This year marks the 10th anniversary of Black Breastfeeding Week. The week-long observance focuses on providing lactation support to people of color that reflects racial equity, cultural empowerment and community engagement.
Why Black Breastfeeding Week is important
While breastfeeding rates in the United States have increased over the last 10 years, racial and ethnic health disparities continue. In fact, a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that Black babies are less likely to be breastfed compared to babies from other racial and ethnic groups. Specifically, while 84.1 percent of all babies in this country are breastfed at some point in their lives, only 73.6 percent of Black babies are ever breastfed. On the other hand, most Asian babies (90.3%) are breastfed—the highest rate among all ethnic and racial groups.
According to experts, the reasons for lower-than-average breastfeeding rates among Black families include lack of culturally appropriate information about the benefits of breastfeeding, a lack of support for returning to work or school while breastfeeding, and a lack of Black lactation consultants, doulas and midwives.
Why is breastfeeding good for your baby?
Breast milk helps babies grow and protects them from infections and illness. It is the best food for babies during the first year of life.
The benefits of breastfeeding include:
- Breast milk has hormones and the right amount of protein, sugar, fat and most vitamins to help your baby grow and develop.
- Breast milk has antibodies that help protect your baby from many illnesses.
- Breast milk has fatty acids, like DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), that may help your baby’s brain and eyes develop.
- Breastfeeding can reduce your baby’s risk for sudden infant death syndrome (also called SIDS) and necrotizing enterocolitis, a common but very serious problem that can affect a newborn baby’s intestines.
- Breast milk is easy to digest.
- Breast milk changes as your baby grows so they get exactly what they need at the right time.
- Breast milk is always ready when your baby wants to eat. The more you breastfeed, the more milk you make.
Why is breastfeeding good for moms of color?
Breastfeeding is an important social driver of health. For example, breastfeeding increases the amount of a hormone (chemical) in your body called oxytocin, which helps your uterus (womb) after birth go back to the size it was before you got pregnant. It may help lower the risk for diabetes and breast cancer, medical conditions that Black women are disproportionately affected by.
Need more information about breastfeeding? Our Breastfeeding Guide has tips for breastfeeding holds, using a breast pump and storing breast milk.