"To help provide more diversity in the lactation field, I wanted to help alleviate the financial barriers," Krystal Nicole Duhaney tells PEOPLE

By Jen Juneau and Anya Leon
August 28, 2020 03:30 PM
Advertisement
Krystal Duhaney and her kids
Troy Harvey for Milky Mama

Krystal Nicole Duhaney is contributing to the health of Black moms and babies in a huge way.

The registered nurse, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and breastfeeding mother of two started Milky Mama in 2015, offering lactation-supporting products like cookies and herbal supplements to help other moms with their milk supply.

And now, in observance of Black Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month, Duhaney is introducing the Milky Mama Scholarship Fund, "which was created to increase the diversity and representation in the lactation field by increasing the number of Black IBCLCs," according to Milky Mama's website.

"The scholarship fund will pay for the certification courses and exam fees for award recipients," the website continues, adding that "100 percent of sales from Aug. 25, 2020 will be placed directly into the fund."

"As a Black woman and breastfeeding advocate, I am thrilled that we have started the Milky Mama Scholarship Fund," Duhaney says in a press release. "Having an army of new Black Certified Lactation Consultants will surely help new Black moms successfully navigate their breastfeeding journey AND, God willing, save babies' lives."

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Krystal Duhaney and her baby
courtesy Milky Mama

Of her inspiration behind the scholarship (and her career path), Duhaney tells PEOPLE, "As a Black breastfeeding mother, I struggled to breastfeed and didn't receive support or assistance from my healthcare provider."

"I also struggled to find a lactation consultant that understood the unique struggles and racial disparities that Black women experienced in both breastfeeding and healthcare," she explains. "Determined to continue breastfeeding, I began to educate myself on the ways to support my own breastfeeding journey and realized that so many other women shared the same experience I did."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "fewer non-Hispanic Black infants (73.7 percent) are ever breastfed compared with non-Hispanic White infants (86.7 percent) and Hispanic infants (84.1 percent)," as of August 2020.

Krystal Duhaney
courtesy Milky Mama

RELATED VIDEO: Roselyn Sánchez Remembers Eva Longoria Directing Grand Hotel While Breastfeeding: "It's Inspirational"

In a study published by the group last August, researchers found that for babies born in 2015, "rates for exclusive breastfeeding at age 3 months were 36 percent among Black infants and 53 percent among white infants; at age 6 months, the rates were 17.2 percent among Black infants and 29.5 percent among white infants."

Duhaney was "determined to help change the current statistics for Black breastfeeding women," which led her to become an IBCLC herself — and she "noticed that there were very few Black lactation consultants."

"More representation is needed to help improve breastfeeding outcomes in the Black community," she says. "To help provide more diversity in the lactation field, I wanted to help alleviate the financial barriers that may be associated with become a lactation consultant. So, I started the Milky Mama Scholarship Fund to help certify and educate Black lactation consultants."

Krystal Duhaney and baby
courtesy Milky Mama
Krystal Duhaney
Troy Harvey for Milky Mama

"One of the reasons attributed to the racial disparities in breastfeeding rates is the lack of diversity among lactation consultants," says the press release. "And with Black babies dying at twice the rate as white babies, experts agree that higher numbers of breastfeeding moms could decrease that mortality rate."

For moms looking for further nursing support aside from Milky Mama's celeb-loved line of lactation-encouraging products, Duhaney also offers a Breastfeeding 101 course, which costs $27 and can be accessed on the brand's website.

Those interested in submitting a scholarship application will want to keep an eye on Milky Mama's Instagram page, where the brand will be announcing entry details in September.