Breastfeeding: a race disparity?

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Governor Whitmer declared the last week of August as Black breastfeeding week in Michigan.

Six professional women of color spoke about the importance of breastfeeding in Black communities on a panel called Milk Magic hosted by the Michigan Department of Health.

The goal: To shed light on disparities and understand how breastfeeding improves the health of moms and babies.

“The reality of the situation is people are educated about human milk being best, but people aren’t given access,” said Sekeita Lewis-Johnson, a board-certified nurse practitioner – and the Board Director of the U.S. breastfeeding committee.

She spoke about the difficulties black women face after giving birth.

“There’s also a continuity of care piece missing, and it’s the continuity of care from discharge from the hospital to back home in whatever community you’re in and there needs to be intentional efforts to close that gap,” she said.

The CDC says the rate of breastfeeding is lower among black infants compared to white.

Lewis Johnson says it could be due to the lack of access to proper resources, support, and education.

“We need more folks to fill gaps right? And we really need to be intentional on this whole working together with the hospital and not a community, public health versus this versus that, we really have to be intentional because what happens is the families are the ones who get sent home and are not able to access time and skill support, and sometimes it may not necessarily mean they need all of that skill, it may just be they just need support. That support could be someone saying you’re doing a great job,” said Lewis-Johnson.

Lewis-Johnson says women of color miss opportunities of discharge planning and hopes bringing attention to this barrier could shed light on why it could be difficult for women to breastfeed.

“We don’t have a lot of black representation here especially when it comes to breastfeeding,” said Anesha Stanely.

She is a childbirth educator and agrees with Lewis-Johnson.

Several years ago, a medical condition made her lose her breast milk.

She started researching ways to bring it back. That inspired her to help others.

“I’m living vicariously through these mothers because I’m able to use all of their information in the research and experience to actually help them have a successful breastfeeding journey.”

Stanley’s research found breastfed infants have a reduced risk of infections and are less likely to develop diabetes and become obese.

This week the Michigan Department of Health will host more discussions highlighting breastfeeding in Black women.

The panelists hope these conversations will make an impact.

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