Celebrating National Breastfeeding Month

Black woman breastfeeding her newborn baby

By: Tera Hamann, RN, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)

August is National Breastfeeding Month, which aims improve maternal and child health by highlighting the benefits of breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding provides many health benefits for both moms and newborns, babies and toddlers. Breast milk allows newborns to receive hormones, cells and antibodies which promote healthy development and can help protect babies from illnesses, especially before they are old enough to receive vaccinations, or develop their own immune system. Studies show that babies who breastfeed have lower rates of asthma, childhood leukemia, childhood obesity, diabetes, ear infections and lower respiratory infections.

Breastfeeding also benefits mothers and can lower the risk for type 2 diabetes, hypertension, ovarian cancer and certain types of breast and reproductive cancers.

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 2 out of 3 infants are not exclusively breastfed for the recommended 6 months—a rate that has not improved in two decades.

Nearly 60% of mothers do not breastfeed for as long as they planned to, citing the following barriers:

  • Issues with lactation or latching

  • Concerns about infant nutrition or weight

  • Concern about taking medication while breastfeeding

  • Unsupportive work policies

  • Cultural norms or lack of support

  • Unsupportive hospital practices

  • Lack of knowledge to make educated decision

National Breastfeeding Month works to raise awareness about these barriers to breastfeeding and advocate for societal changes to remove them.

National Breastfeeding Month concludes with Black Breastfeeding Week (August 25-31) which was created by three black mothers to respond to the gaping racial disparity in breastfeeding rates which has existed for over 40 years. CDC data shows that 75% of white women have ever breastfed versus 58.9% of black women.

Black Breastfeeding Week founders Kimberly Seals Allers, Kiddada Green and Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka wanted to draw attention to the unique challenges black women face when they breastfeed as well as to celebrate and promote the fact that black women do, in fact, breastfeed.

Black Breastfeeding Week highlights other areas of racial health disparity which could be positively impacted by breastfeeding including:

  • High black infant mortality rate: According to the CDC, the infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births) in the United States is highest for black infants (10.7), followed by American Indian/Alaska Natives (8.4), whites (4.9) and Asian/Pacific Islanders (4.1).

  • High rates of diet-related disease: The black community sees higher rates of diet-related diseases and death than other racial and ethnic groups such upper respiratory infections, hypertension, type II diabetes, asthma and obesity.

  • Lack of diversity in lactation field: A predominantly white field, Black Breastfeeding Week works to encourage black women to enter the field while celebrating the breastfeeding champions in the black community.

  • Unique cultural barriers among black women: Black mothers face unique cultural barriers and a complex history connected to breastfeeding that deserves and receives special attention.

  • Food Desert-Like Conditions in Urban Communities: Many women cannot access the nourishment and support that they need for their bodies to best produce breast milk for their child.

To learn more about Black Breastfeeding Week, or participate in the events that are planned, visit blackbreastfeedingweek.org or find them on Facebook @BlackBreastfeedingWeek.  

Broadlawns recognizes the importance of breastfeeding and is committed to supporting mothers and babies on their breastfeeding journey. We also support each mother’s decision to nourish her child in the way the works best for her. While there are many benefits from breastfeeding for both moms and babies, we know that breastfeeding may not be the right choice for all mothers and babies. Our certified lactation staff members are here to support you in whichever direction feels best for you. We offer individual breastfeeding support and advice for pregnant moms considering breastfeeding, and those currently nursing. If you'd like to schedule a lactation consultation, please call Broadlawns Family Birthing Center at (515) 282-2260.

Broadlawns also offers free support to all mothers in our community through classes including: Mommy Matters: Breastfeeding Support Group, Breastfeeding Class, Pumping Class, Plus One Childbirth Education, and Pregnancy & Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Support Group.

In August 2020, Broadlawns is thrilled to be opening a new state-of-the-art Family Birthing Center which will expand access to nurturing and culturally sensitive maternity care for all members of our community. Learn more about Broadlawns Women's Health Services.