Nikki’s Note: Now THIS is a VERY good question. I breastfed my daughter for two years. It was a great bonding experience, and convenient to boot. Great info in this article. Please share with friends.
When Beyonce took little Blue Ivy out for a lunch date and breastfed her publicly, the notoriously private superstar set off a firestorm across the internet. Breastfeeding advocates wondered what impact her decision to breastfeed would have on her fans and non-fans alike.
One of the most vocal responses came from author Kimberly Seals Allers, who wrote the fire-button post, “Dear White Women: Beyonce Is OUR Breastfeeding Moment. Please Step Aside.” In it, she lambasted breastfeeding advocates for not clearly linking what Beyonce’s private moment meant to a community that lags behind in nearly every breastfeeding measure.
“You see, as you may have heard, black women have had historically low breastfeeding initiation and duration rates for over 40 years,” she wrote. “And while we have made some solid gains in initiation, when it comes to the gold standard of infant nutrition, exclusive breastfeeding for six months, we have a lot of work to do.”
But when it comes to the power of celebrity breastfeeding role models, to normalize breastfeeding, add the lifestyle cache and make it trendy like has happened among white women, we have very few. The fabulous Laila Ali comes to mind. But not many others.
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Allers goes on to highlight some of the dismal facts about black women and breastfeeding: Breastfed babies have lower rates of ear and respiratory infections, diarrhea and childhood cancer. Women who breastfeed lower their risk of certain types of cancers, osteoporosis and diabetes. Only 54% of black women initiate breastfeeding, compared to 74% of white women and 79% of Hispanic women.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for six months, but only 23% of black women make it that long.
“Over the past decade, as I’ve worked as a journalist, commentator and consultant on the African-American motherhood experience, I became deeply frustrated by the lack of credible information as to why African-American women have had significantly lower breastfeeding initiation rates,” Allers said.
Allers isn’t just talking and writing about the problem. Author of the popular Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy, Allers teamed up with the Kellogg Foundation, which named her an IATP Food and Community Fellow, to address the barriers to breastfeeding in low-income communities. Together they’ve launched BB360, the first-of-its-kind online resource to share stories of black women breastfeeding. She, along with Tonya Lewis Lee (wife of Spike Lee and active infant mortality expert), hosted a launch party to celebrate the creation of a space where black women can actively get the support they need for successful breastfeeding. More images of women successfully breastfeeding will help the cause, Allers said.
As she wrote in her controversial piece, “If more black babies are breastfed then more black babies have a chance to have healthier lives – fewer respiratory infections and lower rates of asthma and childhood obesity – health problems that are running rampant in our children.”
To learn more about BB360, visit www.mochamanual.com/BB360.
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• Think about your baby’s first food long before you deliver. Find a lactation consultant at the hospital you are delivering at or in your area before you deliver your baby.
• Nurse as soon as possible after birth.
• Establish the proper latch on. This will eliminate much of the pain and soreness often associated with breastfeeding, and it will allow the baby to get milk more easily.
• Avoid nipple confusion by introducing bottles too soon.
• Do not restrict the length or frequency of breastfeeding. Follow your baby’s cues.
• Sleep when your baby sleeps! • Wear your baby! Carry your baby in a sling for easy nursing.
• Have a glass of water every time you sit down to nurse – this will help make sure you’re drinking enough fluids. Your level of hydration affects your milk flow.
• Avoid bras and tight-fitting clothing in the first few weeks after birth to allow sore nipples to heal.
• Use pillows to support you and your baby while breastfeeding.
• If you experience pain during breastfeeding, seek help from your doctor or a licensed lactation consultant. Extreme or continued pain could be a sign that your baby is not latching on properly.