Black Breastfeeding Moms: Without a Community?

Why aren’t more black moms breastfeeding their babies? As AA women we have the lowest breastfeeding statistics in the group.

Chart: Children ever breastfed or fed breast milk by race/ethnicity. Hispanic: 2003 (77.3%), 2007 (82.4%); white 2003 (74.9%), 2007 (76.7%); Black: 2003 (51.4%), 2007 (55.5%); Multi-racial: 2003 (72.6%), 2007 (74.0%); Other: 2003 (80.5%), 2007 (82.2%) (click on the picture to see the full report on


Without a  Community?

Can any one deny that the black community, borne from the depths of American history, is one that is broken and shattered? From this perspective there are so many components that play a part to low breastfeeding rates, I don’t even know where to begin. So let’s start at the most obvious component. Support… the lack thereof and what that signifies. To become a lactating mom,  you must be postpartum. To be postpartum, you must have been pregnant, To be pregnant, you must conceive. To conceive, egg must meet sperm. Since women cannot make their own sperm, this process all begins with a relationship (sexual, or committed). The NCHS (National Survey of Family Growth) reports:

“Research finds that, in comparison with unmarried persons, married persons tend to exhibit greater physical, emotional, and economic wellbeing, although the association may vary by outcome, sex, and other factors (3–5). Children in households with two married parents differ from those in other types of households on measures such as child achievement, but the causal processes are complex (4,6,7). Given the potential benefits of marriage, concerns over a decline in marriage have prompted a great deal of attention as well as investment in marriage promotion programs, such as the Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy Marriage Initiative (8)..”

It’s common knowledge that being married, or in a committed relationship provides that support and stability that breastfeeding women need to thriving as mothers. Here’s the sad thing… black women fare the worst when it comes to marital experiences (as the report coins it) between the ages of  25-44.

(Percentage basis) Men Women
Hispanic 70.0 76.8
Non-Hispanic White 74.0 83.7
Non-Hispanic Black 62.1 56.2
Total 71.2 78.6

( I created a table that reflects the same stats, click here to see the full report and graphs)

I don’t know about everyone else, but that statistic deeply disturbs me. We have the lowest experiences of BOTH groups of women AND men! Do we continue to wonder why black moms do not breastfeed as much as other groups? And if communities are made up of families, and families, of mommies and daddies, can we call the black community a community if our families are broken? Or are black women truly women without a community? Taken from the National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 57, Number 7, January 7, 2009 Table 19. Birth rates for unmarried black women by ages 20-24, in 2006 was 126.0 live births per 1000 unmarried women compared to whites with 51.6 per 1000 live births in the same age group and year.

A Disparaging Society

2010 is almost here, yet we still live in a society that bears traces of the attitude the “old America”. This has never been more true in the way the medical society treats black women. Doctors will be the first to blame  poor diet and life style choices in pregnancy complications. While true to a degree, it must be taken in consideration that the medical society has come to view childbirth as a medical process. With this understanding, doctors also have preconceived perceptions of how a black women gestates, based upon the statistics of black health. Out of my six pregnancies, the two pregnancies when I did go to see a doctor ( instead of a midwife), I was told several times that because of my race, my chances for (fill in the blank) were increased because of my race, therefore, I need to have (fill in the blank) procedure. The stereotype of health by race is unwarranted unless one is actually experiencing the symptoms that requires a procedure. 

My point is this, how often does medical stereotyping happen? How many doctors insist on procedures such as cesareans, because of it?  The cesarean and preterm rates for AA women are absolutely abysmal, and this has everything to do with breastfeeding.  When you’re alone, sore from surgery and dealing with a preterm baby, the chances of any woman breastfeeding are slim to none. 

So what do we do?

We need to create a balanced perception of healthcare, that requires accountability on our part to understand and love our bodies as God created it. It requires accountability to learn and know thoroughly the risks of procedures. That balanced perception involves knowing that, your doctor, who may ascribe to “first do no harm…” is also a business entity, who earns his/her living based upon YOUR condition. Therefore, you cannot assume that your doctor has your best interests at heart.  We need to make breastfeeding a lasting cultural trend! The sexualization of a black woman’s breasts, needs to change to represent the power it has to give and sustain life! Any of you who have tried to google “black breastfeeding pictures” know exactly what I’m talking about!

History may not have been kind to us, but we can be kind to our children’s history, by offering them the best that money cannot buy... our love, time and milk. 


  1. Hi,

    Just wanted to gently point out that you don't have to be post partum to induce lactation. Many mothers do it for adopted babies. :)

  2. Oh really? How interesting...
    I've always thought that the only way a mom can produce milk is if she has had a baby, in other words, a woman who has never had a baby cannot magically produce milk by herself.

    Do you have more information about this? I'd love to follow up on it. :)


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