Breastfeeding in the Black Community
If you’re not yet a wife or a mother, you’ve probably given little thought to how you’ll feed your future babies. Perhaps you have a vague idea that “breast is best,” but in reality most of your family and friends who’ve had children have fed them formula and you probably feel that it’s just as good as breast milk or a really close second.
But you’d be wrong. In fact, the World Health Organization lists formula as the fourth best way to feed an infant. First being breastfeeding, second being pumping and giving your baby your breast milk in a bottle and third being donor breast milk. Fourth best. The overwhelming majority of babies, our brown babies, are being fed in the way that’s fourth best.
Why is formula considered fourth best? Well, there are many risks to formula feeding. Formula fed babies are more likely to die of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), get more ear infections, are more likely to be constipated, and overfed. Formula fed babies are more likely to one day become obese, more likely to get breast and ovarian cancer, have higher incidence of asthma and allergies, and are more likely to have diabetes.
Breastfeeding is the normal, natural way to feed a baby, but breast milk is more than just food. It provides antibodies and protects the lining of your baby’s intestines. Breastfeeding creates an amazing bond between mother and child, as your nursing baby spends so much time with you, skin-to-skin.
Unfortunately, only 55% of black women ever initiate breastfeeding. Some of the reasons for this include cultural beliefs about breastfeeding, the aggressive marketing of formula in the black community and a lack of support for breastfeeding.
First Lady Michelle Obama has been putting in a lot of work to promote her “Let’s Move!” anti-obesity campaign, which contains a strong push for breastfeeding. I love Mrs. Obama’s campaign because it tackles the obesity problem from every angle and requires all of us to get involved. She said in a speech recently, “I’m not just here today to talk to you about the problem. I am also here to enlist each and every one of you in our fight to find a solution. We need folks like all of you, who are leaders in your communities, we need you to start a conversation, to get involved with groups who are already making progress, and to bring folks to the table to attack this issue together. We need all stakeholders involved, and we need every resource at our disposal.”
Community leaders, doctors, teachers, non-profit organizations like La Leche League and Best for Babes, moms like you and me. What can we do to help make it easier for mothers to breastfeed? How can we provide support and encouragement? How do we ensure women get the correct information so that they are able to make an educated decision when it comes to how they feed their babies?
I like to think that I am making a difference with my breastfeeding advocacy blog, Blacktating, but I know that is not enough. Did you breastfeed your baby? Where did you find support and information?