By Je’Don Holloway Talley
For the Birmingham Times
Elyce Burton knows the statistics and stigmas when it comes to black women and breastfeeding.
African American mothers have the lowest rate of breastfeeding initiation and duration. The percentage of women who initiated breastfeeding was 64.3 percent for African Americans, 81.5 percent for whites, and 81.9 percent for Latinas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Burton is a founding member of Chocolate Milk Mommies (CMM), a group founded in 2017 that serves as a sisterhood offering community support and educational resources that promote the benefits of breastfeeding and breast milk for both mother and child.
“We hope to raise breastfeeding rates in our community, as well as inform and educate our community about safe birth and postpartum practices,” said Burton, 24, a former Birmingham resident who now lives in San Diego, Calif., where her husband is currently stationed.
Before leaving for the West Coast, she helped grow CMM, which believes “Breastfeeding is a mother’s choice. It’s not dirty [or] shameful, and [it] should … be done in a way that reflects [the comfort levels] of mommy and baby.”
“Before I moved, I usually helped with setups, … usually [assisting] with the East Lake monthly meet-ups,” Burton said of her activities with the group, which meets the first Monday of each month at University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Medical West in Bessemer and every second Monday of each month at East Lake United Methodist Church; gatherings at both locations begin at 5 p.m.
While in Birmingham, Burton did “postpartum visits with a few moms in the area to help them in general. I’ve made a few hospital visits, too.”
“The ladies [of CMM] have inspired me to join the birthing world and really set my eyes on our long-term goals,” she said, adding that breastfeeding can be looked at as a holistic practice.
“It definitely made a difference in my child’s health. It was so convenient, cost effective, and holistic, and actually changed my views on myself and the human body. It also made my family more holistic, … [and] my daughter is flourishing after months of breastfeeding.”
Burton and her husband, Quinton, have a 22-month-old daughter, Emberlynn, and CMM has helped change the narrative of parenting for the couple.
“I saw dope black women doing dope things and wanted to join because every support group I looked at had few black women,” she said. “When we decided to make CMM a local support group, I was game because we definitely needed this in our community. We have to start changing that narrative that black women don’t breastfeed or practice holistic care and living in the western world. … [We didn’t have] resources for [learning holistic nurturing], so we have to become that resource.”
Learn more about CMM on Facebook and Instagram @ChocolateMilkMommies.
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