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    Breastfeeding – A Strategy to Decrease Health Disparity

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | July 31st, 2016

    Breastfeeding – A Strategy to Decrease Health Disparity

    August is National Breastfeeding Month. Although more women are breastfeeding and for longer periods, there remains a gap between black women and white women breastfeeding initiation rates. 58.9% of black women initiated breastfeeding, while 75.2% of whites and 80% of Hispanics initiated breastfeeding.

    There are several benefits to breastfeeding. For the baby this includes decrease risk of infection, decreased risks of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), decreased risks of asthma, and decrease risk of diabetes to name a few. For the mother, she loses weight faster; there is a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer and better bonding with the baby.

    How do we get more women especially black women to breast-feed? Everyone has to be supportive. It does not matter whether you have breastfed or not, by educating yourself and understanding all the benefits, you may be the one to help another woman. It is time to make this a priority. If you have been successful with breastfeeding, share your story. The more women see women that look like them breastfeeding, the more that they will understand that this is the norm.

    The hospital can also play a role. The report by the CDC titled, Racial Disparities in Access to Maternity Care Practices that Support Breastfeeding-United States, 2011 showed that maternity care facilities that were located in areas that had greater that 12 % blacks in the neighborhood did not provide the 10 steps to successful breastfeeding that was available in areas that had less than 12 percent black people.

    Where ever your daughter, sister, niece, cousin, or friend delivers, make sure that they have some policy regarding breastfeeding. The Ten steps to successful breastfeeding include:

    1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff
    2. Train all health care staff in the skills necessary to implement the policy
    3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding
    4. Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth
    5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants
    6. Give infants no food or drink other than breastmilk, unless medically indicated
    7. Practice rooming in – allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day
    8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand
    9. Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants
    10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mother to them on discharge from the hospital or birth center

    I am proud to say that the hospital where I work has received its Baby-Friendly designation 10/2015 and promotes all ten steps to successful breastfeeding. To find out which hospital near you has received its designation, click here.

    Breastfeeding is one strategy to help decrease health care disparity.

    More information:

    World Breastfeeding Week – August 1 – 7



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