Originally published September 9 2014
Black Breastfeeding Week highlights ethnic disparities in health education
by Julie Wilson staff writer
(NaturalNews) The type of nutritional care an infant receives during his or her first six months of life can determine the quality of life that a child will have. In addition to avoiding heavy-metal-containing vaccinations at birth, breastfeeding is one of the most important practices that a mother can perform to ensure their baby's health.
Innumerable studies have proven the many health benefits associated with breastfeeding, including a healthier immune and metabolic system, higher IQs, stronger lungs and decreased risk of asthma, diabetes and other health complications.
Breastfeeding is equally beneficial for moms, with studies linking the practice to reduced risks of developing breast and ovarian cancer and diabetes. Breastfeeding also produces milk-making hormones that offer emotional well-being that can help fight postpartum depression, as reported by Natural News.
If breastfeeding is so important, why aren't all mothers doing it? You've probably witnessed media frenzies over women breastfeeding in public, but another issue, one that's less talked about, involves the ethnic disparities associated with breastfeeding, race and socioeconomic status.
August 25-31 marked the second annual Black Breastfeeding Week, a movement aimed at empowering black families by encouraging healthier babies and moms through breastfeeding.
Ethnic groups suffer major gap in breastfeeding practices
A 2013 study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that just 59 percent of black women breastfed their babies in 2008, compared with 75 percent of white women and 80 percent of Hispanic women.
Breastfeeding is much less common in neighborhoods comprised of more than 12 percent African Americans, because "recommended practices" are less encouraged, according to the CDC.
Wet nurses were forced to breastfeed the master's child, while neglecting their own
Health education, limited use of infant formula and keeping the mother and baby in the same room after birth all contribute to early breastfeeding practices, many of which are not encouraged by hospitals in African American neighborhoods.
Hardship, cultural barriers, shame and lack of community support contribute to black women's reluctance or inability to breastfeed. During the time of enslavement, black women often held the position of "wet nurse," a job that required breastfeeding the master's white children, forcing them to neglect their own child's needs.
Black women were cautious of developing too strong of a bond with their child, in fear that they could be separated, making it more difficult for an overly dependent child to survive.
Sadly, African Americans' cultural history has prevented their ancestors from passing down breastfeeding practices. A mini documentary produced by The African American Breastfeeding Project portrays the trials and tribulations that black women have experienced with breastfeeding.
In the film, Jasmine, from Compton, Calif., described how her family encouraged her to use infant formula rather than breastfeed due to inexperience and a lack of knowledge.
"Initiation of breastfeeding and breastfeeding duration rates for black infants in the United States are about 16 percent lower than for white babies," according to a report by Women's eNews.
The CDC's study observed the implementation of 10 recommended maternity care practices designed to support breastfeeding among 2,600 maternity facilities across the U.S.
"These findings are important because research has shown that U.S. residents usually are admitted to hospitals within a relatively short distance of where they live. ... Therefore, women living in zip code areas with a higher percentage of blacks might have less access to facilities implementing recommended maternity care practices, which might contribute to lower breastfeeding rates among blacks compared with other racial groups," noted the study's authors.
"Baby-Friendly Hospitals," facilities that have enforced strict standards set by the World Health Organization regarding breastfeeding encouragement, were implemented in cities with populations of less than 3 percent African American, according to a study published last year by Women's eNews.
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