Breastfeeding Empowerment Zone (BFEZ)

We are a neighborhood initiative based out of the Center for Health Equity’s Brownsville Neighborhood Health Action Center that trains and empowers community members in North and Central Brooklyn to support breastfeeding parents and families. By working with faith-based leaders, small businesses, policy makers, mothers, partners and others, we’re helping to ensure that breastfeeding becomes the norm for all families. Funded by the Kellogg Foundation, BFEZ focuses on Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville in North/Central Brooklyn, two neighborhoods with historically low breastfeeding rates.

Download our latest report: Feeding Our Future: Breastfeeding Realities Among North and Central Brooklyn Women and Their Babies (PDF).

Get Involved

If you would like to help increase the number of breastfeeding-friendly spaces in Brooklyn, call us at (718) 637-5227.

Pregnant women and new moms are also encouraged to sign up for Mobile Milk—a texting service that provides breastfeeding tips. Text MILK to 877877 to get started. Dial 311 for more breastfeeding resources.

We also recommend that you become familiar with the New York State Breastfeeding Mothers’ Bill of Rights (PDF) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Break Time for Nursing Mothers law that requires employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child. Providers are welcome to take a look at our Breastfeeding Action Kit.    

Barriers to Breastfeeding

  • Breastfeeding has many benefits for babies and mothers; however, not all of us have equitable opportunities to breastfeed.
  • In particular, many women of color in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville face complex cultural, social and historical barriers to breastfeeding.
  • 88.2 % of NYC women initiated breastfeeding, but only 29.6% exclusively breastfed for eight weeks or more.
  • Drop-off is most severe in communities of color and high-poverty neighborhoods.
  • 2010 PRAMS data shows that only 24.5 percent of Black non-Latino women and 25.1 percent of Latino women exclusively breastfeed for eight or more weeks, compared to 40.1 percent of White non-Latino women.

BFEZ Impact

  • New York City recently passed legislation that mandates the creation of lactation rooms in all city agency buildings that serve the public and upholds city and state legislation that supports the right of mothers to nurse in public.
  • Through partnerships with local government, health, housing, economic development, faith-based, and other groups, we’ve helped to establish 56 safe and comfortable spaces throughout the North and Central Brooklyn where moms can express breast milk or nurse their babies.
  • BFEZ helped declare Brooklyn Borough Hall as New York City’s largest breastfeeding empowerment zone – with a lactation lounge for breastfeeding moms.
  • Our mission was incorporated into the Family-Friendly Brooklyn Initiative, a borough-wide initiative of Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams to support families.
  • BFEZ collaborated with doulas, Certified Lactation Counselors (CLC), and Community Breastfeeding Educators to train 200+ community residents and providers to support breastfeeding families.
  • Center for Health Equity is awarded the NYSDOH funded Creating Breastfeeding Friendly Communities grant to build off of the successes of the Brooklyn Breastfeeding Empowerment Zone. Over the next five years to the NYC CBFC will establish Breastfeeding Friendly community support networks for families from pregnancy through infancy to increase breastfeeding initiation, exclusivity and duration. CBFC in partnership with breastfeeding and other neighborhood coalitions and movements will advance broad-based policy, system and environmental changes that protect and promote breastfeeding within community settings and businesses.
    • NYC CBFC will target Neighborhood Health Action Center Communities in Brownsville, East Harlem and East Tremont to create Breastfeeding Friendly, Childcare, medical practices and Worksites, while providing peer to peer support through the implementation of Baby Cafes® (breastfeeding support groups).