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 and