As much as hot topics in parenthood die off and are replaced with newer, more exciting issues to debate, there’s one that will always remain a source of impassioned discussion: breastfeeding. Especially the mother’s right to feed her baby wherever she needs to. Hopefully the banishment of moms to bathrooms or their cars will be over in the near future, and women everywhere will be able to breastfeed in public without judgment.
After all, babies get hungry in public — it’s kind of unavoidable. And while women everywhere need support on this often challenging breastfeeding journey, black women often need it the most. But the support group Chocolate Milk Mommies of Birmingham is trying to change that narrative once and for all.
“Breastfeeding is considered taboo in our community,” says Angel Warren, mom and member of the group. And it’s for that very reason that the hashtag #BlackWomenDoBreastfeed was first created. It’s also why Black Breastfeeding Week was born, and now runs during the last week in National Breastfeeding Month every August. Because black moms need a different conversation, different types of support, and a platform that is unique to their needs as they fight negativity within their community.
Warren thought that celebrating the beauty of motherhood and the natural act of feeding our babies would be best done through a photo shoot. That’s when Lakisha Cohill, photographer and founder of H & C INC, got involved. The end result? A breathtaking photo shoot of nine women, dressed in flowing black dresses and crowns, nursing their babies against a natural outdoor landscape. Together, they hoped to make a statement that mothers can and should feed their child wherever and however they so choose.
“We wanted to do something to capture the essence of how natural breastfeeding is,” says 26-year old Charity Moore, who participated in the photo shoot. “We used crowns to remind each other that we are queens and to keep one another lifted. We chose to come together to normalize breastfeeding. And it’ll never be ‘normal,’ unless it’s seen.”
So true. The more something is seen, the more it becomes the norm and less of something to hide or feel ashamed of. And that’s exactly what Cohill and these nine women aim to achieve.
“Breastfeeding is a mother’s choice,” Cohill tells Babble. “It’s not dirty, nor shameful and should only be done in a way that reflects mommy and baby’s comfort levels. For some moms, breastfeeding looks like this. For others, they may choose to cover themselves. And some moms may choose not to breastfeed at all. All of which are perfectly okay. You are your baby’s No. 1 advocate! The law protects your decision to breastfeed HOWEVER you see fit.”
(Yes. Yes. YES. Louder for the people in the back, please!)
So far, their message is working. “We’ve received more women wanting to join our local group, participate in play dates and upcoming photo shoots,” Cohill tells Babble. Because that’s what happens when women support each other and lift each other up.
Cohill also says the response has been overwhelmingly positive, but of course, there has been some negativity. How are these beautiful women responding to the haters? Charity Moore responds by saying, “Did we take these photos for attention? We absolutely did, because we have to erase the stigma amongst the black community as it relates to breastfeeding.”
These women want you to see them. They want you to look at this beautiful, natural act and celebrate it with them. And accept that it’s becoming more and more normal to breastfeed in public. The Chocolate Milk Mommies have now conducted two photo shoots, both of which make an assertive statement about this part of motherhood. But I’ll bet there are more in their future, as they continue to campaign for mothers’ rights. And I for one can’t wait to see them.