Hello, Pregnant Ladies and Newly Born and Future Baby Mamas
At the age of 16, naive and a mother far too soon, I understood the importance of breastfeeding my son. While attending high school and working part-time, I faced social stigmas as a teenage mother, information was limited, and there were no role models to show me what to do.
At that time, I read Essence magazines, books, and pamphlets, and reached out to the few available professionals. They all helped me understand that breastfeeding, in so many ways, was the best thing I could do for my son. Back then, as a child having a child, I could not explain the love connection that I now realize was healing manifested in both mental and physical outcomes.
My breastfeeding experiences were beautiful with all three of my children. Because I nursed, my children were rarely uncomfortable or sick. I recall purposefully eating well and treating myself better so my children could benefit. On a spiritual level, when nursing, I stayed in tune with my children and my inner peace was strong. The experience became a continual healing exchange from our amazing eye contact and intense touch. On a personal level, my pregnant weight fell off rapidly. I did not have a menstrual period while nursing, and I do not recall ever feeling depressed. The initial nursing experience with each child was difficult, but the ease and convenience during each feeding, especially at night, was priceless.
I share my breastfeeding experience to encourage other mothers to also consider nursing their children. Currently, Black mothers are least likely to breastfeed their children. In fact, according to a 2019 weekly report from the CDC, it’s “estimated that non-Hispanic, Black infants are less likely to breastfeed, compared with other racial/ethnic groups.” Compared to Black infants, white infants are more than 20% more likely to nurse. Some of the existing barriers that influence many Black mothers’ decision not to breastfeed are based on a lack of:
- Awareness of the health benefits
- Positive self-perceptions
- Social support from peers and family
- Healthcare-setting education
Breastfeeding Benefits are Too Great to Overlook
The parent/child benefits of breastfeeding begin as early as one hour after birth. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months until at least one year old. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding until two years old or longer. Whichever you do, the benefits begin immediately. Breast milk helps babies and mothers maintain a healthy weight, and it provides ideal nutrition with important antibodies that help babies fight off disease and infections. On average, breastfed babies have higher intelligence scores and are less likely to develop behavioral or learning difficulties. Breastfeeding is an opportunity for the mother to have a personal connection with her baby. When breastfeeding, the process of involution helps encourage your uterus to return to its previous size. The health benefit for mothers is great: minimal risk of disease and depression and may potentially delay your menstruation cycle. The convenience of not purchasing and preparing formulas will save you time and money.
Together, with knowledge and awareness, we can increase breastfeeding initiatives that encourage more mothers to breastfeed. The health benefits are enormous. For all the reasons above, it is important to close the racial/ethnic differences in the Black-white breastfeeding gap.
Here are a few things we can do to encourage more mothers to breastfeed:
- Fund your local and national organizations that provide breastfeeding support, education, and awareness of the health benefits
- Find ways to create and encourage positive self-perceptions for breastfeeding
- Seek and request social support from healthcare institutions, families, and peers
As a proud grandmother of four children with one more on the way, each of my grandchildren has been breastfed. My grandchildren have received the same love, joy, and benefit that their parents received from me. The tradition lives. Together, we can encourage awareness and increase breastfeeding in our communities.