To raise awareness about maternal health and mortality in African American communities, as well as to address the low rates of breastfeeding among African American mothers, the premier distribution of Chocolate Milk: The Documentary is playing in over 200 communities. As this week is also Black Breastfeeding week, we want to highlight some key points of this critical movement.
In 2014, to address the low rates of breastfeeding among African American women, public health advocate Elizabeth Bayne debuted Chocolate Milk: The Documentary.
It was a web series that was initially sponsored by the African American Breastfeeding Project, and it began with several vignettes of black women describing their breastfeeding experiences. The food documentary was initially intended to explore motherhood for black mothers, as well as the history of African American breastfeeding. As there’s currently an epidemic of poor maternal health rates in the African American community, Bayne, who is also the director, hopes the distribution in over 200 communities in America also brings about awareness to address better health for mamas and babies.
Current rates of breastfeeding for African American mothers are only 64.9%, which pales in comparison to those of White mothers (85.9%) and Hispanic mothers (84.6%). Bayne believes that while her audience may have originally been mothers, she learned that increasing maternal health and better breastfeeding rates for African American mothers also was a matter of creating communities that supported the concept. This means that it’s tremendously important that health providers, employers, families and the general public not only know about the differences but work to eliminate them for better health of African American babies and mothers.
Chocolate Milk: The Documentary web-series profiled lactation experts and black mothers has already been viewed over 400,000 times and screened at dozens of conferences to emphasize the issues and what we can do. In 2018, the W.K. Kellog Foundation added funding to complete Bayne’s initial launch and now the 90-minute feature-documentary version explores black mothers breastfeeding in the stories and experiences of three women: a first-time mom, a WIC lactation educator and a third-generation midwife. Tami is the first-time mother who wants to breastfeed, but has no family history of breastfeeding and faces a learning curve about what it entails.
Lydia offers support for mothers at a local WIC center but dreams of giving more advanced care as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Unfortunately, the expensive new exam prerequisites force her to put that dream off, as it does for many women who would like to help mamas everywhere with better breastfeeding education.
It also features Racha, a third-generation homebirth midwife, who supports breastfeeding and natural birth as one and the same, but faces discrimination both in and outside her own community as the first black birth center in Los Angeles.
Bayne says 253 screenings were scheduled during August, which is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and she hopes that more people view it and are moved to action and support.
They are no longer taking requests for screenings in August, but are considering fall screenings and if you believe your community can be involved, you can contact them here.