When It Comes To Breastfeeding, Do Black Men Have Our Backs?
A Lesson from Nick Cannon: Taking a Stand for Breastfeeding
By Kimberly Seals Allers
I’ve never been a huge fan of Nick Cannon the comedian or Nick Cannon the actor. But Nick Cannon the Dad, I’m really starting to like. He recently scored super brownie points with me, when he came out in defense of accusations that his wife, Mariah Carey, was abusing alcohol while breastfeeding. Someone at the hospital even called child protective services. Turns out, as Nick explained, one of the nurses suggested a few sips of Guinness might help the milk come in a bit faster and when Mariah tried it, well… the rest is tabloid history.
The pitfalls of celebrity motherhood aside, women in general, and women of color in particular face all sorts of obstacles in their choices around breastfeeding, and adding fear of a CPS visit doesn’t help. More importantly, support from our men is critical. Our community is based on kinship, and black women are greatly influenced by their peers, which includes a husband, boyfriend, grandmother, friend or other relative.
A STUDY BY BRAVADO shows that women in general are more likely to breastfeed if the man in our life supports it.
When asked to choose the person who had the most important influence in her life as a nursing mom, almost three times as many women selected their partner (54 percent) over their mothers (21 percent), even if their mother had breastfeeding experience.
Approximately 70 percent of mothers said their partner’s support is extremely important to their overall confidence as a new mom, and their overall well-being as a nursing mother.
This is particularly true in the black community, where we are more likely to be first-generation breastfeeders and not have the deep support from our own mothers and grandmothers. That’s when it’s even more important that our men step up to the plate.
In my work advocating for more and longer breastfeeding among African American women, I’ve heard all sorts of things from women about why they don’t breastfeed, but the most striking are those about their men and their discomfort about breastfeeding. Men who thought breastfeeding was “nasty” or couldn’t separate the sexual nature of the breast with its actual feeding purpose.
Whatever the reasons, the truth is: men matter
There’s a lot of education that needs to be done with black men on the benefits of breastfeeding and learning how to be supportive. There’s a big difference between a man who agrees that his partner should breastfeed and one that actually creates an environment for her success.
But that’s what every woman of color deserves. That’s what our newborns need and deserve for their optimal health. And that’s my goal for all black fathers—celebrity or not.