Breastfeeding and You

Issue No. 4: Black Maternal Health
Words - Ariana Mygatt
Illustration - Singha Hon

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, and continue to breastfeed alongside supplements for the first year or longer. Benefits of breastfeeding include reduced risk of asthma, obesity, type 2 diabetes, ear and respiratory infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) for the baby, and reduced risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers for the parent.

Despite these benefits, only 1 in 4 babies are breastfeeding exclusively at 6 months of age, and Black infants are 21% less likely than white infants to have ever been breastfed.

If you are able to breastfeed but are struggling to do so, consult your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant for support with technique or lifestyle adjustments. They can also diagnose and treat mastitis, a common breast infection that makes breastfeeding difficult.

There are also many reasons why breastfeeding may not be possible for a parent:

  • You have low or no breast milk supply

  • Your work schedule and/or workplace does not support breastfeeding or pumping

  • Your baby has a weak suck, cleft lip/palate, or tongue-tie that makes sucking difficult

  • Your baby was premature

  • Your baby was adopted

  • You have had breast surgery

If you are unable to breastfeed, some alternatives are

  • Pumping and bottle feeding: Pumping on your own schedule can allow other caregivers to feed your breast milk from a bottle in your absence.

  • Donor human breast milk: Available at hospitals or local milk banks, donor breast milk is another healthy option for babies.

  • Formula: Most formulas are made from a complex combination of proteins, sugars, fats, and vitamins to duplicate the nutrients found in breast milk.

  • Induced lactation for non-gestational parent: Parents who did not give birth can also breastfeed, including trans women, non-gestational mothers, and adoptive parents. Breastfeeding without pregnancy can be possible with hormone therapy and physical preparation.

For more breastfeeding tips and support, text "MILK" to 877877 and visit wicbreastfeeding.fns.usda.gov and www.llli.org.