“Birth is the epicenter of a woman’s power. And we are so powerful! Happy Women’s History Month.”
Black Breastfeeding Week was celebrated in August but for Diandra Forrest getting the message out is important every day of the year. We all want to give our children the best start in life but for many reasons the benefits of breastfeeding have not reached the African American community. Statistics show that less than 55% of Black mothers are actively involved in breastfeeding. Compared to other groups the numbers are very low for breastfeeding while the black infant mortality rate is high. Black babies are dying at twice the rate (in some place, nearly triple) the rate of white babies. According to the CDC, increased breastfeeding among black women could decrease infant mortality rates. The CDC states that, "This persistent gap in breastfeeding rates between black women and women of other races and ethnicities might indicate that black women are more likely to encounter unsupportive cultural norms, perceptions that breastfeeding is inferior to formula feeding, lack of partner support, and an unsupportive work environment." Reasons for this might be the lack of support and the lack of spreading the word on the benefits of nursing in Black communities.
Fortunately, we have mothers like model Diandra Forrest who are advocating to change the image of birth and breastfeeding. Diandra who struts the runways of New York Fashion Week posted pictures on Instagram while nursing her baby daughter, Rain. The pictures were from a shoot called “The Rebirth of Love,” by photographer, Joey Rosado of Island Boi Photography, and was the brainchild of makeup artist and creative director Moshoodat Sanni. Of course, there was some backlash but Diandra who is accustom to being scrutinized as one of the few albino models in the fashion industry was up to the challenge. As she explains in a Yahoo Style interview, “I think, too often, women’s bodies are looked at in a sexual manner. So when there is a woman breastfeeding her child, which is nurturing and natural, it may seem wrong if your mind isn’t in the right place.”
The benefits of nursing, definitely, out weight the negativity. Nursing ignites the hormones that increase the bonding between mother and child, allows the mother's body to heal quicker, provides the right nutrition for the baby and is cheaper than formula. Also mothers who nurse are more inclined to eat healthy. However, for new mothers having a support system is most important. As Diandra explains, “I love the connection that it’s allowed me to have with my daughter and knowing that she is getting all of the nutrients that she needs. It’s important to speak about it because breastfeeding is actually very hard to do. Between the bleeding nipples, feeding every hour, and sleep deprivation, I wouldn’t have made it a week without lots of support.”
"All breastfeeding women need support, but specific interventions might be needed among populations with lower breastfeeding prevalence," suggest the CDC. To get more information and assistance visit Black Breastfeeding Week and La Leche. Black Breastfeeding Week is all about encouraging black women to keep breastfeeding, connect with other breastfeeding moms, post breastfeeding selfies and more. La Leche has encouraged mothers to nurse for 60 years. Their mission is to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother. Their helpline number is 877-4 LA LECHE (452-5324). As women move through their journey of motherhood there is no need to be alone and isolated. Finding and building community is an important part of the job. Women's empowerment is very important in the community. As Diandra signs off on her Instagram picture, “Birth is the epicenter of a woman’s power. And we are so powerful! Happy Women’s History Month.”