It’s National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and a new story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal about the benefits of this practice cites the unique authority of IATP Food and Community Fellow Kimberly Seals Allers

Research has shown an unsettling gap in breastfeeding rates between African American mothers and women of other races, and Allers is working to turn that statistic around. Some researchers attribute this, at least in part, to the reality of employment for black women; they’re more likely to return to work sooner after having a child, and less likely to have a breastfeeding-friendly workplace.

Allers agrees but reminds us not to underestimate the power of cultural and historical factors. She explains that even today, African Americans can carry strong, often unconscious resistance to phenomena historically associated with slavery.  In this case, one need look no further than the common practice of forcing slaves into the role of wetnurse, even if that meant denying them the chance to breastfeed their own babies. 

That kind of traumatic association, she says, can persist through generations even when its source is forgotten. Though demographic research on breastfeeding has its value, these deeper cultural factors could be a vital missing piece of the conversation.

You can find Allers’s blog for American American moms and moms-to-be at www.MochaManual.com.