Did you know that August 25th – 31st is Black Breastfeeding Week? So, let’s celebrate! Breastfeeding provides unmatched health benefits for babies and moms, but only three-quarters (74 %) of Black babies are ever breastfed. This rate is, unfortunately, lower than the national average of 83 percent. So, Black Breastfeeding Week was started to raise awareness of the racial disparity in breastfeeding.
For many, nursing isn’t easy and many factors make breastfeeding even more challenging for Black moms and birthers. For example, Black mothers aren’t always provided with education about breastfeeding, have little support from family and friends, or are concerned about continuing to breastfeed when returning to work. The truth is, breastfeeding is a learned skill that can take some time to perfect, so getting support early on can only help improve success.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breast milk not only provides the best nutrition for infants, including premature and sick newborns, but your little one also experiences many other health benefits.
Breastfed babies have lower risks of:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Serious lower respiratory infections
- Ear infections
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
But babies aren’t the only ones who benefit from breastfeeding. Moms and birthers who nurse have a lower risk for many chronic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer.
Recognizing that breastfeeding can help decrease some of the health disparities that Black women face, everyone plays an integral role in ending existing breastfeeding inequalities.
If you work in a hospital, you can participate on boards and committees to create and implement breastfeeding-friendly policies. For example, hospitals encouraging rooming-in (keeping a newborn in a crib at mom’s bedside instead of in a nursery) and initiating breastfeeding within one hour of birth generally help moms and birthers breastfeed longer.
As a healthcare provider, you can improve breastfeeding success for your patients by answering questions, addressing common breastfeeding challenges, and recognizing when moms and birthers need more help. So, make that referral to a lactation specialist when appropriate. Also, consider implementing virtual or telehealth breastfeeding support appointments to give moms and birthers more options for care.
Become a Breastfeeding Ally
As a breastfeeding ally and supporter, you can help increase awareness about Black Breastfeeding Week in a few ways:
- Amplify the voices of Black women by sharing their stories and efforts to promote Black breastfeeding.
- Attend Black Breastfeeding Week events and Black breastfeeding activities
- Advocate for more diversity in lactation support
- Support organizations working for Black birth justice
- Advocate for all states to implement comprehensive breastfeeding legislation
Black Breastfeeding Week
Both moms and babies benefit from breast milk. But inadequate support, stigma, and systematic inequalities make it less likely for Black mothers to initiate and continue breastfeeding. By spreading the word about Black Breastfeeding Week, you’re helping to highlight the unique challenges of this group while also celebrating the triumphs of every black breastfeeding mom.
Writer: Janelle King
Reviewer: Sheila LaFortune, Kim Roberts, and Chanel Stryker-Boykin, CHD
- Breastfeeding Among U.S. Children Born 2012-2019, CDC National Immunization Survey, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Breastfeeding: Why it Matters, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Racial Disparities in Breastfeeding Initiation and Duration Among U.S. Infants Born in 2015, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Breastfeeding: Frequently Asked Questions, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Making the Decision to Breastfeed, Office on Women’s Health
- Hospital Support for Breastfeeding, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Breastfeeding, Family Physicians Supporting (Position Paper), American Academy of Family Physicians.