Black Breastfeeding Week in the UK.
by Harriet Shuttleworth
The end of August brings focus to the important celebration of Black Breastfeeding Week. Black Breastfeeding Week highlights challenges faced by black mothers who feed their infant breast milk, and promotes the countless benefits of breastfeeding in their communities.
Adopted in Britain, with a dual purpose of raising awareness about the disparities faced by breastfeeding mothers of Black, Black British, Caribbean or African ethnicity, and promoting breastfeeding as a tool for combating those racial disparities. Black Breastfeeding Week holds immense importance in acknowledging the unique challenges and experiences of these mothers – and their infants.
In this article, we delve into the origins of Black Breastfeeding Week, its historical context, and explore meaningful ways to celebrate and uplift Black breastfeeding mothers in the United Kingdom.
What is Black Breastfeeding Week?
Black Breastfeeding Week is an annual observance that aims to raise awareness about the unique challenges faced by Black mothers in breastfeeding and maternal health, while also celebrating and empowering women to breastfeed within Black communities. It focuses on addressing the racial disparities and systemic barriers that contribute to lower breastfeeding rates among Black women compared to other racial and ethnic groups. The week also serves as a platform to advocate for policy changes, provide education and support, and amplify the voices of Black breastfeeding mothers.
During Black Breastfeeding Week, various events, workshops, discussions, and social media campaigns take place to highlight the importance of breastfeeding, share personal stories, provide evidence-based information, and create a supportive community for Black mothers who choose to breastfeed.
When is Black Breastfeeding Week in the UK?
25th – 31st August 2023.
Black Breastfeeding Week usually takes place during the last week of August each year. However, the observance might not be as widely recognised or organised in the UK as it is in the United States where it originates from.
Local organisations, healthcare providers and community groups that focus on maternal and infant health, breastfeeding support or Black empowerment groups may host events or provide information related to Black Breastfeeding Week in the UK. The website Black Breastfeeding Week is a great place to find a collected list of hosted events including ‘webinars, ‘Lunch & Latch’ sessions, webinars, group discussions and plenty more! If you want to host a Black Breastfeeding Week event, they’re a great organisation to get in touch with.
What’s the history behind Black Breastfeeding Week?
Black Breastfeeding Week was originally founded in the US in 2013 by Kimberly Seals Allers, Kiddada Green, and Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka. These visionary women recognised the racial disparities in breastfeeding rates and maternal health outcomes among Black communities in the United States. The week-long event aims to dismantle systemic barriers that hinder Black mothers from accessing the benefits of breastfeeding while also highlighting the vital role breastfeeding plays in improving maternal and infant health.
The historical context behind Black Breastfeeding Week is rooted in a legacy of racial disparities and inequalities. Centuries of racial discrimination, socioeconomic challenges, and inadequate healthcare access have contributed to lower breastfeeding rates among Black women. The legacy of slavery in Black communities resulted in the forced separation of Black mothers from their infants, disrupting the intergenerational transfer of breastfeeding knowledge and practices. You can read plenty more about the history of black community breastfeeding trauma, including Slavery and Wet-Nursing, here.
Celebrating Black Breastfeeding Week in the UK
Celebrating Black breastfeeding mums in the UK involves acknowledging black mothers unique experiences, honouring cultural diversity, and addressing the barriers they can face. Here are some meaningful ways to celebrate and support breastfeeding mums of Black, Black British, Caribbean or African ethnicity in the UK:
- Cultural Sensitivity and Inclusivity: Healthcare professionals should receive cultural competency training to better understand the needs and cultural beliefs of these mothers. This enables them to provide tailored support and guidance that respects the traditions and values of Black families.
- Community Support and Education: Establish community-led support groups and workshops specifically designed for Black breastfeeding mothers. These safe spaces foster camaraderie, share experiences, and provide evidence-based information on breastfeeding.
- Visibility and Representation: Highlight the diverse stories of Black breastfeeding mums through social media campaigns, local events, and mainstream media. Representation matters and can help challenge stereotypes and misconceptions.
- Accessible Healthcare: Ensure equitable access to quality healthcare and breastfeeding support services, lactation consultants, and breastfeeding resources for all mothers, irrespective of their socioeconomic background.
- Policy Advocacy: Advocate for policies that support breastfeeding-friendly environments in workplaces, public spaces, and healthcare institutions. This includes paid maternity leave, lactation breaks, and private spaces for pumping or nursing.
- Culturally Relevant Resources: Develop and distribute culturally relevant breastfeeding resources, literature, and materials that reflect the experiences of Black mothers in the UK.
- Sharing your story: If you yourself are a black breastfeeding mother and you feel compelled to support, share your story online / social media to spread the word. Check out the article these mums shared of their story, and how it is to be breastfeeding as a black woman in modern day UK.
Why does Black Breastfeeding Week matter?
Black Breastfeeding Week 2023 serves as a poignant reminder of the need to address the healthcare inequalities that persist in maternal and infant health and ensuring the continuity of care for women from Black communities.
By understanding the historical context, embracing cultural diversity, and taking proactive steps to support and celebrate Black breastfeeding mothers, the United Kingdom can contribute to a brighter, more inclusive future where all mothers have equal access to support for their breastfeeding.
This week provides an opportunity to honour the strength and resilience of Black breastfeeding mums, while advocating for change on multiple fronts.