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The Black History They Forgot: Black Woman and Breast Feeding

Slavery... we all know about it and what it was. The main purpose was having slaves work long hours in the heat on plantations in place of their “owners.” They were forced to work for no pay and were made to do unspeakable things without question. And if they didn’t do as they were told? Well, I recently learned about “buck breaking” but there was also the well known lashes from a whip.

While there is a lot of things we commonly know about slavery, there is so much more that isn’t taught to us about the time before the 13th amendment. One thing that was interesting to me was that of enslaved black mothers being forced to breast feed the child ren of their masters. The facts amazed me.

In the 17th century, there were limited options for feeding babies unlike today where we can go in a supermarket and purchase formula in bulk. Instead of white women nurturing their own kids, they would make their enslaved women who were recent mothers themselves do it instead. Why? Because white women considered breastfeeding demeaning.

The process and results were astonishing. Right after a white woman would give birth to a child, enslaved women, also referred to as wet nurses, were forced to breastfeed the baby.

The wet nurse practice became popular when it was noticed that the lives of children of white families were being lost because of illness. This all while little ones of slaves were growing healthy and strong. Knowing this made owners decide to force black mothers to use their breast milk for the white children instead of their own so their master’s newborns could survive.

They were only allowed to feed their own children every few weeks. Black babies were unable to be properly fed because of this and it caused high rates of death among the enslaved children communities.

Knowing this should remind you of your value each day. Something as small as breast milk was taken from us because it made us better. Never stop learning about the culture and where we came from so we know where we need to go.

 What did you think about the article? Were you as shocked as much as I was?


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