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Black History Month: Racial Disparities in Breastfeeding

Why it’s important to know about racial disparities in breastfeeding and how we can help make contributions to eliminating these disparities in the African American community

Black women have unique cultural barriers and a complex history connected to breastfeeding. Due to slavery and a myriad of other social, economic, cultural, familial and personal factors, breastfeeding has been a traumatic experience for black mothers in the black community. For us to take action and fight for less racial disparity, we need to understand those barriers. 

Breastfeeding disparities in African American communities

  • Black infants are 15% less likely to have ever been breastfed than white infants. 
  • Black mothers experience maternal death rates twice to four times higher than white women and a higher risk of developing postpartum depression. 
  • Lack of access to professional breastfeeding support
  • In the United States, the preterm birth rate among Black women is 50% higher than the rate among all other women.

A few ideas on how you can take action and support Black women in your community

  • Use your social media platforms to influence behavioral change in a positive way or to norm breastfeeding as a function of the body as opposed to a highly sexualized part of the body.
  • Support new Black women moms where you live by reaching out to someone in your neighborhood, a friend, or family member. A simple “hi, how are you?” could open a window between you and a black mama who may need your support.  Find ways to share your experiences with breastfeeding or pumping.
  • Encourage community programs and organizations to build the support that black parents should receive in the hospital. Click here to see a list of our community partners who are working to support black families.
  • Find out about and advocate for better breastfeeding and pumping policies in your workplace.

Until every mother can give birth in a safe space with expert medical and lactation care, and until every baby is born with the same opportunity to grow and thrive, our work and the health care community’s work isn’t done.

If you’re looking to learn more, check out the links below for more black breastfeeding facts!

happy baby

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