First Food Equity | A Shared Responsibility

Even though it’s legal to breastfeed in public in all 50 states, there are countless instances of people being asked to leave or cover up – or even having the police called – while nursing. Many of the impacted families are families of color – specifically, undocumented families, immigrant families, and families who have been racialized and criminalized and have every reason to avoid police contact. We are in communication with all the first responders in Durham about how they can better support families in Durham, but the threat of police interaction for breastfeeding in public is real. We would highlight that a parent feeding their infant with a bottle is never asked to leave a public space. We strongly believe that both families are providing life-sustaining food to their infants and should be treated the same in public spaces.

We also celebrate every family, regardless of how they feed their babies and invite ongoing conversation. However, there is a difference between using formula and advertising formula. Standing against formula advertising is a racial and food justice issue. There is a shamefully long global and national history of advertising formula to Black, poor, and other marginalized communities at the detriment of infant health. If you have not heard the story of the Fultz sisters and how formula used Black babies to sell their product, we encourage you to read the links. Formula advertising is pervasive and persuasive, and there is a lot of evidence to support that it can undermine breastfeeding. The WHO and other institutions have tried to mitigate the effects of formula advertising (again, different from the necessary use of formula) by providing guidelines for organizations like ours and Breastfeeding Family Friendly Communities that include asking businesses not to advertise formula (they may sell formula, just can’t advertise it). 

Ultimately, Breastfeed Durham exists because no family in this country gets enough support.

Though infant feeding is often framed as a “choice,” there is no real choice when there is no federal paid time off, no universal and affordable/free childcare, no living wage requirements, and inequitable lactation support. If you are a parent in Durham, we support you and we are walking this journey with you.

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