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Mama’s Milk Is Best for Our Health

Posted Sep 03 2010 9:12am
By, Angele W.
OurHealth Guest Writer

Mama's Milk Is Best for Our Health

Growing up I always heard my black mother brag about how my sister and I were healthy babies because she breastfed us. Right before I gave birth to my first child we attended a breastfeeding class taught by a black nurse and learned about all the great benefits of breastfeeding. My homegirl who is black also breastfeeds. I am black and I never questioned whether or not I would breastfeed once I had children. It just seemed like the natural and right thing to do. So, I was very shocked and surprised when I recently found out that, a ccording to the statistics , black women typically don’t breastfeed! We are the least likely to initiate breastfeeding, and the least likely to continue after we initiate. I was not aware of this.

But, what’s the big deal? So what if black women are not breastfeeding? How is this an issue for OurHealth?

Here are the goodies: Breastfeeding helps prevent childhood obesity, reduces the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), and builds up the child's immunity system. Breastfed babies have fewer ear infections g astrointestinal illnesses, and respiratory infections . Breasfeeding also helps the mother loose weight after pregnancy by burning 500 calories per day! It also reduces the mothers risk of type 2 diabetes . Benefits for breasfeeding mothers also include protection against: r eproductive cancers, h eart disease, and r heumatoid arthritis. Breastfeeding also , and reduces the risk of postpartum depression. Donated breast mlk can also help save the lives of premature babies . Win-win-win. But, with all these benefits, why are black women the lowest group of breastfeeders?

Is it because we can't separate the sexual nature of our breast from the motherly nature? I remember when I was about 12 years old there was a foster child that stayed with my family who became a teen mother. She cringed at the thought of breast feeding and said to me, “My breast are for my man, not for a baby.” Her expression stayed with me. Even though I was a child at the time, I remember thinking that her comments were ignorant.

Is it because we are wrapped up in the vanity and cosmetic look of our breasts? Recently I was watching MTV and there was a reality show with a teen mom who said, “I don’t want to breast feed because I don’t want my breasts to get saggy.” Her doctor replied , “It’s pregnancy that causes boobs to get saggy, not the breastfeeding .” The girl just seemed to tune out her doctor, and thereby block out the literal voice of reason.

Is it because when we return to work, we cannot handle the busy schedule of a breastfeeding/working mother? When children get sent to daycare, it becomes much easier to buy formula than to pump throughout the day, label, and store milk for the baby. It takes much more time and energy to prepare breast milk when the baby is apart from the mother, than to use formula. And, for mothers who are dependent upon government subsidies, such as WIC (Women, Infant, Children), formula comes at little-to-no cost.

Is it because we buy into the marketing schemes? Formula companies also tend to market more aggressively to women of color and those in lower economic situations because the government subsidizes it. Organizations that support breast feeding, like La Leche League, often tend to service white women.

I think about it over and over again and I just don't get it. I just don't understand. How did we go from being this country’s wet nurses during slavery to those most reliant on formula for feeding our own children? Why aren't WE breastfeeding?

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