The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that women exclusively nurse their babies for at least a full six months. Ideally, all women would breastfeed for the first year of their babies’ lives. Why? Research indicates that nursing an infant may lead to a stronger immune system, less diarrhea, less constipation, fewer colds and ear infections, and lower rates of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). “Breast milk is best for babies,” explains Atlanta pediatrician Joyce Lovett, M.D., “because it contains nutritional components that are natural tranquilizers for babies and is always clean and at the right temperature.”
For the nursing mother, Dr. Lovett says, breastfeeding promotes faster loss of pregnancy weight, stimulates the uterus to contract to pre-pregnancy size, produces naturally soothing hormones and may lower the risk of developing some types of cancer and osteoporosis in later life.
Despite all this evidence to support breastfeeding, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that only about 32 percent of American children born in 2005 were exclusively breastfed for three months and only 12 percent of American children born that same year were nursed without formula supplementation for the recommended first six months of the infant’s life. Among specific groups of women, particularly African Americans, Latinas, low-income women and women younger than 20, the numbers are even lower.
Black Health Matters talked to Kimberly Seals Allers, creator of MochaManual.com and parenting and breastfeeding advocate, about why we’re so reluctant to breastfeed and what can be done to reverse this phenomenon.
Read more about breast feeding and Black women at BlackHealthMatters.com.
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