Many thanks to all who made purchases in August and allowed us the privilege of donating $500 to the Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association.
According to a government study, black women breastfeed babies at lower rates than white women. The data goes beyond choice, highlighting various reasons why this disparity exists.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that from 2011 to 2015, the percentage of women who initiated breastfeeding was as follows:
81.5% white mothers
64.3% black mothers
As if this 17.2 point gap isn’t big enough, the gap widens with time; with even fewer black mothers breastfeeding at 6 months and fewer than that, at 12 months.
This gap has existed for as long as the government has collected data on breastfeeding rates. “At the root of what’s happening to black women and their birth outcomes, as well as their disparities with breastfeeding, is an issue about racism and bias,” says Kimberly Seals Allers, a maternal and infant health strategist.
Why does this happen? Here’s what the research shows:
-Hospitals that serve a larger black population are more likely to offer black babies formula and are less likely to help black women initiate breastfeeding.
-Black mothers often need to return to work shortly after giving birth and are more likely to be confronted with “inflexible work hours”.
-Less education regarding the benefits of breastfeeding is offered to the black community. Under the same umbrella is the false premise that “bigger is better” which leads many moms to introduce formula for fear that they are not providing adequate nutrition.
What needs to change?
-Support is essential. Not only for the breastfeeding mother, but also for the family and community that support the mother.
-Prenatal and postnatal care are directly tied to birth outcomes. We already know that black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die as a result of pregnancy when compared to women. And that black babies suffer an infant mortality rate that’s more than double that of white children.
-Ridding our systems, our institutions, and ourselves of racial biases. Racial biases are in all of us, in all of our systems and institutions, and if we’re not actively working to reform ourselves and our systems and institutions, then we are part of the problem.
Did you know?
The U.S. has one of the lowest breastfeeding initiation rates among industrialized nations and it’s the only developed country without laws that mandate paid parental leave.
“Paid maternity leave is often too short to allow mothers to stay with their babies long enough to establish breastfeeding,” says Laurence Grummer-Strawn, a nutrition expert at the World Health Organization.
On racial inequality: In an effort to be part of the solution, we will be picking a different organization to donate to each month for the remainder of the year.