There are persistent racial disparities in breastfeeding, with Black women breastfeeding at a lower rate than white women, and Black babies nine times more likely than white babies to be given formula in hospitals. These issues need to be understood in the context of historical context and systemic racism, rather than individual choices. For Black women, obstacles to breastfeeding began in slavery. Black women enslaved as wet nurses were forced to breastfeed white babies. These practices disrupted and undermined Black women’s ability to nurture their own children and lead to generational traumas resulting in current disparities. Today, while there are many known benefits to breastfeeding, Black women continue to experience systemic barriers to breastfeeding, such as workplace policies, inequitable paid and parental leave, bias and racism within the healthcare system, and pressure to use formula. To combat these structural inequities, Maven has partnered with Chocolate Milk Mommies, a community-based organization doing incredible work bridging the gap between the healthcare system and the community they serve.
Founded in Alabama in 2017, Chocolate Milk Mommies aims to address these disparities by implementing initiatives that support breastfeeding and increase access to healthcare resources and education in Black communities. Maven Clinic and March for Moms are thrilled to partner with Chocolate Milk Mommies as part of our new program, MPact for Families. Aimed at uplifting the work of community-based organizations advancing maternal health outcomes, the program provides financial support, mentoring, and skill support to amplify community-based organizations like Chocolate Milk Mommies to enhance their capacity to serve the populations that are core to our shared missions.
To learn more about Chocolate Milk Mommies and its mission, we talked with Tiffany Campbell, President of Chocolate Milk Mommies, Doula, and Certified Lactation Counselor.
What is the origin story of Chocolate Milk Mommies, and how did you get involved?
Chocolate Milk Mommies started because of a viral photoshoot of breastfeeding Black mothers in 2017. The original founders decided they wanted to make something that would have a lasting impact, so they created the nonprofit.
I wasn’t at the original photo shoot, as I was pregnant in 2017—I got involved later through social media. When I was pregnant, I was looking for breastfeeding groups online. I saw on a post on a Facebook group that women in the Birmingham area were starting up a group for lactation support. I joined the group, and I became a board member later that year.
Research shows that Black women are less likely to breastfeed than other racial groups—why do you think this is?
I think Black women are less likely to breastfeed because of our history. Enslaved Black women weren’t allowed to breastfeed their own children and were forced to breastfeed white people’s children instead. With the introduction of formula, a lot of Black women decided not to breastfeed. Formula is pushed on you—when you’re in a doctor’s office, they offer you formula. They send you samples in the mail and they even send you home with formula from the hospital, even if you say that you plan to breastfeed. Our grandparents will even tell us that we don’t need to breastfeed. If you don’t have familial and community support, it can be easy to just go to formula instead of breastfeeding.
What are the different programs Chocolate Milk Mommies offers?
Chocolate Milk Mommies offers virtual mommy meet-ups, breastfeeding assessments, and a private Facebook group for people on their lactation journey. We also have a teen outreach program and a parent outreach program for new moms.
How has COVID-19 impacted the organization?
When COVID hit, we couldn’t be in person for the meet-ups. Being virtual for some types of support are not the same as being in-person, especially when it comes to lactation work. There are a lot of things we can’t see through the screen when supporting people through their lactation journey. Now that we’re trying to get back into the community and going back to in-person events.
How is Chocolate Milk Mommies making a difference?
We offer emotional and lactation support to normalize breastfeeding. I always tell people, “Breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.” In the Black community, there are obstacles like systemic racism and the lack of community support for breastfeeding. We’re planning on growth and expansion, and looking for partners to help us continue to serve our community for free, as we have been doing. I think it’s important that we fill in these breastfeeding gaps so people have what they need to breastfeed.
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