Did you know that there is a racial/ethnic gap in breastfeeding rates among women? Black women are less likely to initiate and maintain breastfeeding. The difference in initiation rates between different racial and ethnic groups is shocking. In one study “the proportion of children ever breastfed was 60 percent among non-Hispanic whites, 26 percent among non-Hispanic blacks, and 54 percent among Mexican Americans.” According to this study, by 6 months postpartum, the proportion of breastfed infants among black women drops to 9%. Black women also have a significantly lower rate of exclusive breastfeeding at 4 months than whites (14%). This study found that black mothers had consistently lower breastfeeding rates than Caucasions, regardless of how much money they made. The study also found that the poorer the women were, the less likely they were to breastfeed. Therefore, blacks, particularly those who are poor or less educated, should be educated on the importance of breastfeeding. To sum this up: black women do not breastfeed as much, or as long, as white or Hispanic women.
I’m so glad that people are trying to do something about this! This was just one study, but if you research this topic, you will basically find the same information. When there is this much of a gap, the problem is not only a cultural issue. Are healthcare providers adequately educating black women the same way they educate other women? A few studies that I read indicate that the answer is no. Look around in the media. How many times do you see pictures of black women breastfeeding their baby? When I googled “breastfeeding woman” I got a TON of pictures of women breastfeeding…but only a couple of those women were black.
I knew there were gaps between ethnic groups, but I didn’t realize there was THIS kind of gap until I participated in the NICHQ project. And then I saw the article about the black woman who was at graduation breastfeeding her baby and I read all of the horribly judgmental comments and I thought—wait up. Wait a minute here. We want women to breastfeed, we just talked about black women breastfeeding, and then there is this kind of backlash?!?
I hate that there is this huge gap. I started to ask myself, why does such a gap exist? What can we do about it, as a mom or as a healthcare provider? For starters:
- If you are a breastfeeding mom, encourage other mom’s to breastfeed, like your friends.
- Moms have to start normalizing breastfeeding. That means you shouldn’t be afraid, grossed out, or nervous to talk about breastfeeding.
- If you are a healthcare provider, encourage your patient’s to breastfeed! Educate them. Don’t just ask “are you going to bottle or breastfeed?” and then chart the answer.
- If any woman says they’re going to formula feed their baby, ask why. Address any misconceptions they may have.
- Some places have Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Clubs. If these types of organizations are available in your area, think about going just to check things out ❤ Sometimes it’s great to just have girl time 🙂
- Educate yourself.
That’s the only things I can think of right now, but this is now on my radar 🙂 If you are a healthcare provider or an educator, or even a mom who is thinking about starting up any type of breastfeeding support group, check out the resources The Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association has to offer. A couple of weeks ago they offered this free webinar talking about how to successfully start this type of support group, and it was soooo informative (and FREE!).
Until my next delivery ❤
Li, R. and Grummer-Strawn, L. (2002), Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Breastfeeding among United States Infants: Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988–1994. Birth, 29: 251–257. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-536X.2002.00199.x
Categories: Breastfeeding Information