Cover of Skimmed by Andrea Freeman
Breastfeeding, Race, and Injustice
Andrea Freeman


November 2019
336 pages.

Cloth ISBN: 9781503601123



These four African American babies were the first surviving set of identical quadruplets born in the United States. Their white doctor named them and sold the rights to their image. He benefited while they lived in poverty. The Pet Milk company used the quads to sell formula instead of breast milk to generations of black mothers. But that isn't the whole story.

Skimmed tells the heartbreaking story of America's first identical quadruplets, their rise to fame and use as advertising symbols, and the damage done to them and generations of African American families. Relating the sisters' story, Andrea Freeman invites readers into the fascinating and fraught history of how the seemingly simple task of feeding America's youngest citizens is awash in social, legal, and cultural inequalities.

Despite the high cost of baby formula and the health advantages of breast milk, Black women have the lowest breastfeeding rates in the nation. Black babies born in the U.S. suffer from infant mortality more than twice as often as other babies. Andrea Freeman uncovers the true causes of the dramatic racial disparities in breastfeeding rates in America. She reveals how aspects of history, law, corporate power, culture, and the media have played a part in the routine dispossession of Black women's choice of how to nourish their babies since slavery. This book tells the little-known but urgent story of the making of a modern public health crisis, and the four little girls whose lives encapsulate a nationwide injustice.

Breast milk is often our first food, and the current legal and policy framework that makes it unavailable to large numbers of Black infants is a form of food oppression. Skimmed exposes how American laws and policies affect the nutritional lives of Black families from birth, and proposes effective and immediate solutions for a healthier and more just future.

About the author

Andrea Freeman is Associate Professor at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa William S. Richardson School of Law. Freeman writes and researches at the intersection of critical race theory and issues of food policy, health, and consumer credit. She is the pioneer of the theory of "food oppression," which examines how seemingly neutral food-related law, policy, and government action, in cooperation with corporate interests, disproportionately harm marginalized communities.

"Skimmed provides a powerful portrait of how racism fuels the disparity between who breastfeeds in the U.S. Freeman shows that race continues to matter, even when it comes down to our children's first food, despite many Americans' belief that we are beyond race."

—Khiara M. Bridges, Boston University