i am you...and you are me.
Happy Black Breastfeeding Week! Yes, this is the 7th Annual Black Breastfeeding Week. What is Black Breastfeeding Week, you ask? Black Breastfeeding Week was created in recognition of the racial disparities that exist in breastfeeding. To date, the most current stats show that as of 2016...86.6% of Non-Hispanic White Women "ever breastfeed" (ie. have breastfed AT LEAST once) compared to 74% of Non-Hispanic Black Women. 52.9% Non-Hispanic White Women "Exclusive Breastfeed" (ie. ONLY breastfeed and no formula) for three months compared to 39% of Non-Hispanic Black Women. 29.1% Non-Hispanic White Women "Exclusive Breastfeed" for six months compared to 20.7% of Non-Hispanic Black Women (Centers for Disease Control 2019).
In addition to alarming statistics, there are five important reasons why having Black Breastfeeding Week is important.
1. Black infant mortality. Black babies are dying at more than twice the rate of white and asian babies in the United States (Centers for Disease Control 2019). The high infant mortality rate among black infants is primarily caused by: low birthweight, congenital malformations, maternal complications, and sudden infant death syndrome aka SIDS (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Heath 2015). These babies need the immunities and nutritional benefits of breast milk the most. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (aka CDC), increased breastfeeding among black women could decrease infant mortality rates by as much as 50%.
2. High rates of diet-related disease. Asthma. Type 2 Diabetes. SIDS. Obesity. Sound familiar? All are especially prevalent in the black community and are proven to be reduced by the nutritional benefits of breast milk.
3. Lack of diversity in lactation careers. As if the racial disparities in breastfeeding rates aren't enough, there are alarming disparities in breastfeeding leadership as well. Breastfeeding advocacy is predominantly led by white women. Undoubtedly, this is a problem. It not only perpetuates the common misconception that black women don’t breastfeed, but it also means that many lactation professionals lack culturally competence to properly educate black moms. Black Breastfeeding Week is a week to discuss the lack of diversity in breastfeeding advocacy.
4. Unique cultural barriers among black women. Just as a lot of other things, black women face unique cultural barriers and possess a complex history connected to breastfeeding.
5. Desert-Like Conditions in Black Communities
For more information on Black Breastfeeding Week and breastfeeding, please visit the Week's official website (Black Breastfeeding Week 2014).