• Shannon Beacham

3 Books To Read Before You Breastfeed

Did you know August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month? And! The last week of the month, August 25th-31st is Black Breastfeeding Week. Last year I attended a breastfeeding movie screening "Chocolate Milk: The Documentary" and participated on the panel for a discussion afterward in Baltimore, MD, with The Bloom Collective. I also took part in a community breastfeeding support group at Community of Hope in DC. This year nursing support groups, movie screenings, and those big group nursing photo sessions are either on pause or will be virtual, which is different. By now, most of us have adjusted to this new way of socializing, even if we don't love it. I do always look forward to the pictures black women share on social media of their breastfeeding moments- and the stories. I will be resharing those posts in my stories and digging into memories for photos of my own. Perhaps another way to celebrate this year is by purchasing and reading these breastfeeding books by black authors.

The most important thing expecting parents can do to prepare for breastfeeding is to have confidence in themselves. Believe that you can do this! Positive self-talk, planning, and preparation can go a long way in building that confidence. These three books will provide expecting parents with comprehensive, accurate, AND culturally relevant breastfeeding information.

1. Lactation Management: Strategies for Working With African American Moms by Katherine Barber

"It is my hope that this will not just help the reader reach Black women and provide better lactation services, but will ultimately make a difference in the health of Black mothers and babies." -Lactation Management: Strategies for Working With African American Moms

I completed my first breastfeeding counselor training with the author, Katherine Barber, in Baltimore, MD. My first experience with understanding breastfeeding on the other side of things. Not as a breastfeeding woman, but as a health professional. This book is for health professionals working with black moms. However, I wouldn't write this off as for professionals only. Although if you are looking for a gift for a health professional in your life, then I guess this is a bonus. You are going to gain a better understanding of how black history (pre-slavery to today) has influenced our breastfeeding rates. Learn strategies for overcoming barriers, for example, being the only person you know in your family to breastfeed and getting to the bottom of myths such as breastmilk is not as sufficient formula. I was particularly interested in "Helping Breastfeeding Mothers Return to Work," as this is always coming up for breastfeeding clients.

2. Melanoid Breastmilk: The First Building Blocks to a Strong Family Foundation & Community by Ariane La'Nea Randolph

"Melanoid Breastmilk is a resource for families who are seeking to encourage, support, and guide their families in owning the choice to breastfeed." -Melanoid Breastmilk: The First Building Blocks to a Strong Family Foundation And Community

Much like raising children, breastfeeding is a community effort. Melanoid Breastmilk gets that. It emphasizes the importance of black men and family involvement in breastfeeding success. This book covers breastfeeding expectations, basics of breastfeeding, and black history as it has shaped our culture on breastfeeding. In one book, you can expect to understand and plan for the early weeks of breastfeeding, latch, positions, pumping, and cultural empowerment. My favorite section is "The Opportunity to Breastfeed Versus the Obligation to Breastfeed." You can also follow the author on Instagram @melanoidbreastmilk. I enjoy her Instagram Lives! My booklist has gotten so long from writing down all the books she mentions in her lives- which will be a blog post for another day.

3. Free to Breastfeed: Voices of Black Mothers by Jeanine Valrie Logan and Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka

"Within these pages are the tender inner thoughts of African-American women, with narratives, until now, unpublished." -Free to Breastfeed: Voices of Black Mothers

Free to Breastfeed: Voices of Black Mothers is a book of stories by black breastfeeding mothers. Just like reading birth stories, reading the stories of other breastfeeding women is a great way to prepare for breastfeeding. These stories will move you from a place of uncertainty to empowerment and knowing that you are not alone. In 2013, I took an all-black doula training at The Birth Well (in Baltimore, MD) facilitated by Nilajah Brown. She is also the owner of a lifestyle boutique, Flourish. It's dope ya'll. Anyway, you can read her story in Chapter One!

Getting to see families that I have a shared cultural experience with is my favorite part of Black Breastfeeding Week. Black women advocate for themselves in pregnancy and birth, support one another, and breastfeed their babies. Those images and messages are powerful as you begin to envision what breastfeeding will look like in your life.

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