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Efforts underway to improve breastfeeding rates among black women

August played host to World Breastfeeding Week during its first seven days. More hospitals are reaching out to new mothers to boost breastfeeding and their babies health.

City of Clarksville July 4th fireworks displayAn April report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta found that African American mothers, who are less likely than white or Latina women to breastfeed, have reversed that trend and are now doing so in impressive numbers. Sixty-five percent of black women have nursed their infants at some point. This compares to a 36 percent rate 14 years ago. Still, only 20 percent of black mothers reach the government’s target goal of exclusively breastfeeding when their infants are six months old. Breastfeeding can help address health problems that plague both African American mothers and infants alike. Breastfeeding is the most natural and beneficial way to strengthen your baby’s immune system and provide the best possible nutrition for yourself, as a mother, and your baby.

“Breastfeeding has many benefits ranging from creating an important mother/baby bond to ensuring baby gets natural nutrients,” said Pam Noreiko, a lactation specialist at Baptist Hospital.

Baptist Hospital suggests six reasons why women should consider breastfeeding:

  1. Breast milk is the most complete form of nutrition for infants. A mother`s milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water and protein that is needed for a baby`s healthy growth and development. Breastfed infants are seven times more likely to maintain a healthy weight gain and formula-fed infants. Breastfeeding also reduces infants’ risk of asthma, diabetes, infections and sudden infant death syndrome, all more common among African American infants.
  2. Breastfeeding helps form a significant bond for mother and baby. Physical contact is important to newborns and can help the newborn feel more secure, warm and comforted.
  3. Nursing uses up extra calories- 500 calories a day, making it easier to lose the pregnancy weight. It can also help ward off obesity and diabetes for which African American women are at higher risk. Breastfeeding also helps the uterus to get back to its original size and lessens any bleeding a woman may have after giving birth.
  4. Breastfeeding lowers the risks of breast and ovarian cancer, and possibly the risk of hip fractures and osteoporosis after menopause. The health benefits continue through the next generation: Studies show breastfed daughters have lower rates of breast cancer when they grow up.
  5. Breastfeeding makes your life easier. It saves time and money. There is no need to purchase, measure and mix formula continuously.
  6. Breastfed babies score higher on IQ tests later in life, especially babies who were born prematurely.

African American Street Festival 2008All across the nation, advocates are offering wider education, tools and models for breastfeeding to make nursing the norm among black women. CDC officials are promoting “Healthy People 2010” objectives that include having seventy-five percent of all mothers initiate breastfeeding and having fifty percent of all infants exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months.

The federal Office of Women’s Health has made “An Easy Guide to Breastfeeding for African American Women” available online. Thus far, 65 hospitals and birthing centers nationwide have worked to earn “Baby-Friendly” status from the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund. This designation is awarded to facilities which offer “optimal” lactation support to patients. Such efforts include:

  • breastfeeding videos playing in prenatal clinics’ waiting rooms,
  • staff members who interact with patients receiving 18 hours of training in breastfeeding basics and lactation consultants meet with every new mother,
  • moving infants out of the nursery into the mothers room, and providing free breast pumps to patients who can’t afford them.

Baptist Hospital’s Lactation Department has the medical knowledge and expertise to answer any questions that would help mothers breastfeed successfully. The department can be reached at (615) 284-3381. The Lactation Boutique at Baptist Hospital also offers a complete line of breastfeeding supplies, pumps and nursing bras to make the breastfeeding experience successful. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Please call 615-284-MILK (6455) for more information.

Details for this story was drawn from Baptist Hospital’s website media press releases and The Tennessean‘s Healthtalk coverage and The Chicago Sun-Times.



  1. Thank you for writting such an encouraging word to not just black women but all women on the importance of breast feeding.
    I continue to breast feed my daughter of 14mths and I’ll be honest, there are a lot of times I feel like saying I’m done!” But I know that she still needs that comfort and extra attention that only a mother can provide.
    She is a very healthy child, is meeting all milestones and she is confident and self assured, all things I know stem from breastfeeding.
    Its about time someone started getting the word out there! Good for you!

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