past week we had an amazing opportunity to celebrate black breastfeeding week. As many of us know, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months, as well as allow for breastmilk to be the main source of nutrition, while introducing various textures of foods, from 6 months to a year.
While traversing the social media universe this week; however, I came across several discussions as to why black women need their own week. If you do not mind, I’d like to share a few facts/statistics with you:
- The Healthy People 2020 goal is that 82% of infants born be breastfed (ever), that 60.6% of infants are breastfed at 6 months, and 34.1% of infants are breastfed at 1 year.
- 4% of black infants, compared to 85.9% and 84.6% of White and Hispanic infants, respectively, are ever-breastfed.
- The above rates are true even when you control for education or socioeconomic status.
- Some African-American women are thought to return to work earlier than other groups, and to work environments that are not pumping friendly (e.g., no designated lactation rooms, lack of adequate time to pump)
- African-American women may be more likely to deliver at hospitals that are not baby friendly. I know, I know… you’re probably saying, “Shouldn’t all post-partum units be “baby-friendly?” So let me go into more detail about what exactly that means!According to Baby Friendly USA, hospitals with a “baby-friendly” designation tend to do the following:
- Immediate skin-to-skin between mom and baby (so long as baby is not in distress, and APGAR scores are good) so that breastfeeding can be initiated as soon as possible.
- Allowing baby to stay in the room with mom (the hospital I rotated at for peds would refer to these kiddos as their Level I nursery) to allow for continued feeding.
- Do not distribute formula to new mothers if their plan is to breastfeed. In addition, they will often have a lactation consultant visit the mom daily in order to help with latching positions, and to provide education and alternatives should breastfeeding be difficult during the immediate post-partum period.
As an African-American woman, especially one in medicine, I found the above to be extremely concerning. And then when you add on the additional layer of having a pregnancy complicated by hyperemesis gravidarum, and asymmetric IUGR, I just wanted the best for my kiddo… and for those very reasons (and the fact that I am a broke college student, lol!) I decided that I was going to breastfeed him for as long as I could.
My personal journey:
Although I was set on breastfeeding, my journey almost ended before chubz and I were discharged from the hospital. My colostrum had come in just fine, but my kiddo’s latch was really shallow and painful. No matter what position we put him in, he would consistently produce a shallow, yet forceful latch. For the most part, I decided I would grit and bear though, because “breast is best”; however, on the day of discharge, I remember breastfeeding him and I looked down to discover my baby’s face covered in blood and my nipple cracked. I just could not do it, and with an extreme feeling of sadness, I asked my lactation consultant for formula because my son was hungry. Fortunately, they taught me how to syringe feed him (to avoid nipple confusion), and provided me with a temporary nipple shield to allow my nipple to heal. Prior to that, I had thought of formula as evil, but sometimes, it can be your saving grace… especially in times when you just cannot breastfeed. So I told myself not to beat myself up about syringe feeding him a few milliliters of formula.
Once we were discharged, however, I decided that I would try and try and try and try to use the nipple shield. For the most part, my kiddo’s latch was no longer painful, and he largely got what he needed and exhibited signs of fullness and contentment. However, my second hurdle came two days post-discharge when I was told that my kiddo had lost almost 10% of his body weight. At that point, our pediatrician was still supportive of my desire to breastfeed, and encouraged me to pump, so that I could supplement his feedings with my own milk. However, I received calls from others who were determined to get me to stop breastfeeding, and to start giving chubz formula. Were it not for the support of my immediate family, and my partner, I would have given up. I did not realize that I would have to fight that hard to do something that was pushed so heavily by various organizations such as the CDC. Just to fast forward, I can happily say that my little IUGR kiddo, who lost ~10% of his body weight, has made it 5 months breastfeeding and is as plump as he can be. I fought for his ability to breastfed, and I am so grateful to have done so.
Our breastfeeding/pumping journey has been challenging, yet amazing. And to be honest I would do it all over again! For new breastfeeding mommas, congrats! Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way:
- Take it day by day and don’t beat yourself up about things that are out of your control.
- Breastfeeding groups are amazing! However, do not compare yourself to the next person who happens to pump like 20oz in a session (that’s not typical, sis is an overproducer lol)
- Cluster feeding may make you tired, but kiddo has to do it in order to let your body know to produce more milk.
- Use WARM compresses to help with milk expression, especially during those first few days when your milk comes in. Hand massaging helps to drain your breast, and if you’re pumping, it will help to increase your yield.
- I love Medela storage bags, you can purchase them in 100-count here: https://www.amazon.com/Medela-Storage-Breastfeeding-Standing-Breastmilk/dp/B0723GXKJT/ref=sr_1_1_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1535827925&sr=8-1&keywords=medela+storage+bags+100+count. I tried Lansinoh bags, and they just don’t feel as sturdy, but they’re definitely a good option if you need something more affordable.
- Hospital-grade pumps are available for rent through various companies. If you qualify for WiC, and are going back to work full-time, WiC will loan a hospital-grade pump to you. Or they may have other pumps available that you can keep.
- The Pack-it Ice chest is great way to keep your pumped milk cool while away at work. Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/PackIt-Freezable-Classic-Lunch-Chambray/dp/B01MR6O7YS/ref=sr_1_2_sspa?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1535828285&sr=1-2-spons&keywords=packit+freezable+lunch+bags&psc=1.
- Water, water, water and more water, sis! Want to increase your supply? Drink water.
- The Starbuck’s Pink Drink is tasty, but anecdotally, it did nothing for my yield.
If you have additional questions, please reach out! Love you all!