Why Aren’t We Breastfeeding?

Ms. Palinski at the University of Pittsburgh is looking at why it is that, according to her research, only 55% of Black mothers are breastfeeding, compared to 72% of White mothers and 73% of Hispanic mothers. She has solicited responses to the question , “why are less Black women choosing to breastfeed?”

I am a black mother of five children. I breastfed all of my children for 10 to 12 months each. I am not one of these earthy, living in the country sisters. I am an attorney and a writer and a city girl, who likes to do the easy thing.Breastfeeding for me was the easy thing. Having nursed for easily a cumulative 5 years, I have encountered many other Black women who were not shy about their opinions of my choice.

The reason breastfeeding was an easy choice for me is because I have a very supportive mother, who, though she did not breastfeed herself, never expressed any negativity. My mother-in-law is a pediatrician who nursed all seven of her children. So my husband was supportive and pleased with the choice. And my mother-in-law was helpful and encouraging. I also had friends who nursed alongside of me.

I think many woman do not have a family support or history that encourages breastfeeding. Many are raised to be uncomfortable with this natural use of the breast. And many do not understand the profound health benefits of breastfeeding. We down play the superiority of breastfeeding because breastfeeding for many women is difficult (nearly impossible) because of work demands.

I hesitate to say impossible because I believe that most people can work it out with pumping, planning and support if they are committed to it. I did all of that. Some of what is required is not pleasant–like pumping. But neither is getting up in the middle of the night and warming up a bottle of formula!

I also decided that I was going to make the optimal choice for my children, and no matter how you cut it, breastfeeding is the optimal nutritional choice. Period. I am a 120 pound woman, but I nursed large (between 8 and 8lb 14oz) babies. This is largely why I am still 120 lbs. But I had plenty of milk for them. I am perplexed by people who say they do not have enough milk! Our bodies are designed for this. They know what to do and so does the baby.
Breastfeeding is so worth it!! I started to list the benefits of breastfeeding here, but the list goes on and on, especially if you include the research about better school performance and all of that.

If you want to see a full listing go to http://medicalreporter.health.org/tmr0297/breastfeed0297.html

I just want to list the many benefits to the mother, other than a healthier baby, which of course is by far the most important. For Mom, breastfeeding helps you get your old body back. The hormones released help your uterus get back down to size. You burn fat without trying!

If you breastfeed without supplementing with formula, you delay ovulation and menstruation so you can’t get pregnant for a longer period.

The longer you nurse, the more you lower your risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancers.
Successful breastfeeding has a stress reducing and positive psychological effect…

I actually could go on and on here. But the point is that if you can, there is no good reason NOT to breastfeed your baby. You may have friends and colleagues who love to tell you the horror stories. But how many of them describe to you the irreplacible feeling when you’re nursing baby’s eyes lock on yours right before they close in blissful satiation. And you know that YOUR milk is sending him into this peaceful dream state. Or that satisfying feeling you have when, at your 3 month well-baby check at the pediatrician, the doctor looks at your baby’s weight and says in surprise “what are you feeding this baby? Steak?” And you know that it is YOUR milk that is making him so big and strong and keeping him optimally well.

Breastfeeding is so worth it!

So do your research, pregnant moms!! Be prepared. Don’t succomb to antiquated ways of mothering and misinformation about breastfeeding and YOUR breasts. Prepare your skeptical spouse and families, and then do the right thing. Just do it!!

If you are concerned about breastfeeding when you return to work, consult the La Leche League. They have tons of info to help you. The path to successful nursing at work has been cut before you in many places. See what options you have at work.

If you are concerned about nursing in public, I assure you there are ways to nurse in public discreetly. Even if you are not self-conscious, the folks you are with may be. I was not self-conscious but I was never an in-your-face “I’m nursing, you deal with it” kind of mother. I was always able to find a discreet place to excuse myself to. I got pretty familiar with the stores with the best bathroom lounges and the book stores with the most comfortable reading chairs.
If you decide to nurse for one month–great!! If you decide to try for 3 months–awesome!! 6 months, one year…There are benefits to whatever time you decide upon.

You can find a broader disussion of the issue at http://www.blackparentmovement.com/.

(Originally posted April 14th, 2007)


1 – I’m sorry no one has posted a reply/comment. I am new mother of a beautiful Black baby boy. Sometimes I wonder if I am the only Black women in Greater Austin, Texas nursing an infant. Thankfully, the White/Hispanic women were I work have been my loving support group. My husband and I hope others Black families might find your posting and consider breast feeding, if they are able to do so. Drew’s Mom

Written by: Anonymous at 2007/06/27 – 02:54:01

2 – I am a black mom who has breastfed 2 of her 3 children. For me when I had my first I was 19 and with the other kids I was 25 and 27. I find that there aren’t a lot of information out there given to teen moms, especially black teen mom. Most of the inforamtion I got at 19 was here’s how to mix formula, here’s the number to WIC and the one I hated

Written by: Shawntay at 2007/07/03 – 18:57:06


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