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 Video Wednesday!
This week, I am taking a look at the HealthTap App. As you will recall from the last blog entry, HealthTap is a health information website that provides health information, tips and breaking health information. The site boasts some 40,000 physician experts from all 50 states and 128 specialties. HealthTap has just rolled out its new App and now consumers can have the convenience of health information at their fingertips.
The App is more than just an encyclopedia of health information. It is a way for consumers to store and track their own health information. This morning, I downloaded the app onto my iPad. The App then guided me through the registration process and enabled me to input personal information and preferences. I was able to “follow” doctors whose work I highly respect and often cite in my blogs and other educational information. I can contact my own gynecologist (who is a participating physician), ask questions of other physicians and get feedback on lab information, tests and other health inquiries.
I have to say that I barely scratched the surface of the HealthTap App. I am sure that it has many more functions that I have yet to discover. But I found it really easy to use, easy to read and easy to input and save my information. I think that this app may be a handy way for Mamas on Bedrest to chart their bed rest progress. In particular, when I think of mamas with cervical insufficiency, each time you go to the OB, you can chart your cervical measurements and keep track. If you have pregnancy induced hypertension or pre-eclampsia, you can track your blood pressures and/or urine proteins (if your OB has you doing urine dip sticks). And this tool is useful after your pregnancy as well; helping you to chart breastfeeding, weight loss, exercise, sleep, and other health indices.
Give it a shot. It’s free and fun (The Geek in Me was quite giddy playing with this!!).
Good Morning Mamas!!
Question: Did any of you undergo “preconception” counseling before becoming pregnant?
I ask this question because a couple of days ago, I was trolling twitter and inserted myself into the #acogchat. The topic of discussion was preconception evaluations. When I entered the discussion, I’m thinking a good 20-30 minutes into the chat, the group was discussing how more women need to be aware of their health histories and essentially should have all their “medical ducks in a row” prior to becoming pregnant to avoid complications. Well you all know me. The statements were making my neck hairs stand on end because they seemed to be saying that when pregnancy complications arise, it’s because of something mamas haven’t addressed prior to getting pregnant, a sort of negligence. In my experience with Mamas on Bedrest that simply isn’t true. For many mamas, there is no rhyme or reason that they have the complications they have. And on that note, I jumped into the conversation.
Let me begin by saying that the moderators and participants of the chat were very gracious and receptive to me and my views. I didn’t exactly “tip toe” my way into the chat, I went in full throttle in defense of mamas! But as the chat progressed, we all reached a really good consensus about preconception health care and health care in general. With a candid discussion about the limitations of our current health care climate as well as cultural and societal opinions, we all left the chat with the following “agreement” regarding preconception evaluations/examinations/counseling:
A Preconception Exam/Evaluation is really preventive maintenance. As the chat progressed, we all realized that if health care providers ask, AT EACH AND EVERY VISIT, about a person’s medical history; if any new complications have arisen, if the patient has any new concerns, is there any change in family history…Then we are doing preconception counseling-the way that it should be done. A woman’s health (or anyone’s health) should always be optimized at any doctor/patient interaction. When we providers don’t ask these questions and update a patient’s record each and ever visit, we drop the ball not the patient.
Preconception Exams/Evaluations must be done for men as well as women! Conception takes 2 PEOPLE!! We focus so much on women (as the carriers) but we cannot forget the fact that the sperm quality will also affect whether or not conception takes place and has just as significant an impact on the health of the baby as the quality of the egg and mama’s health. Just as it’s important for mamas not to smoke or drink if they are trying to get pregnant, fathers who smoke, drink or have other health issues won’t impart healthy genes to their offspring and may also be impeding the conception process.
Preconception Exams/Evaluations must begin in pediatrics. This is one area in which there was some controversy. We all know that teen pregnancy is an issue in the United States. Yet, there is no consensus on when/how to teach sex education in schools. What we as a group came up with is that if we teach children to always take exemplary care of their bodies; stressing the importance of not smoking, not drinking alcohol in excess, avoiding recreational drugs, maintaining a healthy weight for height, getting regular exercise, avoiding risky sexual behavior, etc…We are teaching not only good health habits, but imparting good preconception habits. By focusing on good health, we can reduce the stress many parents feel regarding “sex education” and not step on toes. For example, talking to a teenager about how condoms work and how they prevent the spread of disease is a different conversation than, “You should use condoms at every sexual encounter. ” We impart the medical information and allow parents to speak to the moral implications as they see fit. (And while we know that many parents won’t speak with their children about sex, it is still the parents’ right to impart their moral code on children, not ours-no matter how much we feel it is needed. We can suggest to parents that they discuss certain issues with their children, but in the end, as it was brought up by a parent on the chat, it’s the parent’s obligation, responsibility and right to educate their children (or not) about sex.)
Do discuss medical costs. I brought this to the attention of the group that many insurance companies don’t cover maternity care and require a separate rider on policies. So many woman have been caught by this. Who wouldn’t? It’s natural to assume that if you have insurance, it will cover you if you become pregnant. This just isn’t the case! So as clinicians, we must ask our patients at each and every visit if their insurance has changed, and to give them a simple “heads up” that many treatments and procedures aren’t covered and they should review their insurance policies annually (and most especially if they are planning to become pregnant).
Make Sure Pre-Existing Conditions are Well Controlled Prior to Conception. Again, this was a topic that got us wound up for a minute. But as we discussed it, we all realized, that if health care providers are truly monitoring their patients’ medical conditions, say diabetes, then the goal should always be tight control. At each office visit the importance of blood sugar control should be discussed and emphasized-whether the patient is trying to become pregnant or not. So again, it’s not a question of preparing the patient for pregnancy, it’s about making sure the patient is in optimum health always.
I really am glad that I “crashed the chat”. I had the opportunity to speak on behalf of Mamas on Bedrest and to contribute to a really great discussion on patient care. The one area we were not able to address is the notion that all of this can be done in 8-12 minutes. But I am confident that given the passion and dedication to this group of health care professionals, even that “obstacle” will soon be eliminated.