Breastfeeding Empowerment Zone (BFEZ)

The Breastfeeding Empowerment Zone (BFEZ) is a neighborhood initiative located in the Center for Health Equity’s Brownsville Neighborhood Health Action Center. It shows community members from neighborhoods with historically low rates of breastfeeding how they can best support nursing mothers and their families.

BFEZ works with faith-based leaders, small businesses, policymakers, mothers, partners and others to ensure that breastfeeding is an option for all families.

The initiative focuses on the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville communities in North/Central Brooklyn. Many women of color in these neighborhoods face complex cultural, social and historical barriers to breastfeeding. Early drop-off rate is higher in communities of color and high-poverty neighborhoods. Only about a quarter of both Latino women and Black women exclusively breastfeed for eight or more weeks, compared to 40% of White non-Latino women.

How We Support Breastfeeding in New York City

BFEZ has:

  • Advocated for new legislation that now requires lactation rooms in all City government buildings that serve the public. The law also supports the right of mothers to nurse in public.

  • Helped create more than 50 safe and comfortable spaces throughout North and Central Brooklyn where mothers can express breast milk or nurse their babies.

  • Established Brooklyn Borough Hall as New York City’s largest breastfeeding empowerment zone. It includes a lactation lounge for breastfeeding moms.

  • Trained more than 200 community residents and providers in how they can support breastfeeding families.

Ongoing Work

After receiving funds from a State grant, the initiative is planning to build off of the successes of the Brooklyn Breastfeeding Empowerment Zone by:

  • Developing breastfeeding-friendly community support networks for families from pregnancy through infancy.

  • Working to increase breastfeeding initiation, exclusivity and duration.

  • Advancing broad-based policy, system and environmental changes that protect and promote breastfeeding within community settings and businesses.

  • Advocating for breastfeeding-friendly child care, medical practices and worksites in Brownsville, East Harlem and East Tremont.

  • Providing peer-to-peer support through the implementation of Baby Cafes (breastfeeding support groups).

Baby Cafés USA

Breastfeeding mothers can also get support from Baby Cafés. These support groups promote community-based, drop-in breastfeeding sites. They offer high-quality lactation care for free.

Additional Resources

More Information