Black Breastfeeding Week 2015: Lift Every Baby

Kimberly Seals Allers and her children.Yes, breastfeeding is the best nutrition for babies. But breastfeeding has never really been just about breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is about rethinking society's rules for infant feeding, overcoming cultural and environmental obstacles, and improving the workplace for breastfeeding women. On top of all this, there are different cultural ideas about breastfeeding for black women, including the historical trauma of wet nursing and the marketing of infant formula in our communities, and the issue gets even trickier. It is no wonder that there have been huge differences in breastfeeding rates between black women and white women for over 40 years.

These disparities are unacceptable.

Two years ago, I joined forces with two amazing breastfeeding advocates to name August 25–31 as Black Breastfeeding Week. Black Breastfeeding Week is a special weeklong awareness campaign to close out National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. It's designed to celebrate the power of breastfeeding in our community. As we see it, breastfeeding is more than giving our children immunity against some diseases and reduced risk of ear infections, respiratory infections, and type 2 diabetes. It is more than understanding that breastfeeding gives our children the best start at healthy eating habits for life. (Breastfed children are more likely to have varied and healthier eating preferences because breastmilk tastes different at each feeding. This means breastfed children are introduced to a variety of flavors each day.)

We see breastfeeding as an act of empowerment and self-determination. It's one of the many ways mothers can give their children the best possible start in life. It is time that we lift our children up — starting at birth — and over the many cultural and environmental barriers and forces that often prevent them from reaching their fullest potential.

With that in mind, the theme for this year's Black Breastfeeding Week is "Lift Every Baby," and our tagline is "Breastfeeding: So Strong. So Us." "Lift Every Baby" reminds us of all the ways that black families and communities lift up their youngest and most vulnerable members. From breastfeeding to early learning to quality schools to good nutrition, we're celebrating and sharing ideas on how we lift our babies — one child at a time.

On August 29th at 3 p.m. ET, there will be the first-ever nationally coordinated Lift Up events in cities across the United States. Black families will gather in predetermined locations to lift up their babies together as a visual display of community support of our children. Whether your "baby" is 1 or 15, if you can lift them up, you are encouraged to join a Lift Up event near you. I'll be there with my "baby" who is 11!

Throughout the week, we will have various social media events to spread the "Lift Every Baby" theme, including our signature annual twitter chat August 27th at 9 p.m. ET. This year's hashtag is #LiftEveryBaby. Get the full rundown of activities and the latest updates at BlackBreastfeedingWeek.org and the BBW Facebook page.

We invite black parents, aunties, uncles, and grandparents to join the conversation online and off to show our collective power to lift up every baby, every family, and every community. Breastfeeding is: So Strong. So Us.

Kimberly Seals Allers is an award-winning journalist, author, and social commentator. She currently leads the First Food Friendly Community Initiative, an innovative pilot program funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation designed to create a national accreditation for communities who create more supportive environments for breastfeeding while promoting economic security for families. Her next book, The Big Let Down, a behind-the-scenes look at the battle for every infant's first meal, will be published in the spring. Learn more at www.KimberlySealsAllers.com and follow her at @iamKSealsAllers.

The statements and opinions in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health.