When Alicia, a Black mom in southeast Michigan, had her daughter, she already knew she would breastfeed. Breastfeeding started out well but when she moved to a different hospital room, her baby stopped breastfeeding. She was discharged before she could meet with a lactation specialist who helps mothers with breastfeeding. She was very frustrated. “If there are problems, the docs will suggest formula. They won’t work with you on your choice to breastfeed. They don’t work with you where you are,” says Alicia.
“Unfortunately, it happens all the time,” says Anjanette (AJ) Davenport Hatter, LMSW, Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC), and founding executive director of Your goodVillage Collective®, a nonprofit organization she formed in 2018 that works to improve health outcomes for Black families.
In 2019, Hatter started the Espresso Milk Collective™ through a partnership between the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan (NKFM), the NKFM’s REACH team, and Your goodVillage Collective. Held over Zoom, the Espresso Milk Collective helps Black breastfeeding families continue their breastfeeding journey, ask questions, learn from each other, and not feel isolated. Espresso encourages pregnant women and their families to join before the baby is born, so that they can learn about implicit bias, self-care, and how to advocate for their choice to breastfeed. “The group is a safe space for Black families to navigate their breastfeeding experience,” explains Hatter. “This includes dads, support partners, grandparents and great-grandparents. Other environments may not be as safe or as nurturing.”
Alicia joined the Espresso Collective. “The group was very supportive,” she says. “The best part was sharing our areas of struggle and knowing that I wasn’t alone.” She continued to breastfeed her daughter for 13 months and later became one of the Espresso’s volunteer facilitators.
In 2020, the US Dept of Health and Human Services recommended breastfeeding as the best source of nutrition for all babies. “For low birthweight babies, meaning under 5.8 pounds, and pre-term babies born before 37 weeks, breastfeeding increases their chance of survival and thriving,” states Hatter.
The most compelling reason for promoting breastfeeding in Michigan, especially in Wayne County, is the high black infant death rate. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ 2020 data for Wayne County (not including the city of Detroit), of the 6.5% of babies who died in their first year, 11.8% were Black and 5.1% were white. In the City of Westland, of the 9% of babies who died, 20.2% were Black and 4% were white.
To decrease these deaths, Black moms and babies need the extra boost in nutrition and overall health that they can get from breastfeeding. The CDC states that babies who are breastfed are less likely to be overweight, get sick or die of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Moms who breastfeed have a reduced risk of chronic disease, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease or certain cancers.
The Espresso Milk Collective™ welcomes pregnant women, new moms and currently breastfeeding families to the group. Participation is no cost but requires a device with internet access. Registration is required and the meeting link is sent to those who register. The group meets on the 2nd Wednesday of each month from 6 to 7 pm. Text Village to 63566 for Zoom registration. For questions, email email@example.com or call 888-357-2366.