The choice of how to feed your baby is entirely personal, and should be made without judgment from others.
But if you're a black woman in the United States and you choose to breastfeed your baby, you may face additional hurdles to success. The latest Centers for Disease Control statistics show that significantly fewer black mothers initiate breastfeeding (64%) than do white mothers (82%). And those who do start, do it for significantly less time.
The reason for these disparities can stem from a variety of systemic causes, from lack of support from family and healthcare professionals, to lack of access to lactation resources and to the need to return to work earlier.
When Schenectady county resident Nikita Hardy had her first child, she says she felt that the lack of support and information she experienced caused her to stop breastfeeding far earlier than she wanted to. After she was more successful with her second child, she was inspired to start the Capital Region Black Breastfeeding Empowerment Network, which helps connect women with local resources and support to help them on their breastfeeding journey.
"We're all moms first," Hardy says of the group's mission. "And we have our experiences, whether good or bad, and we can share that, we can learn from each other. So that a new mom, or a mom that's returning again to motherhood, will be able to navigate all these issues."
Hardy has been working with partners around the community to organize events and increase awareness since 2017. The Empowerment Network most recently held a summit during National Black Breastfeeding Week in August.
"That's what the network is about," Hardy says. "For us to support each other, strengthen our community and just band together."