24 Aug

Guest Post by Ruth Dennison – Why Black Breastfeeding Week?

Ruth Dennison
Ruth Dennison is a Doula and breastfeeding supporter in London.  She has kindly shared this blog with us to celebrate the first ever Black Breastfeeding Week in the UK.  The original version of this blog can be found here.

Black Breastfeeding Week starts 25th – 31st August, we will celebrating Black Breastfeeding Week for the first time in the UK.

There has been a look into what has been happening in the breastfeeding community of black families.  It has been documented in the UK showing that black women have the highest breastfeeding rates of 1-3% .  Many are questioning this, as there are many factors within the black community which causes black women to not exclusively breastfeed their babies until 6 months and beyond as recommended by UNICEF and WHO.  Evidence shows that Black families suffer the highest infant mortality in the UK and it is strongly believed breastfeeding could help reduce the numbers.  Breastfeeding/breastmilk have countless health benefits for mother and child, it can help prevent many illnesses, infections, diseases and reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden infant death syndrome).
In the black community it is very common for mothers to offer their babies alternatives from early, 2-4months, if not earlier.  The top on the list is introducing water, why? because baby has a bad tummy.  Black families have a culture of introducing solid foods from as early as 3- 4 months, why? because their milk is not satisfying baby, because baby is looking at the dinner plate and trying to grab the food off, she is now ready to eat, because granny said baby keeps crying, because your breast milk is not enough, mum needs to rest and let someone else feed baby (this can be done with expressed breast milk and breastfeeding actually makes mothers have to sit their busy bodies down, bond, heal and nurture their babies while they rest), because you never knew what to expect, because no one told you, because you never had any breastfeeding support, because breastfeeding is painful (which it should not be).  I would say I have listed a good few things on why many black women don’t exclusively breastfeed their babies in the early stages of their babies life and there is so much more to this which will be high lighted at the “Why Black Breastfeeding Week?” event.
Do you know there is a history of breastfeeding trauma which has passed down through generations in the black community, this may still be hindering breastfeeding in the black community today, many black women tend to not seek breastfeeding education, they tend to listen to their family elders, especially grandparents, as they are placed as the veterans in parenting.  Learn more about the history of breastfeeding trauma within the black community here: Slavery, Wet-Nursing, and Black
This table below shows research on the reasons why breastfeeding mothers in the Caribbean introduce supplements to their babies, this also effects black mothers in the UK.
The most common reason was that water was given as it was felt the babies were too hot, baby was constipated or have grip (wind), to wash baby’s tongue, to settle baby, supplements were started in the hospital nursery or when mothers was ill, to prevent baby getting gas from the breastmilk, or on doctor’s orders.
How many black women do you see in your local community breastfeeding support groups?
A qualitative study of baby cafe services was carried out in the UK, within this it states, older, more highly educated mothers are more likely to seek help with breastfeeding difficulties.  Which ethnicity/colour do you think these mothers are?
I do get a lot of hate when I speak on colour and breastfeeding, especially on my BBW Youtube video I made last year, it did get to me to begin with but now I do not worry about the negative comments, because those who don’t want to learn about the issues which lay in the black breastfeeding community, don’t really care and to be honest that is life, you can’t please everyone no matter how much you try.  BBW is not a race war, it is a call for action as evidence show black babies die at a higher rate than any other race.
Yes, we all know the world needs major improvements in breastfeeding, but when working within breastfeeding, noticing how badly this is effecting the black community more than any other race, it is only right that someone waves the red flag and alerts the UK breastfeeding community.
Yes, black mothers may have a higher initiation of breastfeeding, but it is also very common for black mothers to introduced their babies to alternatives from early days, weeks and months due to culture influences, social pressures and lack of skilled breastfeeding support.
Here I have attached a link of 3 black breastfeeding mothers stories, with hope that you see it through the mothers eyes.
There are many risk factors contributing to infant mortality such as birthweight, mother’s age at birth of child, and the parents’ socio-economic status, some of these same factors are also what contributes to the high drop off breastfeeding rates in the black community.
Black African origin in the UK, had the highest infant mortality rate at 54.1 deaths per 1,000 live births, you can learn more here.
Black Breastfeeding week isn’t just an issue in USA, it is an issue in the UK and other parts of the world.
My name is Ruth Dennison, I am a Doula who specialises in breastfeeding.  I have been supporting families in breastfeeding since 2007 in the NHS and privately.
On Friday August 31st 2018, I will be hosting the ‘Why Black Breastfeeding Week’ event,  because many don’t understand why we need it and it is important for families, breastfeeding practitioners and organisations to learn the reasons why.  When we learn the reasons why, is when we can then help make a change, help reduce infant mortality and better the health within the black community as evidence shows breastfeeding has long term health benefits for mother and child and this lengthens the longer you breastfeed.
After speaking with Kimberly Seals Allers Author of The Big Letdown and Mars Lord from Abuela Doulas, at the Birth and Breastfeeding While Black UK event, it made me more determined to host this event.  I know it may not be everyone’s cup of tea but neither is it mine when I know how much improvements need to be made for black families and breastfeeding.
Together we can make a change!
Event Information

Event Information

“Why Black Breastfeeding Week?” event coming Friday 31st August 2018, learn more or purchase tickets here.

15 Nov

A list of MPs who came to our 20th anniversary reception in Parliament

The infant feeding APPGThank you for inviting your MP to come to our 20th birthday reception in Parliament last night and the Infant Feeding APPG yesterday afternoon. Here is a list of all the MPs who came.

If your MP is on either list, please do thank them for coming along, consider following up with them by inviting them to come along to a drop in group (if you feel it’s appropriate) or meet with them to discuss issues around infant feeding in your area. Having a relationship with your MP really does help in campaigning for better breastfeeding support services.

At our 20th anniversary parliamentary reception the following MPs were there:

  • Alison Thewliss – SNP MP for Glasgow Central
  • David Linden – SNP MP for Glasgow East
  • Sharon Hodgson – Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West
  • Mohammed Yasin – Labour MP for Bedford
  • Mike Gapes – Labour and Co-operative MP for Ilford South
  • George Hollingberry – Conservative MP for Meon Valley
  • Steve McCabe – Labour MP for Birmingham, Selly Oak
  • Stephen Morgan – Labour MP for Portsmouth South
  • Marion Fellows – SNP MP for Motherwell and Wishaw
  • Eleanor Smith – Labour MP for Wolverhampton South West
  • Bill Grant – Conservative MP for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock

And at the APPG earlier on in the day the following MPs were there:

  • Alison Thewliss – SNP MP for Glasgow Central
  • Bim Afolami – Conservative MP for Hitchen and Harpenden
  • Jon Ashworth – Labour and Co-operative MP for Leicester South
  • Carol Monaghan – SNP MP for Glasgow North West
  • Gavin Newlands – SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North
  • Jim Shannon – DUP MP for Strangford

If you know your MP was there and we have missed them out then do let us know. We have tried to make this list as accurate as possible, but there were times when we were speaking or organising things, and may have missed somebody.

If your MP said they would come but didn’t turn up, it could well be because there was an important Brexit debate going on. It would be great if you could still follow up with them and invite them to meet you/visit your group/find out more etc.

It was very clear yesterday that the MPs who turned up had been invited by their constituents and that was the reason they had chosen to be there. It really works!

You can also ask all your MPs to drop in to the UNICEF Baby Friendly Call to Action event on the 5th December – more details on that here .

Here’s a selection of photos from our day yesterday. Thank you to everyone who made it possible. Here’s to the next 20 years!

08 Nov

Invite your MP to our 20th birthday reception

shereen on stageNext week the Breastfeeding Network is celebrating our 20th anniversary with a parliamentary reception in Westminster. This will be held after an All Party Parliamentary Group meeting on Infant Feeding and Inequalities on Tuesday 14th November. We would like to ask you to invite your MP to these two events, which are an important opportunity for us to campaign for breastfeeding support services in the midst of severe cuts to services this year.

An anniversary is always a time for great pride and celebration, and we’re looking forward to telling MPs about how our charity was founded by a group of empowered women with a desire to improve things for breastfeeding mums like themselves. BfN was set up by a group of breastfeeding peer supporters who, in their experience of supporting families, saw a need for truly independent breastfeeding support, free from commercial funding and influence.

That was 20 years ago, and we still have their founding vision at our core – we provide independent, evidence-based information and support to help build awareness of breastfeeding to individuals and organisations, and to support mums in their choice to breastfeed. The parliamentary reception is a chance to tell MPs about all we’ve achieved over those 20 years:

  • we have established projects in over 17 areas of the UK, with staff and volunteers supporting mums before birth, on hospital wards and at home in communities
  • supported hundreds of thousands of callers to the National Breastfeeding Helpline (with Welsh and Polish options) and Supporterline
  • grown a network of over 1000 trained volunteers
  • offered a unique Drugs in Breastmilk information service for parents and health professionals which has answered tens of thouands of queries

But perhaps more importantly, the APPG and the reception also provide an opportunity to talk to MPs about the devastating cuts to services that breastfeeding support is facing this year. A UNICEF survey of infant feeding leads across England in 2017 revealed that over half of breastfeeding support services had seen cuts. Further research done by Cardiff University found that breastfeeding peer supporters were available in only 56% of NHS regions. The impact of all this is that families aren’t receiving the support they need to continue to breastfeed. 80% of mums who stop breastfeeding in the early days do so before they want to. And of course you will probably have heard that the UK has the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world.

We too have been personally affected by these cuts, in 2017 we were told that there was no funding available to continue breastfeeding peer-support in Blackpool, a scheme we have been running with great success for 10 years. Since 2007 Blackpool Star Buddies have helped thousands of parents, babies and families to breastfeed against the odds and it is disappointing that such a high-performing scheme has been forced to close.

The APPG and the reception are a great opportunity for us to influence MPs, to show them just how important breastfeeding support is to families in their constituencies, and to make the case that if we want breastfeeding rates in the UK to rise then we need to adequately resource support services.

MPs need to know how their constituents feel about these issues, and so we are asking you to please write to your MP and ask them to attend the All Party Parliamentary Group on Infant Feeding and Inequalities and The Breastfeeding Network Parliamentary reception. You can find guidance on how to contact your MP, and some sample text you could use to invite them to these events in this Guide for contacting your MP.