Black breastfeeding week celebration in Springfield

Hampden County

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Mayor of Springfield, leaders from Heart2Heartbeat Lactation & Wellness and the Breastfeeding Community Action Circle recognized this week as Black Breastfeeding week in support of National Breastfeeding Awareness Month during August.

The event Wednesday, on the front steps of City Hall in Springfield, marked the 8th celebration of Black Breastfeeding Week, themed “Revive, Restore, Reclaim.” It supports bringing visibility to the experiences, joys, and beauty of Black breastfeeding. 

According to a news release sent to 22News, Black Breastfeeding week was birthed from the vision of three innovators in the field of maternal child health, Kimberly Seals Allers, Kiddada Green, and Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka, out of the need to raise awareness around the unique challenges and triumphs of being Black and breastfeeding.

  • August is National Breastfeeding Month
  • World Breastfeeding Week: August 1 -7
  • Native Breastfeeding Week: August 9 – 15
  • Spotlight on Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies: August 16 – 24
  • Black Breastfeeding Week: August 25 – 31

(Baystate Health) – Did you know that according to the World Health Organization, universal breastfeeding could save about 820,000 infant lives each year?

“We need to be able to bring the positive message to the community about the health benefits of breastfeeding for mother and baby, along with the fact that economically it is a much better option. Also, if a mother hasn’t breastfed her children, it is more difficult to encourage them to breastfeed their own children later on,” said Kimberly Congden, RN, MSN, IBCLC, program manager for Lactation Services and Parent Education at Baystate Medical Center.

August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. This year’s theme is “Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “breastfeeding matters.” It matters because:

  • Only 1 in 4 infants is exclusively breastfed as recommended by the time they are 6 months old.
  • Low rates of breastfeeding add more than $3 billion a year to medical costs for the mother and child in the United States.
  • Black infants are 15% less likely to have ever been breastfed than white infants.

Human milk is uniquely suited for infants. It’s easy to digest and contains many components that babies need in the early months of life. Factors in breast milk also protect infants from the risk of diarrhea, ear infections, and respiratory and other illnesses. Children who have been breastfed have less risk of becoming overweight or obese, even as adults. Also, research has shown that children who had been breastfed had slightly higher IQs.

The benefits also apply to breastfeeding mothers who are at lower risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and ovarian and breast cancers.

Many people expect that breastfeeding will come naturally and easily. While in some ways that may be true, it is a skill that you will master with practice and support. With time, patience, and education, breastfeeding can become a rewarding and enjoyable experience for both mom and baby.

In the birthing centers at Baystate Medical Center and Baystate Franklin Medical Center, lactation experts aim to make nursing a healthy and meaningful bonding experience.

Shirley Hamill, experienced Lactation Consultant and Nurse Manager of the Birthplace at Baystate Franklin Medical Center, shares her top tips for expectant and new moms:

1. Use the skin-to-skin technique

Hold your baby skin-to-skin immediately after birth. Let your baby explore and crawl to the breast in the first hour after birth. Even drops of colostrum (early breastmilk) every few hours will sustain your baby for the first day.

By the second night, you will begin to see increasing wakefulness. Your baby may “cluster” feed (a time when your baby wants lots of short feeds over a few hours, often at night) and may be fussy at times. Many mothers feel that cluster feeding happens because the breastmilk isn’t in yet and the baby is starving. Actually, it is just normal newborn behavior.

Skin-to-skin can help to calm your baby. Limit visitors and nap when your baby naps during the day, so you are rested for the nights of cluster feeding. Know that cluster feeding is temporary and lasts for only a couple of weeks.

2. Be consistent

Frequent attempts at breastfeeding are important. The more you nurse today, the more milk you’ll have in two days. Nursing frequently in the first few days will help to ensure a bountiful milk supply for the future. Even though you might not see much initially, you will help to make sure that you have plenty of milk when your baby needs it. Practice, patience, and persistence are the keys to a successful breastfeeding experience.

3. Create a relaxing environment

Relaxation helps milk to flow. Try to ensure that you are able to be comfortable and relaxed when you breastfeed to ensure the best possible milk supply. Make yourself a “nursing nest” when you go home. Find a comfortable spot in your home where you can set up pillows, blankets, a book, a water bottle, the TV remote, and whatever else you need to be settled in for a nursing session.

4. Remember the 3 P’s

If you start to become overwhelmed, keep it simple. Remember the 3 P’s, the keys to a successful breastfeeding experience.

  1. Practice: People are rarely good at a skill the very first time they try it
  2. Patience: Take a deep breath. Remember that people are mammals, and we are meant to do this. There is a learning curve for getting comfortable feeding your baby, but the system was designed to work and has functioned for mothers and babies for a very, very long time. Chances are it will function for you just the same if you trust your body and your baby
  3. Persistence: Keep trying. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Lactation specialists are there to help

5. Educate yourself and do what feels right to you

Learn all you can about breastfeeding while you are pregnant and take a prenatal breastfeeding class. You can learn the basics at Baystate Medical Center and Baystate Franklin Medical Center as well as online. OB nurses and providers will help you stay committed to learning techniques after birth.

Once your baby is born, you can join the free virtual breastfeeding groups at Wesson and The Birthplace. You can meet other breastfeeding mothers and ask a lactation consultant any new questions.

“Not everyone will be supportive of your feeding decisions. Remember that this is your body and your baby, and you have to feed in the way that is the most comfortable for you and your baby. Do what feels right to you,” Hamill said.

For more information on breastfeeding, visit https://www.baystatehealth.org/services/obgyn/support/breastfeeding or consult a lactation specialist in Springfield at 413-794-5312 or in Greenfield at 413-773-2359.

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