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“It’s Just For White People” And Other Myths About Breastfeeding

Mother and her son playing outside together“It’s Just For White People”
And Other Myths About Breastfeeding

“It’s just for white people…”  is one of the many myths that Kimberly Seals Allers has heard in her time as a breastfeeding proponent. The award-winning journalist and former senior editor at Essence magazine, is a trusted authority and consultant on the African-American motherhood experience. Not only that, she is the founder of a top-rated parenting website,, and the author of The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy, a pregnancy guidebook for black women.

Allers’ mission evolved to incorporate breastfeeding when she learned the shocking figures about infant mortality rate among black babies. They are nearly 2 1/2 times MORE  likely to die before their first birthday than their white counterparts, due in large part to premature and low birth weight.

Having nursed both of her children, Allers was a first-generation breastfeeder with no multi-generational support. She didn’t allow this lack of support stop her from doing what she felt was best for her children. She drove 13 miles to attend a breastfeeding support group at the hospital where she delivered her daughter.  This group was the saving grace of her breastfeeding experience, particularly in the early days when she needed help to keep her going.

Her focus is helping more African Americans learn about the benefits of breastfeeding. She began sharing her story and worked on breastfeeding campaigns on Mocha Manual; now she can be found attending speaking engagements and women’s empowerment conferences.  Partnering with major brands, Allers has widened her impact on the conversation of infant nutrition for African American mothers by founding Black Breastfeeding 360, “a comprehensive, multi-media content library of resources, perspectives and voices of the black breastfeeding experience.”

Allers works to dispel the myths of breastfeeding and to that end, shared with these five myths about breastfeeding among minority populations.

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If women look to celebrities for validation to breastfeed, they will find many models: Angelina Jolie, Gisele Bündchen, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Garner, and Kourtney Kardashian, to name a few. Allers was thrilled after the news that Beyonce nursed her own daughter, Blue Ivy. She says that Beyonce is highly influential and there aren’t many celebrities in the black community who serve as breastfeeding role models.

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Mocha fabulous, breast feeding awareness. 

The feeling that breastfeeding is distasteful or an improper use of breasts comes from how men view breasts as exclusively sexual objects. Certainly, this isn’t a problem only in the black community, but black women need the support of their partner—especially since so many are first generation breastfeeders.

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KSASurgeon General

Allers with Dr. Regina Benjamin, Surgeon General, in Atlanta
where she spoke about her Call to Action on Breastfeeding.

Public breastfeeding has gotten a bad rap. It is a myth that women are whipping out their breasts and exposing themselves for all to see. Women breastfeed in public and the vast majority don’t wish to make a spectacle of it. They throw a nursing cover over their shoulders or wearing clothes specifically designed for nursing mothers.

Allers is using her influence to change not only the thinking of the mothers, but of those supporting them and that includes the government. Her First Food Friendly campaign is aimed at getting state-wide involvement in changing laws (and enforcing those already in place) and perceptions as they pertain to breastfeeding.

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Mocha fabulous, breast feeding awareness. 

Breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It can hurt in the beginning. A new mom has to learn her baby and the baby needs to learn her. But she doesn’t have to do it alone. Hospitals usually have a nurse or lactation consultant whose job is to visit postnatal moms and work with them on all breastfeeding issues. After an initiation period of a few days, breastfeeding should not be painful. If it is, something may be wrong with how the baby is positioned or latched on to the breast. This is the time to reach out to a lactation consultant for help.

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Another common myth? That a nursing woman is the earth mother type: Afrocentric, very “granola”,  and wears head wraps. There is no “one kind” of black breastfeeding mother. They come from all across the spectrum. Allers points out that black women must stop creating myths in their own community about who breastfeeds and who doesn’t.

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Sometimes Allers feels discouraged because there’s so much to be done and it can be a little overwhelming, but she takes heart in a report released by the Centers for Disease Control in February. It states that the proportion of black mothers who started breastfeeding jumped from 47.7 percent in 2000 to 58.9 in 2008. Similarly, the proportion of black moms who were still breastfeeding after six months rose almost 15 percent—up to 30.1 percent in 2008 from 16.9 percent in 2000.

That’s good news for black women—and their babies.

So how did you feed your children when they were infants?  Were your children breastfed? Did you feel supported in your choice?  Let us know.

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