Get The Facts: Breastfeeding In The African American Community



A Feature By: Keyonda Noel

The decision to breastfeed my son was not something that my husband and I took lightly. As an African American woman, the odds were stacked against me. According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 59 percent of black women breastfeed compared to 75 percent of white women. I understood early on that breastfeeding was a natural and recommended source of nutrients for my child. It also has numerous other benefits including bonding, as well as disease prevention and reduction for us both. As I began to research breastfeeding, I became aware of the many misconceptions that exist within the black community. So, let’s clear up a few of those myths.

Myth: Formula feeding is easier than breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding can be a quick and convenient way to feed to your baby. This is especially helpful when you are on the go or at 3 a.m. when your baby is hungry. Unlike formula, you do not have to sterilize, measure, mix or heat breastmilk. There is also the added bonus that as long as you are eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water and nursing/pumping regularly, breastmilk will be readily available for you when your baby wants it. So no midnight runs to the grocery store.
Myth: Breastfeeding makes your breasts sag.
Actually, it’s pregnancy that stretches the ligaments of your breast tissue, whether you breastfeed or not. Age, genetics and the number of pregnancies you’ve had also play a role.
Myth: Breastfeeding is painful and a large time commitment.
Breastfeeding should not be painful. In the beginning it may be difficult as your baby learns to properly latch, but long-term, breastfeeding should be pain free. If breastfeeding is painful or if your infant is having trouble latching, speak with a lactation consultant. It is important to get help early. Be sure to maintain proper nipple care which includes the use of nipple cream, allowing the nipples to air dry after feedings and if necessary, alternate feedings on each breasts. Breastfeeding creates an amazing opportunity for you to bond with your baby, and that is time you will never get back and you will cherish it forever.
Myth: Formula feeding is cheaper than breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is FREE. According to kellymom.com, the average cost for formula in a year is about $1,600.  As stated by the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are also reduced healthcare costs associated with breastfeeding because breastfed babies have lower rates of ear and respiratory infections, tooth decay, obesity, allergies, constipation, urinary tract infections and much more.

I have been breastfeeding my son for 11 months, and I plan to breastfeed him until he is at least a year old. This has been a long and rewarding journey. I would say there are a few lessons that I have learned along the way, but the best thing I ever did was educate myself about my options. I also attended classes about breastfeeding, built a support network that includes my husband and other breastfeeding moms, and I have an amazing lactation consultant on speed dial. 

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