Breast-Feeding Less Common for Black Moms10/06/10
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Black mothers in the
United States are less likely to breast-feed their babies than
other moms, and many cite a personal preference for the bottle as
the primary reason, new research finds.
Overall, breast-feeding rates are rising, but the long-time
disparity between ethnic groups persists, said Dr. Amudha
Palaniappan, a pediatrics resident at Cooper University Hospital in
Camden, N.J., who led the research. Fifty-four percent of black
mothers try breast-feeding, while the national average is 73
percent, according to background information in the study.
Palaniappan, who was to present her research Monday at the
American Academy of Pediatrics' conference in San Francisco, asked
62 black mothers and 83 non-black moms, all of whom were
exclusively formula-feeding their infants, why they chose not to
She grouped their answers into categories, including barriers
experts consider relatively easy to change (fear of pain, latching
problems, milk supply issues); barriers that are not so easily
changed (lack of desire to breast-feed, insufficient knowledge,
previous formula-feeding, return to work or school), or true
barriers (being on chemotherapy.)
Only 23 percent of the black mothers had easily changed barriers
compared with 42 percent of the non-black mothers. Similarly, 89
percent of the black moms had barriers not easily changed versus 74
percent of the other ethnicities.
A lack of interest in breast-feeding was the most commonly
reported barrier to nursing among black women -- 55 percent of
black women compared to 27 percent of women in other ethnic groups
felt this way.
Misinformation about breast-feeding was mentioned by 14 percent
of black women and 31 percent of non-blacks.
"In other studies what has been shown is, there is this comfort level with formula [among black women], that formula is acceptable," said Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, professor of pediatrics and division head of adolescent medicine at Cooper University Hospital, a co-author of the study.
Many black women are also unaware that breast-feeding is linked
with benefits for both mothers and infants, she said. Breast milk
provides babies with disease-fighting antibodies, while moms who
breast-feed are at lower risk for breast cancer later on. The
practice also fosters mother-child bonding.
Micky Jones, a Nashville, Tenn., La Leche League leader and
doula, or labor coach, also believes that good role models are
"You don't desire something you don't see," she said. "In the black community, you don't see a lot of black women breast-feeding."
But that is slowly changing, said this black mother, who
breast-fed her three children. For a time, Jones also wrote a blog
about breast-feeding for black women. Since then, others have
spread the word to the black community about breast-feeding's
benefits, she said.
What's needed, the authors concluded, are coordinated efforts to
educate mothers and their families about breast-feeding's benefits
and clarify misinformation and myths.
For instance, new moms need to know that exclusive
formula-feeding poses risks, she said.
Jones suggests that black women considering breast-feeding get
support from a friend or family member who has nursed a baby. Ask
around, she advised.
"Sometimes that [information] comes out at baby showers," she added.
To learn more about breast-feeding, visit
the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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