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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?

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Tags : Posted in : Mama Guru

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15 Comments to “Breastfeeding in the Black Community”

  • Pisces May 11, 2012 at 11:07 am

    FYI, BCK, the recent TIME magazine cover with the 26 year old Caucasian Mom shown breast feeding her almost 4 year old little boy is relevant to be posted on BCK, IMO, because she also breast feeds his 5 year old brother once a month and the brother is African American and she did not birth him.

    Others who visit BCK might find this an interesting discussion.

    • Oxford May 11, 2012 at 12:24 pm

      Pisces, my niece is adopted, 14 months old and has never had formula. She was EBF using donor milk (from my mother who is still breastfeeding our youngest twins and from my aunt who is still breastfeeding my cousin born on the same day as my brothers). Some people think that donor milk is icky but it was Black slaves that breastfed the “masters” babies and both of my parents were breastfed by white servants because neither of their mothers wanted to do it.

      My mother and aunt plan to breast for another year but at the rate they are freezing milk my niece should be able to recieve breastmilk up to 36 months just like the rest of the kids in our family.

      I don’t know if it’s true about breastfed babies having higher IQ’s but every member of my family including my parents graduated from college (undergrad) at/or by age 18. :-)

      • Pisces May 11, 2012 at 5:04 pm

        Oxford, thank you for responding and sharing more about your family traditions. I believe breast milk is naturally better than formula but I am glad formula exists for babies who don’t have a Mommy to feed them breast milk. Thank goodness for formula that could help him feed his baby if his wife should suddenly leave or become deceased.

        Four and five is pretty old to still be suckling but hey, to each his own. A psychiatrist on Fox broadcasting sees the TIME magazine Mom’s behavior as attention seeking for the mother, who is a model, and he said that because the boy is being made to suckle by his mother it is a form of child abuse. The psych also added that the pose of her breastfeeding her 4 year old son publicly turns something beautiful into something bad.

        The mother herself says that when she is breastfeeding him in public, people threaten to call Social Services to report child abuse or child molestation.

        Always great exchanging thoughts with you, Oxford. Have a nice weekend and Mother’s Day celebration! :)

  • Ms. Mercedes September 20, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    IM a breastfeeding more for 14 months now and exclusively breastfed my prince for a full year with no food.. all Im going to say is every child no matter what race they are desires to be feed the best served with a sliver platter and spoon.. ladies wake up and give your child nothing but the best and breastfed your children.. I am and don’t have no planned of stopping anytime soon.. if the white women can why can’t I .. the benefits are out of this world.. google the 101 reason why to breastfeed and you will understand where im coming from.. it starts with you the mother and knowing in her heart no matter what any man or women say family or no family and no matter how much my child wants to eat for how ever long one house after this child is born I will tell the doctors no sugar water, my child is staying with me because is child is going to be breastfed and put that baby to your breast and don’t you stop it might hurt the first few days but there after it pure heaven.. one hour after birth breastfeed your child or children and when you get home maybe after one week or so put that child in the bed with you at nite during the day and feed your child and still get your sleep you and your man will love it.. P.s. sex is better to thanks to the love hormones that are release during breastfeeding that keep the private areas super moist.. I LOVE IT…

  • SAnn August 24, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    I am a new mommy to a 3 month old baby boy. I breastfeed and pump. It is very hard, because I have to make myself stop and take time to pump throughout the day. It is very rewarding and I am so glad I decided to do it.

  • Lonnese March 8, 2011 at 11:42 am

    I had my son when I was 22 and I breastfed him for a whole year…it actually broke my heart when I had to supplement with formula because he was losing too much weight and my milk wasn’t in yet. But formula was never an option for me even at that young of an age. He is now 14 and hasn’t been sick in almost four years. He started out in the 25th percentile and he’s now in the 90th percentile. I just had a baby girl and she is strictly breastfed in fact she won’t even think of taking a bottle. However, I find it harder to breastfeed her in public because there is so little support for breastfeeding in public. But I’m determined to give her the same good start in life that I gave my son despite the nasty stares when we’re out….

  • Kim February 27, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Say Breastfeeding is difficult is really an understatement. It is VERY difficult. In todays society, with formula, the working woman, it is VERY VERY difficult. Is it worth it????? Undoubtably YES!!!!

    I breastfed/pumped for 6 months while my preemie was in the NICU. She had the benefit of only breastmilk for the first 9 moths of her life. We had two deep freezers full of frozen breastmilk. She had 3 surgeries due to her prematurity and now she is 100% healthy and developmentally on track or ahead of babies her age.

    Breastfeeding is a huge sacrifice though. You have to take your multivitamins, drink lots of water, stay hydrated (can’t say that enough) and carry your pump and freezer packs everywhere you go.

    I know its a sacrifice not all women can make but, especially if you have a sick baby or a preemie, it definitely helps.

    I beg my sisters to push through the pain for the sake of our children. Ask yourself, what about the children?

  • Victoria February 19, 2011 at 10:36 am

    This is REALLY interesting…I had no idea that formula was more promoted within the Black community than breast-feeding.
    It really is far more unhealthy for the child. I wasn’t formula-fed, and glad I wasn’t!
    I think that it is a great idea for more mothers of color to jump on this bandwagon for the future health of their babies. Formula doesn’t have anything that the mother doesn’t have and in fact probably has far less. I’m not in a relationship or planning to get married any time soon, but if I do, it’s definitely not going to be formula for my baby!

  • Leslie January 18, 2011 at 8:47 am

    Hello All,

    I am a mother of 4. I had my daughter when I was 22 and really could not get the graphs of nursing her. None of my family nursed so I was never around that. I nursed my daughter for 2 months then I stopped. I tried to buy the most expensive formula out to make my myself feel better. 4 1/2 years later I had my son and I was a little more wiser and determined this time. I nursed my son until he was 1. 6 months ago God blessed me with healthy twin boys and I have been nursing them since birth. It is such a rewarding feeling to know that I am the one providing this source for them. When I come in from work they are there waiting on me, holding their arms up for me to pick them up. I would not change that feeling in the world. I plan on nursing them for another 6 months or until they start biting too hard.

  • laela January 17, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    I breastfed my daughter and I really believe with proper research, information and the incredible support I had at the hospital helped keep me motivated.

  • Kay January 17, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    I know everyone has already said this but I think the more people on here seconding it might be inspiring to some women! I breastfed my twins until about a month, I hated to quit but it was so demanding. I wish I could have gone for longer but I am glad I did how long I did & the bonding experience was simply amazing, like nothing else. I recommend it to any & every mom to atleast try it. You won’t regret it.

  • Scottie January 15, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    I am breastfeeding my 4 month daughter. It is one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life. I am fortunate enough to be able to stay home with her so I plan on nursing her for a full year. It was really hard in the beginning but I stuck with it and now I’m a pro. Lol!

    Good luck if you are trying breastfeeding. It gets easier with time.

  • tanja January 15, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    i breastfed my babygirl for 2 months and felt sad when I had to stop….I would have gone around 4 or 6 months but had to start taking antidepressiva tablets cos I suffered from postnatal depression.
    It is awesome in very many ways…first of all….when the baby is hungry…just pop em out and the baby can eat….no preparing the formular, no waiting till the water gbets the right temperature…..it is just healthy…incredibly healthy….and cheap….it doesnt cost a cent….and another thing……women who breastfeed usually lose the babyfat just like that…cos the breastfeeding burns so many calories….it is almost impoossible eat that much….and the bonding between the baby and the momma is incredible….I am still sad I had to stop

  • Jathiya.MommyO3 January 15, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    I have breast fed all three of my children. Breast feeding takes time to get used to, as most everything does involving babies. Every woman in my family that I know of has breast fed it is a rewarding & beautiful thing. I recommend every woman at least gives themselves & their babies a shot at what is truly & naturally best for them ~Peace

    p.s. It can take anywhere from a month to a month & a half to get used to & get the baby on track with breast feeding. Ask yourself: What is a month & a half compared to a lifetime with a happier healthier child?

  • Sojourner Marable Grimmett January 14, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Remember that if you want to breastfeed your child then wonderful! However, if you choose not to breastfeed then that’s OK too. You can still be a wonderful parent without breastfeeding. It usually takes 2-3 weeks until the baby is comfortable. Milk may not come in right always, or breasts may be very sore. It’s difficult in the beginning. However, if your milk supply is good and you want to give it a try, then ask your partner to come along for the journey.

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