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National Health Officials Reach Out to Mothers During Black Breastfeeding Week
By Jennifer Bihm, Staff Writer
Published August 31, 2017

Health expert and breastfeeding advocate Calondra Tibbs (courtesy photo)

“Breastfeeding is a critical public health issue, as it is the optimal source of infant nutrition, and has long-term health benefits for mom and baby,” says Calondra Tibbs, MPH, Senior Advisor, Public Health Programs, National Association of County and City Health Officials.

“Breastfeeding protects babies from infections and decreases the risk of leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome and obesity. For mothers it reduces their risk of breast and ovarian cancer, diabetes and heart attacks.”

Tibbs is imparting her knowledge of the subject during NACCHO’s fifth annual Black Breastfeeding Week, when they remind and encourage African American mothers to choose breastfeeding to optimally meet their babies’ needs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Black infants consistently had the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration across all of the organization’s study years. Among infants born in 2014, black infants had the lowest breastfeeding rates of all reported race/ethnicity groups. Only 68% of black infants were ever breastfed as compared to 85.7% of white infants.

Initiation rates for infants of mothers living in poverty was 73.2% among infants born in 2014.

Health experts are questioning the disparity, considering the amount of information available about the benefits of breastfeeding.

There are a variety of reasons that disparities persist according to Tibbs.

“[There are] several barriers such as low availability and access to breastfeeding support, lack of family and community support, unaccommodating workplace and childcare environments, and aggressive marketing of infant formula,” she said.

“Structural barriers disproportionately impact women of color and women living in poverty. For instance, birthing facilities using breastfeeding-friendly practices are less likely to be located in communities with high percentages of people of color or residents living in poverty.

“In addition, the lack of federal legislation regarding paid family medical leave to support working families can impact decisions on returning to work. One-in-four women return to work within two weeks of delivery, and low-wage earners return to work sooner than higher wage earners. This limits the ability of women to establish breastfeeding prior to returning to work. And, although there are mandates for workplaces to support breastfeeding women, those working in the service industry are less likely to have adequate accommodations to support the pumping and storing of human milk…”

Local health departments can play a vital role in supporting breastfeeding and ensuring access to breastfeeding support, said Tibbs.

“ Local health departments and their partners are uniquely positioned to address breastfeeding by supporting policy, systems, and environmental changes that enable women to breastfeed at optimal rates. These include encouraging breastfeeding-friendly workplace and hospital practices and expanding community-level breastfeeding support.”

 

Categories: Family | Health
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