In the UK we have some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world, with less than half breastfeeding after 6-8 weeks, eight out of ten women stopping breastfeeding before they want to and around only 1% still breastfeeding at 12 months as recommended by the WHO.
In the US, African American women have the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation, as well as continuation at 6 months and 12 months, compared with all other racial/ethnic groups in the United States.
The reason this is frankly alarming and a concerning public health issue for the black population is because the vast amount of benefits breastfeeding confers for children, women and families are just not reaching the black community.
This disparity reflects systemic issues in our healthcare system (recently pointed out by the maternal death rates in black women being far higher than their white counterpart) and this disproportionately prevents black women from getting the care and access to resources they need for breastfeeding!
Why is it Important?
Evidence shows that Black families suffer the highest infant mortality rate in the UK and because breastfeeding reduces the rate of sudden infant death syndrome 'improving the UK's breastfeeding rates would have a profoundly positive impact on child health.' says UNICEF.
Breastfeeding protects children from a vast array of illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, viral infections, heart disease and obesity.
Mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension, as well as ovarian and breast cancers (the first three affecting black people more frequently and the final causing higher mortality rates in black people compared to other ethnic groups)!
So what are the reasons behind this disparity?
According to US data, which has researched the disparities in more detail than the UK- ‘Black mothers disproportionately experience a number of barriers to breastfeeding, including lack of knowledge about breastfeeding; lack of peer, family, and social support; insufficient education and support from health care settings; and concerns about navigating breastfeeding and employment.’
This table highlights some common barriers to breastfeeding and hopefully by understanding these barriers, we can understand in more detail how to tackle and improve the current situation faced by black mothers and families.
Where do we go from here?
We must begin by
- Encouraging and uplifting black mothers and children
- Educating ourselves on the problems faced by black mothers so that we can be a driver for change
- Supporting organisations that support black mothers and families on their journey
Here are some of our favourite list of great resources for breastfeeding- be sure to follow them:
Useful web resources
Books and Podcasts
- “The Big Letdown” Kimberle Seals Allers
- The boob group podcast
Did you know that August 25th-31st is international black breastfeeding week?
Set your reminders and if you are a black woman who is/was breastfeeding: post your picture to encourage and show support in your community. Visit http://blackbreastfeedingweek.org for more information
If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact us- we’d love to hear from you!