African-American Women and Breastfeeding

I’ve read the standard books on breastfeeding that outline the benefits to both mother and baby. My most recent read is Black Woman’s Guide to Breastfeeding by Katherine Barber. Barber writes an amazing guide that details why it’s so important for Black women to breastfeed.

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Barber states, “African American infants are twice as likely to die before their first birthdays as white infants…have the highest rate of asthma, severe asthma, and mortality caused by asthma than any other race…have a 20 percent higher occurrence of childhood obesity than white children…[that] African American women are 2.2 times more likely to die from breast cancer…[and] are 30 percent more likely to die from ovarian cancer than white women.”

So, what do these stats have to do with breastfeeding? The numbers drastically decrease when mothers share what nature intended for their children. Before downloading this book for my Kindle on Amazon.com, I read through some of the reviews. One woman threw her two cents in by explaining that this book promotes separatism, because all moms need support when it comes to breastfeeding, not just Black women. This reviewer was quickly schooled, thankfully, by other moms who explained that African American women do, in fact, have special needs when it comes to breastfeeding.

Almost half of African American mothers choose not to breastfeed their children, and the health repercussions of such a decision usually aren’t discussed in mainstream breastfeeding books. Often, women choose against breastfeeding because they’re afraid of pain or discomfort, have been convinced that formula is just as good as mother’s milk, or a host of other reasons that attest to being unaware of both the benefits associated with breastfeeding and the risks of not doing the same.

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In addition to being a great resource that breaks down why it’s so important that Black women breastfeed themselves, this is a book that belongs on every reading list for birth workers throughout the United States. As birth workers, we must understand the challenges that Black women face when it comes to breastfeeding, and be armed with facts that help us inform mamas about the benefits of breastfeeding. If you haven’t read Black Woman’s Guide to Breastfeeding yet, what are you waiting for?

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