The public and private side of Breastfeeding

Recently, President Obama made news for asking for appropriate workplace accommodations for nursing mothers. The news was of course mixed. Breastfeeding seems to be a very political issue across the U.S., with many people saying seeing a nursing mother’s breasts amounts to too much public displays of affection to other not wanting screaming babies near them.

Of course, for working moms, their is a lot at stake to have to breastfeed a child according to the recommended guidelines here and here–exclusively for six months and continuing until the first year of life. The new U.S. recommendations are suppose to assist mothers during this process.

Both the CDC and the WHO have long been recommending breastfeeding for infants since breastmilk contains antibodies and other nutrients pertinent to early growth. In fact, the CDC has been actively trying to raise the rates of breastfeeding across the U.S. And, like many other health issues across the country, disparities exist between non-hispanic Blacks and non-hispanic Whites.

Across the U.S., Blacks are substantially less likely to breasfteed than other groups, according to the CDC. The full report is available here. Now, one of my issues with any reports like is that the Black population is often counted as a monolithic groups. Having been in the U.S. for half my life now, I’ve seen many African American parents (and I’m not saying this is exclusive to African Americans) who refuse to breastfeed their kids. I’ve always seen it as their decision and although I rarely questioned them on it, I do often wonder why one would choose not to breasfeed their child. Growing up on Dominica, it wasn’t unusually to see mothers nursing their children at Saturday Market or at the bus stop. In fact, my mother would often say that she breastfed her kids for as long as they want it. Knowing this, I am interested in data that stratifies foreign-born and U.S.-born Blacks and their breastfeeding habits.

I know that women in the Caribbean are still encouraged to breastfeed. And at times, it can seem odd to find someone who does not. So it does interest me to see what impact, if any, acculturation has on the breastfeeding habits of people of Caribbean decent living in the U.S. If anyone knows of any studies, do alert me to it.

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