3 Ideas to Improve Black Breastfeeding Outcomes
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Sweet Peas, Pods & Papas: All About Birth, B@@bs & Babies

3 Ideas to Improve Black Breastfeeding Outcomes

Sweet Pea Births Supports Black Breastfeeding Week August 25-31As 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/:
1. The high black infant mortality rate: Black babies are dying at twice the rate (in some place, nearly triple) the rate of white babies. This is a fact. The high infant mortality rate among black infants is mostly to their being disproportionately born too small, too sick or too soon. These babies need the immunities and nutritional benefit of breast milk the most. According to the CDC, increased breastfeeding among black women could decrease infant mortality rates by as much as 50%. So when I say breastfeeding is a life or death matter, this is what I mean. And it is not up for debate or commenting. This is the only reason I have ever needed to do this work, but I will continue with the list anyway.
~Kimberly Seals Allers

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.

1.  You are what you eat, and your baby is what you eat. 
As breastfeeding advocates, we need to encourage a protein-rich diet in pregnancy.  The baby is not a leech – while it can take nutrients from the mother during pregnancy, both mother and baby suffer when mamas buy into this nutritional fallacy.  The baby needs the mother to be healthy so she is operating at her best when her body is handing out baby-building instructions.  It needs protein as a building block for all the systems that are being built from scratch.  

A high-protein diet has been proven to reduce the concerns of high-risk pregnancies and infants.  It reduces mortality, and increases both gestation and birth weight, factors which need to be true in order for infants to thrive, breastfeed and reach their full potential.

Dr. Tom Brewer, a pioneer of pregnancy nutrition did the majority of his work in Richmond, CA. By teaching his patients to eat two eggs and drink a quart of milk per day, plus a healthy, whole food diet, he had zero cases of convulsive toxemia. Zero. In his work with over 7000 patients, no more mamas and babies died from toxemia simply because he had his patients change their pregnancy nutrition.  You can find the details of his pregnancy nutrition HERE, and read an interview about his methods HERE.

Here are some of the studies he quotes in the video he made for The Bradley Method®.  The numbers are stark and startling. Maybe you will find it even more disturbing when the lightbulb goes on that there is no pill to sell for better outcomes.  It all comes down to making better nutritional choices. 

Bradley Method® natural childbirth classes offered in Arizona: Chandler, Tempe, Ahwatukee, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, PaysonBradley Method® natural childbirth classes offered in Arizona: Chandler, Tempe, Ahwatukee, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, PaysonBradley Method® natural childbirth classes offered in Arizona: Chandler, Tempe, Ahwatukee, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, Payson
THIS is my favorite video that demonstrates the miracle of creation and by extension makes a case for providing the best building blocks possible.

2. You can save money and spare yourself and your baby from chemicals with four simple ingredients.  
Castile soap, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and white vinegar are the only ingredients you need for "green" cleaning.  HERE are the recipes that are used in our home.  No more expensive, chemical-filled cleaners from the store shelves.  This is vitally important because the use of household cleaners through pregnancy has been tied to respiratory illnesses (read more HERE). Again, if we can make stronger babies, they are more likely to thrive on all levels.  A baby that stays out of the NICU is a baby that has the best opportunity to learn about breastfeeding from birth.

3.  Simple changes can yield long-term results.  
A lifetime of bad eating habits cannot be changed overnight, or even in a week.  It takes a little change…just one. Make one change every week, or one change every month.  The important thing is to commit to doing better for mom and baby so that both have a better opportunity to reach their full health potential.  Here are some ideas to get started on shifting your nutrition to a whole-food diet:

    • Replace one sugar snack with a whole fruit, vegetable or whole grain choice
    • Replace a sugar beverage with a glass of water (or infuse it with fruit overnight if you like something with flavor)
    • Replace a sugar breakfast with eggs and whole grain toast
    • Replace a drive-thru lunch with leftovers from last night’s dinner (make more to have leftovers!)
    • Replace a drive-thru dinner with a slow-cooker meal

It means planning ahead.  However, when people commit to eating whole food, it is amazing how the dollars stretch.  Instead of $25 - $35 dollars per week going towards greasy, non-nutritional meals at the drive-thru, those same dollars buy you a basketful of fresh fruits and vegetables that you can turn into delicious snacks and meals that feed the mother and the baby. 

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.

Sweet Pea Births supports Black Breastfeeding Week August 25-31

Black Breastfeeding Week

Breastfeeding Cafe Blog Carnival

Breastfeeding Awareness Month

Bradley Method® natural childbirth classes offered in Arizona: Chandler, Tempe, Ahwatukee, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, PaysonDisclaimer: 
The material included on this site is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation.  Krystyna and Bruss Bowman and Bowman House, LLC accept no liability for the content of this site, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.  This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.

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