Black Breastfeeding: Do Social Stigmas Prevent You From Breastfeeding?
Though known to be the best food for baby, many moms combat a host of issues when deciding whether or not to offer their breast as nourishment. African-American moms especially battle challenges often attributed to socio-demographic factors and breastfeed their children at lower rates than Caucasian, Latina and Asian mothers. The latest challenge being used to explain why black moms breastfeed less? Social stigmas.
Urmeka Jefferson, assistant professor at the Sinclair School of Nursing and researcher at the University of Missouri, has discovered that African-American college students are aware of the benefits of breastfeeding for infants, yet some still are hesitant about breastfeeding future children. Evidence revealed a lack of public acceptance toward breastfeeding may influence this hesitation. From the report:
“Jefferson surveyed African-American college students about their attitudes and exposure to breastfeeding and their intent to breastfeed future children. She found the majority of students knew the benefits of breastfeeding and had some level of previous exposure, such as friends or parents who had breastfed their infants. Despite their knowledge of the benefits of breastfeeding, many students felt formula-feeding was more convenient and a better choice if the mother worked outside the home. The overwhelming majority of students surveyed also expressed discomfort at the idea of breastfeeding in public places, such as a restaurant. Jefferson concluded that this discomfort may have less to do with racial or socio-demographic disparities and more to do with social stigmas against breastfeeding.”
Says Jefferson, “We need to start early with our breastfeeding education and exposure, because women decide before they have children whether or not they will breastfeed. We need to figure out how to encourage positive breastfeeding attitudes among young black women and make them aware that breastfeeding is the normal, natural infant-feeding method.”
One woman attacking social stigmas and taking engagement around black breastfeeding seriously is Denene Millner, founder of the popular blog My Brown Baby: Where Black Moms Matter. Through her website and online presence, Millner maintains a consistent advocate for breastfeeding as evident by her celebration of Black Breastfeeding Week and the #BlackLivesMatter campaign.
In a beautiful account of her personal breastfeeding journey, Millner recalls how, “in theory, breastfeeding made all the sense in the world for me and my baby. But in the real world, a.k.a. a hospital in the middle of Harlem, where the environment made doctors and staff more prone to assume that a young black woman pushing out a baby was single, poor, uneducated, and alone, breastfeeding just didn’t fit into the equation.” In her stellar lyrical prose that readers love, Millner gives a first hand example of the social stigmas associated with breastfeeding that exist for African-American moms.
So do social stigmas really make it harder for black moms to choose breastfeeding? Perhaps so, but according to Jefferson, “Mothers choosing to breastfeed despite the negative social attitude surrounding it demonstrate a stronger intention and desire to do what is beneficial for their infants and themselves. Children who are breastfed are more resistant to disease and infection, while mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop postpartum depression and breast cancer.” And for the strongest and most dedicated moms—like Denene Millner—that’s pretty much all you need to know.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN