Dear Diary,

For some African Americans, choosing to breastfeed, especially eclusively and/or long-term, is a choice that can be wrought with discouragement, limited support, ridicule and other bad experiences. It’s really unfortunate, especially considering how beneficial this natural act of nursing can be for the family as a whole. However, it’s important to understand the history of breastfeeding among African Americans to understand why it sometimes has such a negative connotation in our community and even discouraged at times by those whose support is needed the most.

Breastfeeding isn’t necessarily viewed as the typical, go-to approach within our culture, and although we’re making strides, and the percentages of Black women who initiate breastfeeding has increased, it’s still not as common and encouraged within the African-American community.

As @FeministaJones stated in an enlightening #WomensHistoryMonth Twitter chat, Cultural competence means not assuming a new Black mom is automatically taking the, Duh of course I’m breastfeeding approach, it means understanding that our historical connection to breastfeeding is one of oppression, violence, and denial of womanhood.

One has to understand that many African Americans served as wet nurses up until late into the last century; we’re talking until the 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s! That’s not forever ago!

Being a wet nurse took African-American mothers away from their own children who may have needed breast milk for long stretches of time in which pumping wasn’t an option.

Knowing this history helped me to understand why there is stigma associated with breastfeeding within the Black community and why it makes some uncomfortable. Most people within my generation may not even recognize the story behind why they’re not supporting or even ridiculing my choice to breastfeed.

The mindset that breastfeeding isn’t something that Black people do has trickled down over the centuries, due to our inability to nurse our own children in exchange for nursing the children of others. I can’t help but understand why that would leave a lasting impression and subtly contribute to the negative viewpoint towards breastfeeding that is so prevalent in the African American community today.

With all that said, it’s my goal to help change the outlook on breastfeeding in the African-American community and contribute to the images of what a breastfeeding mother should look like. African-Americans need to see other African American mothers embracing the process.

A breastfeeding mother looks like me!

Nicole Pharr

Follow Nicole’s journey through motherhood on her website Pharr Away.



About The Author

#Chocolate Milk

Throughout August, in celebration of National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, Diary of a First Time Mom will publish a new nursing story each day, written by 31+ black mom bloggers. DFTM Creator Heather Hopson asked each blogger to submit a personal breastfeeding story, and they immediately emailed their experiences—both good and bad. They wrote about everything from allergies and ignorance to pumping and working. Heather curated this collection to educate other African-American women about breastfeeding. That way, they will be armed with information to make a decision. Heather hopes you will join the movement on Twitter. Follow @dearmomdiary and the participants. You can check the #ChocolateMilk blogger ambassador list! Be sure to tweet using #ChocolateMilk. And don’t forget to share your story by clicking on Breastfeeding→ Lactation Nation on the menu bar above. Meanwhile, let us know in the comment box below why you nursed—or didn’t.

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