Black Women Need to Know Values of Breast Feeding

cover2By: Darwin Campbell, African-American News&Issues

HOUSTON – August is National Breastfeeding Month and health officials are encouraging women to consider the positive health benefits of using the all natural, perfect baby food.

Choosing to breastfeed is an investment in the baby’s future. Breastfeeding allows you to make the food that is perfect for your baby. The milk gives the baby the healthy start that will last a lifetime.

According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding is a natural and beneficial source of nutrition and provides the healthiest start for an infant.

In addition to the nutritional benefits, breastfeeding promotes a unique and emotional connection between mother and baby.

In the policy statement, “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk,” published in the March 2012 issue of Pediatrics , AAP reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby’s life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.

The information is supported by Womenshealth.gov, which notes that Breastfeeding protects your baby, Benefits your health ,may make your life easier and benefits society.

Yet, despite the value of breastfeeding, there are racial and ethnic differences in breastfeeding initiation (starting) and duration (continuing) rates, the report said.

Breastfeeding Among Black Women

According to a 2014 report from the Centers for Disease Control, Black infants consistently had the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration across all study years.

Even though breastfeeding is now on the rise among African-American women, the gap still lags between black and white breastfeeding initiation rates narrowed from 24 percentage points in 2000 to 16 percentage points in 2008.

From 2000–2008, the percentage of women who initiated breastfeeding went up from 47.4% to 58.9% for blacks, and 71.8% to 75.2% for whites. Initiation rates for Hispanics went from 77.6% to 80.0%, although this was not a significant increase.

The 6-month duration gap also narrowed from 21 percentage points to 17 percentage points during that same time.

While 74.6% of infants born in 2008 began breastfeeding, only 23.4% met the recommended breastfeeding duration of 12 months. This indicates women may need more support to continue breastfeeding.

The report confirms that “low-income women, among whom African-American and Hispanic women are over-represented, are more likely than their higher-income counterparts to return to work earlier,” and often to jobs that make it challenging to breastfeed during the day.

It points to the need that Black mothers may also need more, targeted support to start and continue breastfeeding.

One program across the United States training and educating African-American women and men about the value of breastfeeding is the African American Breastfeeding Network of Milwaukee. It was formed in 2008 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to address breastfeeding disparities; increasing awareness of the benefits and value of mother’s milk; build community allies; and de-normalize formula use.

“We are here to serve because there is a great need.” Program Manager, and Co-Founder, Dalvery Blackwell, who has run that program since 2007.

According to Blackwell, her organization promotes breastfeeding as the natural way to provide the best nutrition to babies and accurate information about breastfeeding to ‘normalize’ breastfeeding by bringing pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and their families together with lactation consultants. The program also provides a Peer Father Advocate component, the father peer advocate will work individually with the men, to deliver, key messages that include how to support breastfeeding, how to bond with your breastfed baby and how to continue to support breastfeeding when the mother returns to work and/or school.

What health benefits does breastfeeding give my baby?

The cells, hormones, and antibodies in breast milk protect babies from illness. This protection is unique and changes to meet your baby’s needs.

Research suggests that breastfed babies have lower risks of:

Asthma

Childhood leukemia

Childhood obesity

Ear infections

Eczema (atopic dermatitis)

Diarrhea and vomiting

Lower respiratory infections

Necrotizing (nek-roh-TEYE-zing) enterocolitis (en-TUR-oh-coh-lyt-iss), a disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract in pre-term infants

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

Type 2 diabetes

How does breastfeeding compare to formula-feeding?

Formula can be harder for your baby to digest. For most babies, especially premature babies, breastmilk substitutes like formula are harder to digest than breastmilk. Formula is made from cow’s milk, and it often takes time for babies’ stomachs to adjust to digesting it.

Life can be easier for you when you breastfeed. Breastfeeding may seem like it takes a little more effort than formula-feeding at first. But breastfeeding can make your life easier once you and your baby settle into a good routine. When you breastfeed, there are no bottles and nipples to sterilize. You do not have to buy, measure, and mix formula. And there are no bottles to warm in the middle of the night! When you breastfeed, you can satisfy your baby’s hunger right away.

Not breastfeeding costs money. Formula and feeding supplies can cost well over $1,500 each year. Breastfed babies may also be sick less often, which can help keep your baby’s health costs lower.

Breastfeeding keeps mother and baby close. Physical contact is important to newborns. It helps them feel more secure, warm, and comforted. Mothers also benefit from this closeness. The skin-to-skin contact boosts your oxytocin (OKS-ee-TOH-suhn) levels. Oxytocin is a hormone that helps breastmilk flow and can calm the mother.

What are the health benefits of breastfeeding for mothers?

Breastfeeding helps a mother’s health and healing following childbirth. Breastfeeding leads to a lower risk of these health problems in mothers:

Type 2 diabetes

Certain types of breast cancer

Ovarian cancer

How does breastfeeding help in an emergency?

During an emergency, such as natural disaster, breastfeeding can save your baby’s life:

Breastfeeding protects your baby from the risks of an unclean water supply.

Breastfeeding can help protect your baby against respiratory illnesses and diarrhea.

Your milk is always at the right temperature for your baby. It helps to keep your baby’s body temperature from dropping too low.

Your milk is readily available without needing other supplies.

How does breastfeeding benefit society?

Society benefits overall when mothers breastfeed.

Breastfeeding saves lives. Recent research shows that if 90% of families breastfed exclusively for

6 months, nearly 1,000 deaths among infants could be prevented.

Breastfeeding saves money. The United States would also save $2.2 billion per year — medical care costs are lower for fully breastfed infants than never-breastfed infants. Breastfed infants usually need fewer sick care visits, prescriptions, and hospitalizations.

Breastfeeding also helps make a more productive workforce. Mothers who breastfeed miss less work to care for sick infants than mothers who feed their infants formula. Employer medical costs are also lower.

Breastfeeding is better for the environment. Formula cans and bottle supplies create more trash and plastic waste. Your milk is a renewable resource that comes packaged and warmed.

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