Melek Speros, founder of Black Women Do VBAC and Birth Boot Camp instructor in Austin, TX, nurses her VBA2C baby.
At the recent birth roundup in Tarrant County, TX, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, author, IBCLC and book editor and publisher at Praeclarus Press. Her presentation table was filled with books about birth I had never read but knew needed to be shared with others. Dr. Kendall-Tackett was kind enough to send me on my way with a healthy stack of books for my reading pleasure.
The first one I chose to read was titled “Free To Breastfeed” by Jeanine Valrie Logan and Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka. I had recently done an article on breastfeeding resources and was able to find very few books dedicated specifically to supporting Black women in their breastfeeding journey.
Black women have some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the country. According to the CDC,
“Black infants consistently had the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration across all study years. Black mothers may need more, targeted support to start and continue breastfeeding.”
Not only are breastfeeding rates among Black women even lower than the dismal national average, infant mortality is worse. Knowing the positive impact that nursing at the breast can have on both infant health and the mother/baby dyad, we must find ways to encourage and support breastfeeding among all women, especially those who are the least likely to nurse. It seems as though there is a need for more literature in this area.
“Free to Breastfeed,” is a book full of information, positive stories, quotes and wisdom. Written by dozens of women and quoting dozens more, it combines the voices of many to help the individual succeed in breastfeeding.
I no longer breastfeed anybody and probably never will again. Nor am I a Black woman searching for support. Still, I loved this book. It was easy to read, peppered with inspiration, and filled with diverse voices of all different kinds of women. Those with cesareans, VBACs, natural births, single children, numerous babies, and all different kinds of lives told their stories.
I think we as women almost NEED to hear the birth stories of our peers. The diverse stories of birth help us understand the miraculous nature of something which is different for each yet shared by all mothers.
There is also a need for breastfeeding stories. Like birth stories, these tales of breastfeeding help us understand that each journey is as different as the woman on it and these differences, joys, hopes, and disappointments, can help us on our own way. Probably at no time have these stories of breastfeeding been as important as they are now. With increasing virtual connections but disappearing real ones and with generations in a row where the blessing of nursing was lost, books such as this are needed.
“Free to Breastfeed” is a wonderful book. While written by and for Black women in particular, it deserves a place in the library of any birthing/breastfeeding woman. It will have a place in my lending library where it can reach more women, tell more stories, and help more people than just me understand how differently each of us experience the dance of breastfeeding.
You can find “Free to Breastfeed” here, from Dr Kendall-Tackett’s publishing website (Preclarus Press). I wouldn’t limit it’s power to women of color; it is useful to anybody seeking healing or success in breastfeeding. An excellent addition to the library of any birth worker, I highly recommend this volume of knowledge and inspiration.