Black women seem to face many different hurdles when it comes to breastfeeding. One of these hurdles is the opinions of their friends and family members. About two years ago, I had a young mom around the age of twenty as a client who was very interested in breastfeeding and even completed a breastfeeding class. At the time, she knew she wanted to breastfeed and was very excited about doing so. One day, she called me and said that she wasn’t going to breastfeed because she was told by an older female very close to her that women who breastfeed have a bad odor to their bodies. I was shocked that she had changed her perspective rather quickly. Furthermore, I was shocked that she was given negative information and how strongly it influenced her decision. This was not the only case where I have seen women change their minds because of what they are being told. Negative perspectives, lack of support, and a lack of confidence affect the decisions of black women to breastfeed in society.
There are too many negative perspectives out there that black women are facing. They are being told things like, you will have to stay at home all the time if you breastfeed, you cannot go to work and breastfeed, and breastfeeding hurts. These are just a few of the many misconceptions that we have to dispel for young women who are unsure of how breastfeeding really works. During prenatal breastfeeding, class is a good time to give moms a good foundation on the truth about breastfeeding. We must be able to direct these women to valid, research-based information to ensure they understand that breastfeeding is possible and that you can make it work in your life.
Lack of support is an incredibly detrimental factor for women thinking about breastfeeding and for those who already are. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of women who already breastfeed in the black culture, because they cannot relate to the beauty of the breastfeeding experience. It can be hard to promote something that you really do not understand and live. Sometimes, it can be the male figure who is not on board with breastfeeding and may deter the mom from breastfeeding. Whether we want to accept it or not, there is a huge lack of support from friends and family members in the black community. We have to once again direct mothers to a place of support and comfort.
It is bad enough for a mother to feel confused about making the decision to breastfeed, and when she has been “beat up” with negativity, this decreases her confidence level. Women of childbearing age should be entitled to all of the prenatal education possible so that they can make informed decisions on breastfeeding. They need to be told repeatedly that it is possible. This change can be made if we find a way to support and promote breastfeeding. If we made breastfeeding more inviting, we could make soon to be moms feel like it is something worth trying. It will take a lot of hard work from breastfeeding advocates to do so, but it can be done!