Black Breastfeeding Week, An Interview with Deidra Washington, IBCLC

Black Mom Breastfeeding

For Black Breastfeeding Week, we are highlighting one of our favorite lactation counselors. In addition to having her own private practice, Deidra is a member of the Buddha Belly team supporting clients with breastfeeding counseling. We are so grateful to have her on our team sharing her wisdom and experience.

1. Tell us about your personal breastfeeding story.

My breastfeeding journey started on January 2, 2018 late at night, around 10:00 pm. I gave birth at the Labor of Love Birthing Center in Tampa. It was a water birth.  It felt very natural to me to bring my baby to the breast for the first time. I don’t know if it was because I have taught so many breastfeeding classes and demonstrated nursing positions countless times, or if it was my mommy instincts really kicking in. Maybe it was both!

I continued to feed my baby girl around the clock eagerly anticipating the colostrum phase to transition and become mature milk.

Just like any other first time parent, I questioned whether my body was going to do the thing that it was supposed to do.

Then on the 3rd day, just like all of the literature suggests I felt the volume of milk being created in my breast. It was fascinating. 

My baby was able to latch and get milk. However, I was having some nipple soreness that I knew was a sign that we needed assistance. I had a friend and colleague standing by if and when I needed her help. She came to my house and watched us nurse. She gave simple suggestions on how to improve our position and tricks to help my baby maintain a wide mouth. This alleviated the soreness within 24 hours. I was grateful for the help I received.

I went on to nurse my first baby for 18 months. In fact, I was still nursing for the first 3 months of my pregnancy with my 2nd baby!

black mom breastfeeding

My second daughter was born in December 2019 and I also latched her a few minutes after delivery. Everything seemed normal until she was not gaining the expected amount of weight by the two week checkup. She was a large baby at birth. Sometimes larger babies take a little longer to get back to their birth weight. I understood that babies nurse a lot in the beginning. I was prepared to follow the feeding cues and breastfeed on demand. Something felt off though. My baby seemed insatiable. So I called my lactation counselor friend to pay us a visit. She did an oral assessment and had a suspicion that my baby had a tongue tie. My friend suggested that I go to a pediatric dentist for an evaluation. The dentist did diagnose the tongue tie. We were able to get it revised.

Not gonna lie, the first 24 hours after a tongue tie revision is rough.

I followed the doctor’s suggestions by doing the tongue stretches with my baby that are necessary after a revision. And, we were on the right track within 2-3 weeks after the procedure. It was a quick and easy procedure, but took some time to get in a good groove. In my case, my baby was not able to transfer milk effectively. Therefore she wanted to be latched on several hours at a time with no breaks. After the revision, my baby could get her fill of milk and gave me time between feedings to rest and enjoy being a mommy of 2 little girls. We went on to nurse for 20 months!

2. What is Black Breastfeeding week all about and why is it important?

Black Breastfeeding Week is always celebrated during the last week of August. It was created by three black women, Kimberly Seals Allers, Kiddada Green and Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka, to bring awareness to the disparities in breastfeeding among black lactating people compared to their white counterparts.

Black Breastfeeding Week aims to end the gaping racial disparity in breastfeeding rates while also encouraging diversity in the lactation field.

We are reminded of the US history of black enslaved people forced to wet nurse their slave master’s children as a priority to the detriment of their own children. Understanding this history and other contributing factors helps us to find solutions to these disparities and the high black infant/maternal mortality rates. This week reminds us that black folks DO in fact breastfeed when supported with education, competent lactation professionals, and legislation. When it comes to health and nutrition, I feel that higher breastfeeding rates can be the great health equalizer transcending race, economic status and education level. 

For far too long, black mothers have not been given the tools, resources and support to help them breastfeed their infants. By focusing on this issue, we can help bring about a change. Learn more here: Top Five Reasons We Need a Black Breastfeeding Week.

3. What drove you to become an International Board Certified Lactation Counselor as your career?

In the beginning of my career I worked as a nutritionist for the Florida WIC program. It always made perfect sense to me that human babies should drink human milk as their first food. When we take a look at all other mammals, there is no question what they should eat.

I began seeing the same handful of issues that families were facing with getting started feeding breast milk to their babies. The main ones being: “breastfeeding hurts”, “I don’t make enough milk for my baby”, “I can’t breastfeed because I have to go back to work”, and “no one else in my family breastfed and we all turned out fine.” I love finding creative ways to explain lactation to families and helping them find how it can work in their lives.  

Deidra Washington, IBCLC

Another driving factor is that there are very few IBCLCs of color in the profession.

It is important for me to bring black representation to lactation because research shows that receiving care from providers that look like you, yields better health outcomes.

Being a black woman, I feel it’s important to share my knowledge and experience with people who need my help.

4. What is your favorite part of providing lactation support?

No doubt my favorite part is empowering women. I always remind them of the miracle that their body just performed, carrying a life, birthing a life and now continuing to provide nourishment to this tiny life. I understand the importance of support during this vulnerable time especially when I reflect back to my personal experience.

Without support from my family, friends, IBCLCs, and my employer I would not have been successful in reaching my breastfeeding goals. Providing lactation support is my contribution to the world to help as many babies get as much breast milk as possible, and to help as many moms realize their innate body wisdom and power. 

Deidra hosts our monthly breastfeeding support group, monthly breastfeeding class and is available for in-home breastfeeding counseling visits. Contact us for help with your breastfeeding goals!

About Christie Collbran

Christie believes in helping women recognize their own inner wisdom, strength and power. Having served as President of the Tampa Bay Birth Network for six years and with ten years serving families as a birth doula, she has a reputation for leadership, dedication and compassion. A childbirth educator, certified lactation counselor as well as a certified doula, she makes a point of ensuring mothers and their partners understand all their birthing options and what to expect on their journey.> keep reading