Statement from the Black Breastfeeding Caucus in support of Black mothers and families following the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor
June 8, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: Kimberly Seals Allers
Ever since four Minneapolis Police Department officers killed George Floyd, pressing a knee into his neck for more than eight minutes, while he cried out that he couldn’t breathe and later called out “Mama” before he died, the world has been in protest over Black lives and Black people have been living in trauma.
The Black Breastfeeding Caucus (BBC) condemns all forms of racist violence, whether state or state-sanctioned or from individuals or groups and we stand in solidarity to demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and for all the Black lives taken prematurely by police brutality.
We also stand with their mothers. We stand with all Black mothers who carry a special form of trauma every day, but even more significantly in these last few weeks, as the greatest nightmare of any Black mother has been playing ad infinitum on every TV screen, mobile phone and social media feed. The ongoing fear of raising Black children who we cannot fully protect, who are dehumanized, suffocated, adultified, shot or otherwise threatened with white supremacy as they bird watch, jog, play in the park, sleep in their beds or drive is a unique form of trauma that no one else can fully understand. We understand.
This trauma was already exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken more than 100,000 lives, of which Black people are disproportionately represented. The pandemic has also disproportionately impacted Black birthing people, as rapid changes in long-standing evidence-based hospital policies for birth and breastfeeding were quickly reversed, often in contradiction to the recommendations of leading global health agencies. Community-based and full spectrum doulas, who are trusted essential birth support professionals and continue to be linked to improved birth and breastfeeding outcomes for Black women, were classified as “visitors” and banned from hospitals, forcing mothers to give birth alone. After birth, many mothers were unnecessarily separated from their infants and denied their right to breastfeed their babies.
Black women already have statistically higher rates of mistreatment during birth, Black women already have the lowest rates of breastfeeding and Black infants already have the highest rates of infant mortality. Meanwhile, racism and bias has been directly linked to the unconscionably high rates of Black maternal deaths in this country. These disparities and injustices have only increased and intensified during this time.
We say, enough! In this moment, the Black Breastfeeding Caucus stands to affirm Black mothers and the dignity and resilience of Black Motherhood. We affirm and hold space for Black mothers who are grieving at the senseless violence and merciless murders of Black lives. We encourage all Black mothers to find community, create restorative practices in their daily lives, reclaim their joy, and to consider therapy and other mental health resources. Trauma can have a severe impact on our mental and physical well-being, including the “weathering” of our bodies, which can make us more vulnerable to diseases like hypertension, diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease and put us at greater risk of dying from COVID-19.
We recommit to our work to fight for birth and breastfeeding justice for all Black families. Breastfeeding is an infant’s first opportunity for preventative medicine that can give lifelong benefits. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of ear infections, Type 2 diabetes and has unparalleled immunological properties—which are critically important in a post-pandemic world. Breastfeeding is also the best emergency infant feeding plan there is, as we witnessed COVID-19 related infant formula shortages and supply chain issues disproportionately impact Black communities.
We stand with the Movement for Black Lives and communities of color across the country who are calling for divestment from police and investment in health, education, housing, culture and the environment. We call upon all of these movements to join us in considering Black maternal health, Black birth outcomes and increasing Black breastfeeding rates as critical social justice issues, because they are the earliest intervention to prevent health inequities and deeply affect mothers and infants who are the foundation and future of our communities.
We stand with Black-led birth and breastfeeding organizations such as the Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association, Black Mamas Matter Alliance, Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (R.O.S.E) and Black Breastfeeding Week (Aug 25-31), as a critical international awareness initiative. We support and lift up Black-created resources for birth and healthy living, Black-led digital platforms to end racism and bias in maternity care and the BBC Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding for Black Families, as a model for reform.
We vow that we will not stop until Black Motherhood is honored, Black birth and breastfeeding is just and all Black lives are free.
The Black Breastfeeding Caucus
The Black Breastfeeding Caucus (BBC) is a national collective of service providers, advocates, academics and other stakeholders committed to equitable breastfeeding support for black families. The mission of the BBC is to mobilize families, communities, and public/private institutions to create strategies and implement action steps that result in equitable breastfeeding support for black families. Learn more at http://blackmothersbreastfeeding.org/bbc/.