As we generate awareness for breastfeeding in the black community with Black Breastfeeding Week, there is another topic that comes to mind as part of that dialogue.
I am an avid reader, and since 2010 I have been a childbirth educator. There is one set of statistics I keep reading over and over again, and it's not improving. The most recent update: In 2013, the United States was ranked 30th in the world for infant mortality. It is reprehensible that in one of the leading industrialized countries in the world, third-world countries consistently outrank us at keeping babies alive. The bigger tragedy in those numbers? The incredibly high ratio of black babies in those numbers when you look at infant mortality across ethnic lines.
To quote the article, Top Five Reasons We Need A Black Breastfeeding Week on http://blackbreastfeedingweek.org/:
If we are going to increase the number of black babies that are breastfeeding, it is incumbent upon us to begin with taking care of their mothers in pre-conception and pregnancy. Improving pregnancies would improve children's health, and by extension improve breastfeeding outcomes.
There is another important factor to think about: all mothers carrying female children are going to give birth to their future. Daughters are born with the eggs that will someday be half of the genetic code for their grandchildren, so we should do everything we can to ensure that genetic code is as strong and healthy as possible.
We need to let mothers know that the choices they make today are important. “Living green” and “eating green” cannot be the privilege of the select that can afford to shop at the box stores that trade in “being green”. Why don’t we educate *all* mothers, regardless of their race or socio-economic status, on the benefits of eating whole food and avoiding toxins even before they become pregnant?
What are some ideas that we can share right now, in the black community, to make a difference to the bearers of the future? Here are three that occurred to me.
We also need to raise awareness about childbirth education. Childbirth educators are committed to healthy moms and healthy babies. As Bradley™ instructors, we spend twelve weeks preparing families for empowered births that use minimal interventions as long as mother and baby are healthy and low risk. We are also committed to helping our students follow an exercise program designed to prepare mothers to be strong in birth. And back to the previous point about nutrition, for twelve weeks we are working with our mamas to help them learn and stay on a whole food, high protein diet to give families their best chance at a low-intervention birth.
When epidural drugs can be avoided completely, or are used appropriately at minimal doses, babies are born ready to breastfeed. These babies are not lethargic and unwilling to latch. They are born alert, ready to nurse at the available breast, which they are fully cognizant of because they are not suffering from the stupor of drugs in their system.
In the instances when interventions, including cesareans, are necessary, mothers and babies are stronger for having been in our classes. Mamas are more fit and have a better chance at a smooth recovery. Babies are strong and alert because interventions were minimal up to the point of surgery, and they too, tend to come out of the womb looking to latch.
I am ashamed to say that of the almost 100 couples we have taught, exactly two have been black families. Talk about disparity. I have housekeeping to do in my own backyard before I start calling out other people to do more. So consider this me picking up the gauntlet.
I will connect with our black families (and they do rock!) to find out how I can do more outreach in their community. If there is going to be a change, it has to start with me. By this time next year, I commit to have completed at least one free healthy pregnancy class per quarter that serves the black community. Then, and only then, will I truly have done my part to help black families have the opportunity to get breastfeeding off to a good start.
Black Breastfeeding Week
Breastfeeding Cafe Blog Carnival
Breastfeeding Awareness Month
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