Born out of a huge disparity between black and white mothers, the national awareness campaign Black Breastfeeding Week uses the power of social media to change the narrative on breast-feeding in the black community.
In its fifth year under the theme #BetOnBlack, Black Breastfeeding Week ran this year from Aug. 25-31, culminating with a “5 Year Rewind/Week’s Recap.”
The weeklong celebration came into existence because of the unacceptable racial disparities in breast-feeding rates that have been around for over 40 years according to the campaign.
“For years, our communities have been viewed as places of deficiencies and lack, but we reject that narrative and have full faith and confidence that we can create the solutions and support to improve infant and maternal health outcomes and save our babies,” said Kimberly Seals Allers, BBW co-founder and author of “The Big Letdown: How Medicine Big Business and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding.”
“We say ‘Bet on Black’ this year as confirmation of the passionate, tireless and innovative work being done by communities and families to protect the first food and this deeply nourishing tradition,” said Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka, a BBW co-founder, and nurse/midwife in North Carolina.
The week included on-the-ground, community and social media events like Instagram takeovers and a Facebook Live spotlight on breast-feeding in gay and lesbian families. The campaign also put a spotlight on fathers with Footnotes on Fatherhood, a barber shop-style, no-holds-barred discussion on Facebook.
On Aug. 26, families gathered at predetermined locations in over 60 communities across the country for BBW’s signature event, The Lift Up. Parents “lift up” their children in unison as a sign of their love and commitment to them.
Founded in 2012 by three nationally recognized breast-feeding advocates, Black Breastfeeding Week runs as an annual, week-long, multi-media campaign to raise awareness of the health benefits and personal empowerment of breast-feeding in the Black community.
Despite the proven benefits of breast-feeding for mothers and babies, there is a wide disparity in breast-feeding rates between whites and blacks. The campaign founders said that though the reasons for the gap are complex, increasing breast-feeding rates among black women remains a critical health imperative for the black community as a whole.
“BBW is an empowerment week to increase awareness of the critical role of breast-feeding in improving maternal and child health outcomes and reducing infant mortality rates in the black community,” said Kiddada Green, BBW co-founder and founding executive director of Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association in Detroit. “When we ‘Bet on Black,’ we will always win.”