Breast milk benefits not only offers a nutritionally balanced meal, but some studies suggest that breastfeeding may even reduce the risk for certain allergic diseases, asthma, and obesity in your baby, as well as type 2 diabetes in moms. Also, breastfeeding creates a close bond between mother and child. And from a financial standpoint, breastfeeding is economical. The United States Breastfeeding Committee noted that families who followed optimal breastfeeding practices could save approximately $1,500 that would have gone toward infant formula in the first year alone. Imagine what you could do with those extra dollars
Despite the many benefits of breastfeeding, African American mothers have the lowest rate of breastfeeding initiation and duration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that from 2011 to 2015, the percentage of women who initiated breastfeeding was 64.3 percent for African Americans, 81.5 percent for Whites, and 81.9 percent for Hispanics. And while 79.2 percent of infants began breastfeeding, only 20 percent breastfed exclusively for 6 months, and 27.8 percent met the recommended breastfeeding duration of 12 months. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding noted that even while researchers control for family’s income or education level, breastfeeding rates for African American infants are lower than for White infants at birth, 6 months, and 12 months.
Why do these racial disparities persist? Here is what some research is showing us: (1) African American women tend to return to work earlier after childbirth and are more likely to work in environments that do not support breastfeeding; (2) healthcare settings that provide supplemental feeding to healthy full-term breastfed babies during the postpartum stay decrease the likelihood of exclusive breastfeeding; (3) healthcare settings that separate mothers from babies during their hospital stay; (4) lack of knowledge about the benefits of breastfeeding and the risks of not breastfeeding; (5) perceived inconvenience—a breastfeeding mother may have to give up too many habits of her lifestyle; (6) the mistaken belief that “big is healthy,” leading moms to introduce formula early; (7) the cultural belief that the use of cereal in a bottle will prolong the infant’s sleep; and (8) embarrassment—fearful of being stigmatized when they breastfeed in public.
Read more on the NIMHD.gov.