This guest blog was written by Amy Bohler-Brown, IBCLC | Manager of Prenatal and Lactation Services, The abcProgram
This week is Black Breastfeeding Week! Black Breastfeeding Week was founded in 2012 to highlight the barriers Black women in America face regarding breastfeeding and to overcome racially based health disparities. This week is aimed to bring visibility and conversation to only the struggles, but also the joys, triumphs, and beauty of black breastfeeding.
Barriers Black Women Face
The most recent CDC data show that 75% of white women have ever breastfed versus 58.9% of black women. It is a commonly held myth that Black women don’t breastfeed. Black women do breastfeed! In fact, Black mothers access Champions’ Baby Café breastfeeding support services for education and hands on help at a rate that is representative of the Black population in our community. It is true, however, that Black mothers are disproportionately impacted by barriers to continued and successful breastfeeding, such as early return to work or school, lack of well informed health care providers, and family support. Because of those barriers, Black women do initiate and continue breastfeeding at rates lower than their White and Hispanic peers.
Health Risks to Black Babies
Those barriers are particularly tragic for Black women and their children as formula feeding increases the risks of several health problems that affect Black populations at higher rates than White populations. Some of these include obesity, breast cancer, adult onset diabetes, and SUIDS.
Racism in Breastfeeding Support
Like all health disparities, the lag in breastfeeding rates is not due to some inherent fault of Black women but rather the cultural context in which they live. It is the racism these women experience, not their race, that leads to lower breastfeeding rates. An example of the structural racism in breastfeeding support: WIC sites located in predominantly black neighborhoods tend to have less robust breastfeeding programs and hospitals that have evidence-based policies in place to support breastfeeding are much more likely to be located in predominantly white neighborhoods. Black mothers are also more likely to be offered formula in the hospital, a practice that can derail an otherwise successful breastfeeding relationship.
The good news is that when Black mothers are offered high quality culturally appropriate breastfeeding support, those disparities disappear! Breastfeeding support matters, and the role you play in the support makes a difference!
How you can get involved:
1) Refer all of your pregnant and new mommy friends/family to the abcProgram for prenatal and breastfeeding education and support. If you’re pregnant or a new mom, be sure to take advantage of these services as well!
2) Attend the Breastfeeding Basics class to learn more about breastfeeding techniques, tips and benefits.
3) Follow the abcProgram on Facebook and share our posts to help spread the word about breastfeeding and prenatal care.
4) Setup an appointment with our Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultants at the abcProgram for one-on-one breastfeeding support. Call 813-673-4646 ext. 1127 today! Here’s a testimonial from a mom who received one from our lactation consultants:
Links to Resources: