FEBRUARY IS BLACK HISTORY MONTH
After living in NewYork for over three decades, February has proven itself a pivotal month. Pushing through the long and usually brutal cold of January with dogged determination, shivering shoulders and a clenched jaw, it has always signaled to my mind the promise of the coming spring. A short month with the official celebration of romance and love in the middle, and here in the U.S. where Black History is also recognized and celebrated, February helps us all acquire new knowledge about the African experience on the North American continent.
I particularly enjoy discovering the many fascinating connections between the diaspora here and the Caribbean where I was born and raised, in Trinidad and Tobago. We are a truly diverse family, rich in culture, innovation, and historical contribution to the new world across a variety of areas from sciences and technologies to multiple arts and the humanities.
The enslavement of African people here in the New World has influenced many aspects of life in our diaspora, including our attitudes and practices around breastfeeding our own babies. The low rates of breastfeeding mothers in the Black community across the U.S. have root causes in some of the deepest trauma experienced by African women here in the Americas during this period.
The deliberate separation and sale of enslaved infants from their mothers combined with the forced wet-nursing of the slave masters’ offspring is the tragic and toxic brew from which some of our attitudes were born, and sadly still exist.
The current political season has brought some attention to the grave statistical outcomes for black women in America across many aspects of motherhood from prenatal through to postpartum care and infant mortality rates.
Thankfully deeper and more meaningful connections to our collective history, the wisdom of our ancestors , a general resurgence of interest in good health and natural lifestyles has led to a steady increase of breastfeeding rates and duration in our community.
Thus, in the more recent decade, in my private practice,it has been extremely heartening to see even more women of color embracing ‘long term breastfeeding and seeking my support. As a fierce advocate of Breastfeeding Naturally, I feel deeply privileged to be a small link in this chain of women who bring and share the ancient and successful way of breastfeeding babies back into focus for our modern world
One of my favorite reggae bands Black Uhuru, has a song titled Whole World Is Africa, it is the cradle of humanity from which we all come and when I celebrate Black History month, this thought always comes to mind. To witness the positions and techniques for helping babies latch on (attach) to breastfeed that I observed in the homes of family, close friends, and in the marketplaces and other public areas while growing up in the West Indies, become increasingly common here in North America is euphoric and in my heart of hearts,I consider it the biggest part of my mission as an IBCLC.
Research studies are now validating the efficacy of these practices that have always been used in the truly ancient parts of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Australia in modern and indigenous settings. I feel quite sure that broader acceptance of these baby-led, easy latch on styles will result in more mums breastfeeding for longer durations with less discomfort or other challenges which seem to occur more commonly in the western world. In fact, it's what my private practice is known for and Baby in the Family remains deeply committed to this path of knowledge!
So as you enjoy your sweet baby snuggles today, Valentine's Day, know that your ancestors are smiling- you're not alone. Have a lovely Valentine’s Day, and I hope that Black History Month continues to be a reflective and edifying month for us all.