Breastfeeding and Race

ozare3 New Born Baby
Creative Commons License photo credit: cheriejoyful

Breastfeeding offers a number of benefits both to mom and baby, which you’re well aware of if you’ve followed us for any amount of time. While we realize that not every mom can or should breastfeed, we do think these benefits are significant and that breastfeeding should be encouraged.





One of the unfortunate realities about breastfeeding is the racial gap. According to research from the CDC, black women fall woefully behind all other ethnic groups when it comes to breastfeeding. Here’s how the breastfeeding numbers break down:

  • Among black mothers, 54 percent breastfeed from birth. 27 percent continue to breastfeed past the first six months.
  • Among white mothers, 74 percent breastfeed from birth. 43 percent continue to breastfeed past the first six months.
  • Among Hispanic mothers, 80 percent breastfeed from birth. 45 percent continue to breastfeed pas the first six months.

In some places, public health workers and breastfeeding advocates are working to address this racial disparity. For example, there is a breastfeeding program in Washington, D.C. seeks to buck that trend.

The program consists of a four-week class, in which pregnant women gather to learn more about the health benefits of breastfeeding. The program is offered in areas of the District where the breastfeeding rates are lowest.

A lack of knowledge is at the root

According to the director of the program, the biggest barriers to breastfeeding tend to be a lack of knowledge and a lack of community support.

There tend to be myths that grow up around breastfeeding, that it might be painful or that it might be hard to get the baby to do it. If a woman is the first in her family to breastfeed, she’s probably going to face a lack of help and support from family members or the community at large.

The key is helping women make an informed choice. That’s what this program, and other programs like it, tries to do. In all reality, education is the best weapon we have in advocating for breastfeeding change. Give women the information they need and then empower them to make the decisions that are best for them and their baby.


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