Black Breastfeeding Week is August 25-31, 2016. Many may be asking, if August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month and August 1-6 was World Breastfeeding Week, why is there a need for a Black Breastfeeding Week???
According to organizers Kimberly Seals Allers, Kiddada Green and Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka,
“Black Breastfeeding Week was created because for over 40 years there has been a gaping racial disparity in breastfeeding rates. The most recent CDC data show that 75% of white women have ever breastfed versus 58.9% of black women. The fact that racial disparity in initiation and an even bigger one for duration has lingered for so long is reason enough to take 7 days to focus on the issue.”
And the organizers cite 5 specific reasons a Black Breastfeeding week is essential:
- The High Black Infant Mortality Rate
- High Rates of Diet Related Disease in African Americans
- Lack of diversity in the lactation field
- Unique cultural barriers among black women
- Desert-like conditions in our communities
If you ask any black breastfeeding expert what are the top barriers to breastfeeding for black women, they will reply:
- The historical role of black women as “wet nurses” to white (slave owner’s) children
- The perception by many black people that breastfeeding is “dirty” or “nasty” (the result of #1)
- The aggressive campaign by formula companies who capitalized on the notion that “poorer women” breastfeed and modern women of means used formula.
- Hospitals that serve primarily black patients have been shown not to offer the same level of support and education for breastfeeding initiation to black women
- Few professional black lactation consultants
- The lack of support from family members for breastfeeding
It has to be recognized that breastfeeding has very different implications for black women than for white women and lactation consultants trying to counsel black women to breastfeed must be aware of the cultural history of breastfeeding for black women. They need to be aware of the fact that many black women have no breastfeeding role models as their mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts may not have breastfed their babies. Without the family tradition of breastfeeding, and the history of the “mammy” wet nurse, many black women lack breastfeeding support and encouragement from their families and are not eager to breastfeed themselves. Many black women work at jobs where they may not be able to take time to nurse or pump, nor do they have a private place to nurse or pump at work. For these reasons in particular and many others, it is imperative that more black women become trained as lactation consultants. Certification to become an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), the top credential for lactation consultants, is such a rigorous and expensive endeavor, and many black women who want to become certified state they cannot afford to undertake the process.
So while there are many challenges that face black women who choose to breastfeed and Sellers, Greene and Sangodele-Ayoka-like many other black women who are well versed in the benefits of breastfeeding for back women-have taken it upon themselves to create an organization that promotes breastfeeding and where they can provide information, education, support and resources for black women who want to breastfeed.
In counseling black women to breastfeed, highlighting the benefits of breastfeeding is a potent motivator. Breastfed babies are:
- Less likely to have allergies and asthma
- Less likely to have upper respiratory and ear infections
- Less likely to have weight problems as adults
- Less likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes
- Able to self soothe/are less fussy
- Have less stomach upset (and less incidence of Necrotizing Enterocolitis)
- May have increased intelligence
- Less likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
And breastfeeding greatly benefits Mamas, Too!
- Mamas who breastfeed tend to return to their pre-pregnancy weight sooner
- Mamas who breastfeed experience decreased incidences of breast and ovarian cancers
- Mamas who breastfeed experience decreased incidences of Type 2 diabetes
Before being brought to this country as slaves, black women successfully breastfed their babies. Unfortunately, the legacy of slavery and many current socioeconomic and cultural barriers have made breastfeeding a difficult process for many mamas. It is imperative that these barriers be eliminated and that the education, support and resources be made available so that black mamas and their babies can reap the many life enhancing benefits of breastfeeding.
My Breastfed babies then…..
It’s world Breastfeeding week (August 1-6, 2016) and August is Breastfeeding Awareness month.
Some of you are pretty sick of me posting breastfeeding memes and articles on the facebook page and have expressed your displeasure at what you perceive as my “bullying” mamas to breastfeed, and shaming those who have chosen not to breastfeed. I am a breastfeeding advocate to my heart, that I cannot deny. But my passion for women to breastfeed their babies stems from the unequivocal benefits that occur to both mamas and babies when breastfeeding occurs.
When babies breastfeed, they receive cells, hormones, and antibodies in breastmilk which protect them from illness. This protection is unique and changes to meet a baby’s needs as he/she grows. Until a baby receives all of his/her immunizations, they will receive protection via their mama’s antigens via breastmilk. Breastfeeding has also been linked to reduced risks of:
- Childhood leukemia
- Childhood obesity
- Ear infections
- Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Lower respiratory infections
- Necrotizing enterocolitis, a disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract in pre-term infants
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Type 2 diabetes
Likewise, mamas who breastfeed typically (but not always) lose their pregnancy weight faster. Mamas who breastfeed will have reduced uterine bleeding post partum due to the oxytocin released and the increased uterine contractions, and their uteri return to pre-pregnancy size and position sooner than in mamas who do not breastfeed. Breastfeeding also leads to increased bonding between mamas and their infants as they are very close, skin to skin and at times gazing eye to eye. This closeness promotes a sense of safety and security in infants enabling them to feel soothed and less fussy. According to La Leche League, moms who breastfeed sleep more, are less likely to miss work due to illness save money and are at lower risk of several diseases and forms of cancer. Breastfeeding has also been linked to reduced rates of post partum depression and reduced severity in post partum depressive symptoms.
Still, I get it. Many women will not breastfeed their babies, either because they were not able to breastfeed or because they simply did not want to. That is okay. How a woman chooses to feed her child is a very personal decision. But as a clinician and women’s health educator, I would be remiss if I didn’t provide you with the most up to date information and resources so that you can make wise health care choices for yourself and your family and live the healthiest lifestyle possible.
I’m currently working towards the IBCLC credential to become an international board certified lactation consultant. In my training, the most common issue that I see is women not having the support that they need for breastfeeding success. Breastfeeding is natural, but not always easy. Sometimes all a mama needs is guidance and support. You’d be amazed at how simply changing a baby’s position (so that the angle at which their little mouth approaches the breast) will dramatically reduce breastfeeding pain and cracking nipples. Likewise many mamas don’t believe that they are making enough breastmilk to feed their babies and stop thinking that they aren’t feeding their babies enough. Mamas can be reassured their babies are getting enough to eat when they note nursing weights increased after breastfeeding. Additionally, if a baby is healthy, happy and gaining weight appropriately, then a mama can rest assured that she is making a sufficient amount of breastmilk.
While there are numerous books and articles available to guide a new mama on her breastfeeding journey, I am a staunch proponent of breastfeeding consultations (and hence my training!). When a mama is before me, I can see how she holds the baby, how the baby is behaving, how the baby is latching to the breast….And then it is often easy to see the possible obstacles to successful, pain-free breastfeeding and to correct them. Sometimes babies need to more inline with Mamas’ chests and resting babies on a pillow or two makes breastfeeding easier. Sometimes having mama lay on her side and nurse is helpful. And if a mama is having nipple soreness, cracking or has inverted nipples, a nipple shield may prove invaluable to her breastfeeding success.
Mamas, in a perfect world, all mamas would breastfeed their babies. I do believe that many more mamas here in the US would breastfeed or breastfeed longer if their efforts were more accepted and supported. We’re getting there. More businesses are providing areas in which mamas can nurse their babies. Employers are providing areas where mamas can either nurse or pump breastmilk. Many hospitals are obtaining the Baby Friendly designation, a designation that states the hospital is committed to exclusive breastfeeding as the most beneficial infant nutrition and all hospital staff is trained and dedicated to this initiative. NO FORMULA IS PROVIDED IN THE HOSPITAL AND NO FORMULA SAMPLES ARE GIVEN TO MAMAS! Finally, more and more birth workers (like me) are boning up on their breastfeeding skills and making themselves available to help and support mamas. Look for these Breastfeeding Consultants and supports in your area:
Peer Breastfeeding Counselors
Labor and Delivery Nurses.
It is my mission to help every mama who wants to and is physically able, to have a healthy baby. It is also my mission to help and support her to love and a raise that baby. Breastfeeding is quite possibly the best way for an infant to start out in life. While I know that is is not easy, if a mama wants to breastfeed, I’m here to do everything that I can to help. If you can’t reach one of the above supports, I can assist you. Simply send an e-mail to email@example.com and we’ll schedule a time to talk and see what you need.
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Mamas on Bedrest: “Widespread Insurance Coverage of Doula Care Would Reduce Costs, Improve Maternal and Infant Health”January 14th, 2016
As we roll into 2016 one thing is certain: We are on the brink of change in the maternity world! At no time in history have there been so many groups and so many initiatives determined to improve maternity care and birth outcomes. Below is a press release put out by two leading maternity advocacy groups, Choices in Childbirth and Childbirth Connection (a program of the National Partnership for Women and Families) to raise awareness not only of the cost benefit of doula care, but also the tremendous benefit doulas provide to mamas and infants in improving birth outcomes. A doula is “a trained birth attendant who provides non-medical emotional, physical and informational support before, during and after childbirth.” Here is more from the press release:
“Widespread coverage of doula care is overdue,” said Michele Giordano, executive director of Choices in Childbirth. “Overwhelming evidence shows that giving women access to doula care improves their health, their infants’ health, and their satisfaction with and experience of care. Women of color and low-income women stand to benefit even more from access to doula care because they are at increased risk for poor maternal and infant outcomes. Now is the time to take concrete steps to ensure that all women can experience the benefits of doula care.”
“Doula care is exactly the kind of value-based, patient-centered care we need to support as we transform our health care system into one that delivers better care and better outcomes at lower cost,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership. “By expanding coverage for doula care, decision-makers at all levels and across sectors – federal and state, public and private – have an opportunity to improve maternal and infant health while reducing health care costs.”
The brief provides key recommendations to expand insurance coverage for doula care across the country. They have also provided an informative infographic which also summarized the major points (see below).
- Congress should designate birth doula services as a mandated Medicaid benefit for pregnant women based on evidence that doula support is a cost-effective strategy to improve birth outcomes for women and babies and reduce health disparities, with no known harms.
- The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) should develop a clear, standardized pathway for establishing reimbursement for doula services, including prenatal and postpartum visits and continuous labor support, in all state Medicaid agencies and Medicaid managed care plans. CMS should provide guidance and technical assistance to states to facilitate this coverage.
- State Medicaid agencies should take advantage of the recent revision of the Preventive Services Rule, 42 CFR §440.130(c), to amend their state plans to cover doula support. States should also include access to doula support in new and existing Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) waiver programs.
- The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force should determine whether continuous labor support by a trained doula falls within the scope of its work and, if so, should determine whether labor support by a trained doula meets its criteria for recommended preventive services.
- Managed care organizations and other private insurance plans as well as relevant innovative payment and delivery systems with options for enhanced benefits should include support by a trained doula as a covered service.
- State legislatures should mandate private insurance coverage of doula services.