After giving birth to her children, Sierra Woods struggled to breastfeed and sought professional help. She was looking for someone who looked like her, and when she finally found someone, she was delighted. “In trying to find a black consultant reviewer from the International Breastfeeding Council, Woods saw a clear need in the Indianapolis community for the black breastfeeding community.”
Thus began Woods’ journey to start his own business.”MelaMama“, who proposes individualized “breastfeeding support, lactation consultation and return to work assistance” and now, Woods “is the only black lactation and breastfeeding specialist in private practice in Indianapolis.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breastfeeding is an “essential factor in improving public health” and this “prevents many of the contributing factors that lead to significantly increased infant mortality rates among blacks, such as SIDS, low birth weight complications, and maternal complications.” additionally“[t]The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months. The Academy also advises continuing breastfeeding when foods are introduced for an additional six months.
Research from one study found evidence that the race of the caregiver has a drastic impact on maternal and infant survival rates – for example, with a white doctor, “Black babies are about three times more likely to die in hospital than white newborns.” It follows this“If we had black lactation consultants, we would probably see an increase in black baby survival rates.”
Despite the evidence on the benefits of breastfeeding, New York Times reports that “61% of black mothers started breastfeeding compared to 78% of white mothers”. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that black women breastfeed “for shorter durations”. North Carolina PhD student Stephanie Devane-Johnson conducted research to uncover the root cause of the difference, and ultimately assigned that for “[s]socio-historical factors…such as stereotypes dating back to slavery…they [Black mothers] saw him as a “white thing”.
Indeed, Woods Explain How? ‘Or’ What “[d]During slavery, African Americans actually had to feed the children of their slave owners. ‘…This part of Black and African American history has been linked to why generations of Black mothers did not breastfeed their children, either due to lack of supply or psychological trauma. This is in addition to other factors that could act as a barrier and prevent breastfeeding, including the hypersexualization of black bodies, the lack of paid maternity leave and a safe space to pump, in addition to inequalities with health insurance that many black women face.
Woods feels this “Breastfeeding support and advocacy is her calling in life.” When asked what advice she would give someone starting their breastfeeding journey, she noted“Education. Education. Education. Oh, and support. The more you know about breastfeeding, the better off you will be. You will be more confident, which is vital. Support is my second piece of advice. you on him when you feel overwhelmed… Knowledge is power!