LOUISVILLE, Ky. — According to a Center for Disease Control and Prevention report, Kentucky ranked 47th out of the 52 U.S. states and territories in breastfeeding rates in 2020, and Black mothers made up the smallest contribution to that number. 

What You Need To Know

  • Kentucky has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the country 

  • Returning to work after having a baby is one of the biggest breastfeeding deterrents 

  • Research show breastfeeding boosts babies’ immune systems and oxygen levels

  • Vendors from different background advocated for more Black mothers to breastfeed  

The Louisville Coalition for Black Maternal Health is celebrating Black Breastfeeding Week by spreading awareness about the importance of breastfeeding through Saturday's Chocolate Milk Walk.

One of the many vendors there was Monica Haywood, author of “Noey Loves Nursing."

“I think this is my daughter's favorite part of the book is that it really helps to fight germs for the little toddlers,” Haywood said. 

The inspiration for the book came from Haywood’s extended breastfeeding journey with her daughter.  

“I just realized there just wasn't a lot of diverse children's books about breastfeeding toddlers, and so I thought I add one to the markets,” Haywood said. “It's really a book that a mom and a toddler can read together and really it helps the tot to understand some of the benefits of breastfeeding and it's also a way to really advocate for more Black women breastfeeding.”

Haywood was one of many vendors at the community baby shower spreading awareness with hopes of encouraging more Black women to breastfeed. 

Lactation educator Shanice Nelson said the number of Black mothers who breastfeed falls way behind those of other races. 

“If we look at those numbers, it's about 30% are beginning breastfeeding and by the time baby is six months old, those numbers are dropping drastically,” Nelson said. 

The number one deterrent most often is mothers returning to work. 

“We have not yet reached the level where 100% of the work environment encourage and support breastfeeding by offering space for mothers to express milk when they feel the need to do so,” Nelson said. 

Haywood works in the technology field and returned to work after her baby and still breastfed. 

“I want you to know that you can do it. A lot of women feel like there are just so many barriers. You can have a business you can run your family, you can still breastfeed and do everything that any other woman can do,” Haywood said. 

Nelson, a mom of three, said education is another barrier. It wasn’t until her second child that she was able to exclusively breastfeed for 18 months. 

“The more that I share my story, people found a need for this space and so, I’m here to be the answer to the problem,” Nelson said. 

She started Anchored Beginnings Lactation Support to educate other moms on the mechanics of breastfeeding tools, available resources and the benefits of breastfeeding. 

She said breastfeeding stabilizes babies’ oxygen levels and has a positive impact on their immune systems. 

“I know a lot of moms are really concerned with and that's something that's really important in the time that we're living in, with the COVID-19 virus,” Nelson said. 

One of Haywood’s favorite benefits is the calming and comforting effect it has on children and of course, the bond it creates between the mother and child

Norton Healthcare Foundation, one of the event’s sponsors, is matching Black Breastfeeding Week donations up to $10,000 to support training, education, and financial assistance for Black breastfeeding families.