Black Breastfeeding Week celebrates 10 years in Delaware

2022 marks the 10th anniversary of Black Breastfeeding Week, which was celebrated this week in Delaware. Ten years of support, collaboration and communication. Ten years of celebrating the most natural act: nurturing and nurturing our babies.

You might wonder why you should care. Does it impact you in any way? The answer is a resounding yes.”

In Delaware, we have made progress in reducing our infant mortality rate, with an overall reduction of 30% – from 9.3 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2004 to 6.5 in 2020. However, racial disparity persists. For every 1,000 live births, 11.6 black infant deaths occur, compared to 3.8 white infant deaths.

Black babies in Delaware are dying before their first birthday at nearly three times the rate of white babies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 74% of black infants are breastfed, which is lower than the national average of 83%.

We could reduce child mortality by eliminating disparities in breastfeeding.

Also, consider these benefits:

  • Breast milk gives infants a better chance of survival in the first year of life.
  • Breast milk is “preventive medicine” – it provides nutrients and immunities that reduce the risk of common childhood illnesses and infections in infants.
  • Breastfeeding promotes the health of the mother, reducing her to a lower risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and ovarian and breast cancers.
  • Early skin-to-skin contact helps newborns adjust to the environment outside the womb and provides an emotional bond.

In July, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its Breastfeeding Policy Statement recommending exclusive breastfeeding of infants for the first six months of life. The declaration also recognizes breastfeeding as a public health imperative and a matter of equity. Nationally, black women have the lowest rate of breastfeeding initiation of any racial/ethnic group.

For many reasons, breastfeeding isn’t always the easiest choice, but when it comes to health benefits for black and brown babies and mothers, it’s the best choice. Breastfed babies have a reduced risk of:

  • Diarrhea
  • Ear and lung infections
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis
  • Sudden infant death syndrome, commonly known as sudden unexplained infant death syndrome
  • Upper respiratory tract infections
  • Asthma
  • Celiac disease
  • Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
  • Leukemia
  • Childhood overweight and obesity

Breastfeeding families have been shown to be sick less often and parents miss less work. But we also know that there is a lack of support in many black and brown communities for a variety of reasons.

Without family or community support, where does a new mother turn? At the Delaware Healthy Mother & Infant Consortium, Women, Infants and Children, as well as the Delaware Breastfeeding Coalition, we are making steady progress to provide an answer. Our work is based on awareness, education, unity and commitment to change. While the black and brown community still faces many challenges on the path to equity and inclusion, we are also seeing more initiatives and more people who understand our challenges, respect the journey of generations of women women and want to come together to change the narrative and build a stronger future.

Delaware is changing the narrative to better support black and brown women who choose to breastfeed. Delawareans need to understand where and how we — as influencers, employers, and caring citizens — can make changes that lead to increased breastfeeding among Black and Brown women. Here are five ways to remove the toughest obstacles:

  1. To increase Black women’s knowledge of the many health benefits of breastfeeding for both child and mother.
  2. Support initiatives to increase diversity in lactation. The racial disparity in breastfeeding leadership and culturally appropriate lactation services is glaring and damaging.
  3. Facilitate breastfeeding at work. Low-income black women often return to work earlier and could benefit from paid maternity leave, more flexible hours, and accommodations for breastfeeding and expression.
  4. Address and be sensitive to unique cultural dynamics that discourage breastfeeding. These range from historic nanny duties for slaves to a lack of role models.
  5. Create the first food-friendly districts. Too many black women live in “first food deserts”. It takes more than breasts to breastfeed – women need communities that offer everything from access to healthier foods to emotional support.

Black Breastfeeding Week is a national program to show how important breastfeeding can be for black and brown babies, mothers, families and entire communities.

For seven days we can educate, we can communicate, we can focus on inspiring change that will empower black and brown individuals from the earliest stages of life. But it doesn’t start and stop there. This week is a starting point. Now is the time to renew our commitment to our many advocacy activities and mobilize policymakers and philanthropists, so they can provide what is needed to build more bridges between the Black community and vital resources.

Join us to raise awareness and educate! And be sure to participate in this week’s events. Learn more and sign up at https://dethrives.com/blog/black-breastfeeding-week-2022.

Charmaine Sampson is the health program coordinator for Delaware WIC. Shamiya Gould is co-chair of the Breastfeeding Coalition of Delaware.

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