The Chicago Birthworks Collective is celebrating Black Breastfeeding week in a big way. They are a local organization that educates black mothers and families about safer birthing methods and lactation support. Founded in 2018, the mission of Chicago Birthworks Collective was to connect Black families to the support they deserve and desire to have the most enjoyable, empowered birth, and postpartum experience possible. Toni and Tayo (mom and daughter doula duo) started CBC to focus on serving Black families across the City of Chicago. They provide families with doula support, lactation support, prenatal & postpartum pampering, education, etc.
The creators of Black Breastfeeding Week include Kimberly Seals Allers, Kiddada Green, and Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka. The ladies collectively decided to set aside the last week in August (which is Breastfeeding Month) to bring awareness to the disparities in breastfeeding rates among black women compared to their other counterparts. There are many challenges when it comes to being black and breastfeeding. Some of the black community’s challenges include high infant mortality rates, diet-related diseases, lack of diversity in the lactation field, various cultural barriers, and lack of access to healthy food options. The (2) biggest hurdles to breastfeeding within the black community are the lack of education and resources.
Nicole Miles, who serves as the Administrative Lead and Certified Lactation Counselor at Chicago Birthworks Collective, is a part of the 1% of Black Certified Lactation Counselors across the country. Nicole wanted to be an OB/GYN, but she later changed her major and focused on becoming a Doula instead. In 2013, she became a certified Doula, where she provides support during preconception, labor, and pre/postpartum. She also supports infertility and pregnancy loss. During 2018, she became a Certified Lactation Counselor to provide counseling and support to families thinking about breastfeeding or who encounter problems during the lactation process.
The Chicago Birthworks Collective and Nicole are doing their part to dispel the myths in the black community surrounding breastfeeding. Myths such as black women do not breastfeed; only poor people breastfeed, or baby formula is more convenient. Since black women often work in service roles, they had shorter maternity leaves than their white counterparts. This often led to babies drinking formula earlier because it was more convenient as black children enter childcare services much earlier than children of other races. As time progressed, there are still barriers to breastfeeding, including the workplace’s lack of accommodations. It was not until recently that employers started to provide “a mother’s room or pump room” to allow mothers to express milk for their babies while working.
Nicole stressed how COVID-19 had changed her services and access to patients. Luckily for Nicole, this is the busiest she has ever been, providing virtual prenatal support and home visits after the childbirth. Since the pandemic and subsequent stay at home order, she has noted a spike in breastfeeding. Breast milk contains a unique combination of essential nutrients needed for your child’s health that cannot be found anywhere else. Some of the benefits of breastfeeding include increased bonding, boosting the baby’s immune system, increased IQ, reduced risk of chronic illnesses, and rapid postpartum weight loss for Moms. Nicole’s best advice is to educate yourself on various birthing options and breastfeeding. Most importantly, Nicole advises black families to reach out to organizations, including Chicago Birthworks Collective, before you need help.
In celebration of Black Breastfeeding Week, the Chicago Birthworks Collective hosts a “Drive-In” Movie event on Monday, August 31st. This is a special time to celebrate every single breast/chest feeding mama, parent, partner, and family in a big way! During this event, families will have access to food, giveaways, lactation resources, and connect with a wonderful breastfeeding community. This year the featured film is “The Wiz,” starting Dianna Ross and Michael Jackson. Please click this link to buy tickets.