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    1. #1
      Im The Truth's Avatar
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      Is Slavery Why Black Women Aren't Breastfeeding?


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      Is Slavery Why Black Women Aren't Breastfeeding?
      Monday, May 18, 2009
      by Kimberly Seals-Allers of Maternity tees, Baby Gifts, Pregnancy and Black Parenting | Home
      Is Slavery Why Black Women Aren't Breastfeeding? | Momlogic

      When it comes to breastfeeding, black mothers have somehow lost their way. For over 30 years, African-American women have had the lowest breastfeeding rates, and though the numbers have greatly increased in recent years, black moms still have the lowest rates of all ethnicities. And when it comes to the gold standard of infant nutrition -- six months of exclusive breastfeeding -- among African-Americans, the rate is only 20% compared to 40% among whites. At a time when black infant mortality rates continue to climb to woefully high levels, momlogic and MochaManual.com take a deeper look at why more black mothers aren't breastfeeding, and urge moms to give their infants the healthiest start.

      Slave Owners Purchased Us As Wet Nurses

      To get to the bottom of this breastfeeding business, it's important to go back. Waaay back. A long time ago, black women were notorious for nursing. In fact, slave owners used and purchased black women as wet nurses for their own children, often forcing these mothers to stop nursing their own infants to care for others. "On the one hand, wet nursing claimed the benefits of breastfeeding for the offspring of white masters while denying or limiting those health advantages to slave infants. On the other hand, wet nursing required slave mothers to transfer to white offspring the nurturing and affection they should have been able to allocate to their own children," writes historian Wilma A. Dunaway, in the book The African-American Family in Slavery and Emancipation, published by Cambridge University Press. And since breastfeeding reduces fertility, slave owners forced black women to stop breastfeeding early so that they could continue breeding, often to the health detriment of their infants, Dunaway writes.
      wet nursing and slavery

      Breastfeeding is for Poor People

      But there's more to our story than breastfeeding interrupted at the hands of slave owners hundreds of years ago -- though many may argue that some vestiges of slavery still exist in the mindset of the black community. Aggressive marketing by the formula companies in the 1930s and 40s made formula-feeding the choice of the elite -- "the substance for sophisticates" -- white or black. And who doesn't want to be like the rich and famous? That marketing continues to this day, down to the formula company-sponsored bag of goodies you probably received on the way out of the hospital. Then there's something I call the National Geographic factor -- that is, most of the images we see of black women breastfeeding are semi-naked women in Africa whose lives seem so far away from the African-American lifestyle and experience.

      "'Breastfeeding is for poor people,' my mom once said to me," explains Nicole, a 37-year-old mom from New Jersey, who breastfed two children for a year. "My mom is a very progressive woman, but this was the thinking of her generation. I couldn't believe it."

      Breastfeeding Hurts and Takes Too Long

      As children of that generation, many modern mothers don't have that breastfeeding legacy or support from their mothers, mothers-in-law, or extended family members. And due to the oversexualization of the breasts, some women have forgotten or are even uncomfortable with using the breast for its actual intended purpose. Go figure! Others worry that their man will complain (please tell him baby comes first). Myths such as "breastfeeding hurts" (truth: only if the baby is not latched properly) or "breastfeeding is too time-consuming" (truth: whipping out a breast is a lot quicker than sterilizing bottles, mixing, measuring, or heating up formula) still linger among black mothers.

      Throw in the economic pressures that put many black women back at work soon after delivery, and there's a "why bother" mentality that makes breastfeeding seem more like a challenge and a chore. The results speak for themselves. According to national data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 45% of African-American women breastfed their babies during the early postpartum period, compared to 66% of Hispanic mothers and 68% of white mothers who breastfed during that same period. Of African-American women who do choose to breastfeed, the duration is short, with many discontinuing in the first days after birth, their data shows.

      "Before I nursed my son and daughter, none of the women in my family had ever breastfed before," says Kathi Barber, founder of the African-American Breastfeeding Alliance and author of The Black Woman's Guide to Breastfeeding. "But I decided change would start with me when I learned breastfeeding has health benefits for mothers and babies alike."

      We Owe It To Ourselves and Our Babies

      And while modern white mothers have reclaimed breastfeeding as hip and trendy, with help from outspoken and high-profile celebrity moms like Angelina Jolie, black celebrity mothers are still mostly mum on the topic. As a new generation of confident, empowered black mothers, we owe it to ourselves and our babies to give them breast milk -- the very best. According to the CDC, black babies are twice as likely as white infants to die before their first birthday. A 2001 study in Pediatrics concluded that an increase in African-American breastfeeding rates alone could reduce this disparity. To do so, every black mother needs to become our own celebrity spokesperson (hey, we're beautiful with full lips!) to speak out and speak up to encourage and support breastfeeding in our own sister circles. It begins with you.
      "If the enemy is not doing anything against you, you are not doing anything"
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      "speak truth, do justice, be kind and do not do evil."
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      "Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it political? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor political, nor popular - but one must take it simply because it is right."
      --Dr. Martin L. King


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    2. #2
      Pragmatic's Avatar
      Pragmatic is offline Moderator

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      Deep.

      Peace be upon you

    3. #3
      nattyreb's Avatar
      nattyreb is offline Moderator

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      i agree that breastfeeding is much better than formula, by far! But i don't think that most Black women use formula out of a bourgeousie fantasy, but as a convenience. Many Black (and other) women breastfeed *and* use formula as a supplement. Breast pumps, more often than not, are a beast! Most working Black women are open to breastfeeding but not as the sole source of nutrition (and i'm not talking about strictly office work, either). You've got to leave a substantial amount with the daycare provider and that ain't always easy to pump out at 6 am each morning!
      "We must continue to move forward and do everything we can to outlaw legal lynching in America. We must continue to stand together in unity and to demand a moratorium on all executions. You must stay strong. You must continue to hold your heads up, and to be there. We will prevail. Keep marching Black people. They are killing me tonight. They are murdering me tonight." -- Excerpts of Last Words of Bro. Shaka Sankofa, an innocent man executed by the state of Texas, 6/22/00. www.myspace.com/nattyreb7

    4. #4
      Ree's Avatar
      Ree
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      What you write is the truth...I was one of those sistas who felt that way...I only learned later after my children where older what they and i missed out on... I recently saw a young sista (between 17-19) naturally feeding her daughter...it is the most beautiful


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