Skip to content

Breastfeeding yields positive benefits


Breastfeeding disparities among Black women exist

As the year comes to an end, many integral celebrations and holidays are on the horizon for the remaining portion of the calendar year. One celebration that is important to take note of is National Breastfeeding Month. As of 2011, August has been declared National Breastfeeding Month. Breastfeeding is a discussion, challenge, and healthy lifestyle choice for many mothers,  Breastfeeding provides not only a healthy and positive experience for both the mother and child but also ensures that babies will be gifted the building blocks necessary for a healthy life.

According to Dr. Danielle I. Schneider, Kaiser Permanente Southern California pediatrician, “ Women who breastfeed their babies will help ensure that their child can grow up healthy, and it will also lower a child’s risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Also, it’s likely to decrease a child’s chances of struggling with other health issues such as infections, obesity, and diabetes.”

Outside of offering a bonding experience for both parties, the benefits of breastfeeding for both baby and mom are outlined in a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) article. Benefits for babies include adaptive changes in breast milk that correspond with the baby's nutritional needs. It also offers protection against a good amount of short and long-term illnesses and diseases. Babies who are breastfed have a lower risk of asthma, obesity, Type 1 diabetes, and SIDS. Stomach bugs and ear infections are less common in breast fed babies.

Mothers who breastfeed also strengthen their children’s immunity system and supply cost-efficient nutrition. Breast milk offers a good balance of fat, sugar, water, and protein and is easily digestible. Natural breastmilk includes carbohydrates such as lactose which allows a healthy balance of bacteria, fats that help baby brain and nervous system development, proteins and white blood cells that shield infections, and vitamins that assist in growth during a critical time period.

While there are many health benefits for babies, mothers also reap benefits. One major benefit falls under fast recovery time from childbirth. Lastly, breastfeeding offers mobility to working moms, and active moms whose schedules are packed. Continued benefits include reduced risk of ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, endometrial, and thyroid cancer. Breastfeeding also helps lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, high-blood pressure, and cholesterol. Please note that if you are HIV-positive and have active tuberculosis, it is not medically advised to breastfeed.

There are still many disparities among Black women who breastfeed in comparison to their White counterparts. Although slavery is considered old news in many settings, in Black communities it is very much relevant and deeply painful. Many black women have come to associate breastfeeding with being unwillingly forced to, as they were wet nurses for white babies. Breastfeeding is an individual choice and is recommended, however having negative feelings isn't healthy, and changing the negative connotations associated with breastfeeding is what is important. Encouragement for Black women is essential to empowering them to breastfeed.

Earlier this year, 88% of all women reported breastfeeding, however, only 69% of Black women are breastfeeding in comparison to 82% of white women. Contributing factors include; lack of support and health resources, making for an emotionally unfilling experience for Black women wanting to participate in the bonding process. As with most things and individuals, familial support is a driving factor and lack of approval and or critique can deter women who are already skeptical away from embarking on their breastfeeding journey.

There is a large belief that Black women prefer bottle-feeding as opposed to breastfeeding. Formula equals status, if you can afford to buy formula, you are financially secure. Health care support can be challenging as well as costs associated with doctors and specialists.

Ambivalence toward navigating the convergence of breastfeeding and a working environment can deter breastfeeding. Women planning to return to work before 12 weeks postpartum encounter difficulties in plans to adjust. Oftentimes women with lower incomes return to work shortly after birth due to socioeconomic circumstances.

There are many tools in place to help assist women in underserved communities along their bonding and breastfeeding journey with their babies. One is a support group, other resources include searching for a doula, and a lactation consultant or a birth center. For additional support, contact Breastfeeding Helpline at 800-994-9662,, New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding,, and

Please visit for more resources.