August is National Breastfeeding Month.
World Breastfeeding Week was Aug. 1 – 7, and Black Breastfeeding Week is August 25 – 31.
In honor of this important month I realized that as an internationally board certified lactation consultant and midwife, I had not seen any articles in our local papers about this amazing gift that mothers can give to their children. What better gift to give to your children than the gift of health. Breastfeeding helps protect a baby’s health long after he or she has been weaned. Breastfeeding has been linked to lowering a baby’s risk of future health concerns such as allergies, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure as adults. This should be exciting news for African-Americans who are more at risk for these chronic conditions compared to any other ethnic group. In fact, this should make us want to embrace breastfeeding even more, since we cannot fully actualize good health without reclaiming this cultural practice.
Think about it … breast milk is our first food. It prepares newborn stomachs for food and colostrum – the first type of milk a mother produces – contains antibodies that help protect a baby from disease. It’s like administering a 100 percent safe vaccine. Because of these antibodies, a baby has protection against many illnesses such as colds, ear infections and diarrhea. Plus, breastfeeding helps the health of the mother.
Women who breastfeed are less likely to develop breast or ovarian cancer and osteoporosis (which is a thinning of the bones) and yes African-American women do get osteoporosis. Plus, breastfeeding encourages emotional bonding between the mother and baby. Also, it releases hormones called oxytocin in the mother that trigger nurturing behavior and a sense of relaxation, promoting a loving attitude towards children that is protective and caring.
The parenting upside is that breastfed children are more social, less aggressive and easier to parent. With so many children being labeled with behavior disorders such as ADHD, ADD and autism; the ability for breastfeeding to heal neurological pathways that may have been damaged during fetal development in the womb by a woman’s chemical use in pregnancy or during the birthing process makes breastfeeding not only good medicine but the best option for a community over diagnosed with these conditions.
Breastfeeding really is the best choice for feeding our babies. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way we brought into the myth that it’s a primitive practice and/or something only poor women do. So, it will require a cultural shift and re-education of our community because you hardly see women breastfeeding anymore. But actually, it is natural for babies, although not always for mothers because of their lack of exposure so we have to relearn it. However, the more African-American women breastfeed the more it will become the cultural norm again. So, the next time you see a woman in our community breastfeeding encourage her and thank her for being courageous enough to do the most important thing she can do for her and her babies health.
Dr. Lavonne Moore is CEO and owner of Chosen Vessels Midwifery Services a subsidiary of Kemet Circle, LLC that provides home based lactation support and wellness services for women. She can be reached at www.kemetcircle.net.