Breastfeeders are badasses, period — and that’s true no matter their skin color. But Black breastfeeders face particular stigmas, difficulties, and lack of access to the care and conversations that are so crucial in supporting this method that so many of us parents use to feed our babies. (By the way, if you choose to feed your baby formula also/instead, you’re a badass too.) And that’s why Black Breastfeeding Week, which begins today, is so important — and why publicly showcasing photos of Black mothers breastfeeding is so revolutionary.
“Ultimately, the objectification and devaluing of Black women’s bodies and the discrediting of our experiences as women, moms and even people, is deeply rooted in racism and socioeconomic inequality,” Thai Randolph, who co-created Black motherhood lifestyle brand Sugaberry along with Mixed-ish and Gossip Girl actor Tika Sumpter, tells SheKnows. “For many women in our community, breastfeeding is either viewed as a luxury that busy working moms can’t afford — or a stigma that we no longer want to embrace. There are also centuries-old stereotypes of Black women and our bodies portrayed as objects for others — for pleasure or service — that creates loaded context. But the truth is, it’s our natural right, and it’s time to reclaim that right and rewrite the narrative around Black women and breastfeeding.”
And Sumpter agrees, telling SheKnows that she and Randolph were inspired to create not only Sugaberry but also Milk & Suga, an action summit to honor Black Breastfeeding Week. “Because of the history of our country,” Sumpter explains, “we’ve been sexualized — we were literally wet nurses for white women’s babies. I think when we show pictures of us actually breastfeeding our own babies, society throws its own shame on Black women. It’s as if being delicate and providing natural nutrients for babies is only synonymous with white women. It’s our right over our bodies to do what we want with them. It’s revolutionary to breastfeed and unload that shame which was never ours to bear.”
In support of that very revolution, the women of Milk & Suga have come together to share 27 powerful, peaceful, beautiful, and badass portraits (by photographer DeWayne Rogers) of Black mothers breastfeeding, in the collection ahead.