Indigenous Milk Medicine Week
August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month and August 8 – 14 is Indigenous Milk Medicine Week, a celebration of the healing power of those who breastfeed or chestfeed. During this month, we’re highlighting resources and sharing stories about Native breastfeeding/chestfeeding and lactation.
Indigenous Milk Medicine Week was created to increase support and resources, promote healing and wellness, and to provide stories and knowledge to the limited data regarding Native breastfeeding/chestfeeding and lactation.
The theme for the fourth annual Indigenous Milk Medicine Week.is “Strengthening Our Traditions From Birth and Beyond.” Events include a Virtual 5k, sunrise ceremonies, support circles and movement sessions for breast/chest feeders and parents. Stay tuned for more details by following @IndigenousMilkMedicineWeek on Instagram and Facebook.
This year’s IMMW featured artist is Kawahine Danner, a Iñupiaq/Native Hawaiian artist. She was born and raised in Utqiagvik, Alaska and later moved to her Hawaiian homelands of Kauai, Hawaii where she discovered her passion for art and culture. She currently creates visual pieces on Iñupiaq land and collaborates with other Indigenous artists and advocates across the country.
Native American children are breastfed at lower rates than the United States average. According to the CDC, 84.1% of all infants in the United States ever breastfeed, while only 80.7% of Native infants ever breastfeed. By six months of age, this disparity widens: only 19.6% of Native infants are exclusively breastfed, lower than the United States average of 25.6%.
The ongoing effects of historical trauma and structural barriers to accessing lactation support have affected breastfeeding rates. Family and community bonds were interrupted by the United States government’s forced relocation and assimilation programs, reducing the community’s ability to pass down traditions like breastfeeding. There are also few Native American lactation professionals in the United States, and other healthcare professionals are often more focused on issues like substance abuse than on lactation.
In celebration of Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and in the wake of the recent baby formula shortage, we’ve put together this list of local and national resources:
- New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force
- New Mexico WIC Nursing Resources
- New Mexico WIC resource page for the infant formula shortage
- TWU’s Yiya Vi Kagingdi Doula Project
- Breastfeeding Toolkit from Indian Health Service
- Breastfeeding for Working Women: Breastfeeding in the American Indian Worksite
- Navajo Breastfeeding Coalition
- La Leche League national directory of parent volunteers who offer breastfeeding support