Over the weekend, a research team from the University of South Carolina College of Nursing, Mocha Mama’s Milk, launched a virtual breastfeeding support group for black women in the Midlands.
Co-founded by Tisha Felder, a behavioral specialist, and Joynelle Jackson, a maternal nurse, the group plans to meet once a month for mothers seeking breastfeeding support.
The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 66% of black mothers have started breastfeeding, compared to 82.8% of white mothers and more than 90% of Asian mothers.
“Women just aren’t educated enough about breastfeeding,” Jackson told The Post and Courier. “We think of boobs as if they’re personal, they’re mine and I don’t share that with anyone. But what it can do is amazing, and you don’t do it forever.”
According to the CDC, breastfeeding can be widely beneficial for mothers and infants and is associated with lower risks of sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS, and reduced risks of high blood pressure and ovarian cancers. and breast in mothers.
Black mothers and infants in particular are at increased risk for many of these health conditions, which can be greatly reduced if breastfeeding rates improve.
“Especially for black women, there is a significant reduction in risk for very aggressive breast cancers, such as triple-negative breast cancers,” Felder said. “Breastfeeding can actually reduce that risk.”
Felder said much of the problem can be solved by educating women and mothers about the importance of breastfeeding and creating safe spaces for mothers to turn to when they have questions and need help. Support.
Felder told The Post and Courier that breastfeeding is not a popular topic among black families, an idea that stems from a long history of enslaved black women forced to serve as wet nurses for slave owners’ infants. .
“(Slavery) has had a lasting impact, not necessarily because we sit down and talk about it specifically, but more so because of that behavior. (Our) association with that behavior is that it’s not very positive “, Felder mentioned.
Other barriers black mothers face when breastfeeding include a lack of peer and family support, insufficient education from health systems, and difficulty navigating between work and breastfeeding, according to a recent report. from the CDC.
According to a lactation consultant from the Medical University of South Carolina, Molly Gros, during the first months of life, babies nurse at least eight to 12 times a day. So a mother returning to work should pump every three to four hours for 15 to 30 minutes at a time.
This was the case of Lt. Brittany Jackamonis, of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department in Columbia.
Jackamonis had her first child in the spring of 2021 and has been exclusively breastfeeding for over a year, feeding only her son’s breast milk without any supplemental nutrition, while also overseeing her unit of officers in Colombia.
“The sacrifice is real,” Jackamonis said. “Work-life balance with a breastfed baby is definitely something you need to mentally prepare for.”
Jackamonis, one of five siblings, was never breastfed as a baby. It was just something that wasn’t talked about much in his family or his community.
“Definitely worth it,” added Jackamonis. “At the end of the day, the reward of seeing your child thriving and getting the nutrition they need, you can’t explain. It can really be very difficult for you at times, but it’s something you you’ll never come back.”
According to Shalonda Clyburn, another lactation consultant for MUSC, mothers can benefit from seeing a lactation specialist before and after birth.
“I believe that if mothers are educated and feel supported, they will not only try to breastfeed, but they will breastfeed longer if they know what to expect,” Clyburn said. “Education takes away a lot of the fear of what’s to come.”
Both Clyburn and Gros said the education mothers receive about breastfeeding is important in debunking common myths about the practice. According to Gros, common myths surrounding breastfeeding include that the practice is painful and requires a special diet.
“Pain is actually a sign of a problem,” Gros said. “And there really aren’t any foods you need to avoid.”
And according to Clyburn, some women think they won’t be able to produce enough milk because a family member has had trouble breastfeeding.
“I have to remind moms that we are designed for this and that breast milk is a whole food,” Clyburn added. “That’s all your baby needs for the first full year.”
Felder and Jackson are also conducting a separate study with Prisma Health to promote breastfeeding among black women. The study, which will begin in the summer of 2022, will interview at least 15 newly breastfeeding women and provide support through lactation nurses and peer mothers.
Those interested in the study can visit mochamamasmilk.com or email [email protected] to learn more.