When Jennifer Miller experienced breastfeeding challenges with her son, she searched for support in likely places, starting with a lactation counselor and her close family. When she wasn’t getting the answers she needed, she decided to seek advice online. “Once I saw that this is where I got most of my help from, from Facebook friends, I thought, Why not make this a community support group?

One of those friends was Angel Warren, who had the idea for a photo shoot designed to celebrate breastfeeding in the black community. “There is an association many generations-strong with slavery and wet nursing, and in the black community we are often taught that formula is the better option, the option associated with wealth,” shares Miller, who serves as this year’s Board President. The attention-getting photo of nine women breastfeeding their babies went viral, and Chocolate Milk Mommies was officially created. Miller and Rauslyn Adams began a community group, and CMM gained rapid recognition. Their mission? To provide lactation support for black mothers by providing the resources they need to initiate and continue their breastfeeding journey. Their strategy started with a photo shoot designed to celebrate breastfeeding in the black community. Chocolate Milk Mommies has served hundreds through online support and hundreds more through home visits, community baby showers and ‘Mommy Meet Ups’.

cmm2Creating a community of support has been the bastion for CMM, but the founders focus their core messaging around the health benefits of breastfeeding. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African American mothers have the lowest rate of breastfeeding initiation and duration. CMM addresses that disparity by providing evidence-based health information through their programs, and practical solutions to barriers black mothers may experience, like access to hospital-grade breast pumps. And it seems to be working—the number of women and families seeking CMM services has dramatically increased each year since the organization was established in 2017.

CMM’s focus on improving reproductive health with such a community-building approach resulted in a $20,000 Community Health Innovation Award (CHIA) in December. CHIA is an annual grant competition that encourages 501 (c)(3) organizations to think boldly and creatively about solutions to “on the ground” health challenges our communities face. The funding from CHIA will provide more home visits and hospital grade breast pump rentals to teach and support mothers and their family members. When Miller found out that CMM had been awarded the CHIA funding? “Just tears. We want black mothers to know we’re here to help them and the funding means we can help even more moms.” CMM receiving their CHIA grant check

Learn more about Chocolate Milk Mommies by visiting their Facebook page, and find out more on how community engagement plays a vital role in the mission of the CCTS.