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Michael and Mama's Milk: A Lesson in Breastfeeding

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

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Recently, a conversation around our dinner table began a little something like this:

Michael, my 5-year old: Mommy, did I used to drink milk from your breasts?

Me: Yes, you did

Son: Why?

Me: Well, it makes you healthier and smarter. Mama's milk is why you're so smart.

Son: Is that why I'm the only one in my class who can read?

Me: Yes

Son: And why I can ride a two wheeler and why I can tie my shoes by myself?

Me: Yes and yes.

By now I hope you get a sense of how my brainwashing works. Yes, I know my comments may not be completely scientifically proven facts. But he's my child to brainwash. Go get your own kid to tell your truths!

As far as I'm concerned, we have a multi generational effort on our hands when it comes to breastfeeding support in the black community and I'm starting early.

I'm hoping that this young black male who will hopefully have his own wife and children one day will remember my enthusiasm and even my exaggerated benefits of breastfeeding and someday wholeheartedly support his wife if she chooses to breastfeed.

For now, I talk to my son and daughter about how much I enjoyed the breastfeeding experience (which is the gospel truth!) even after I was still trying to wean my daughter at 14 months and then my son cut teeth at 4 months. Ouch!

Sometimes when my children don't eat properly I threaten to put them back on the breast so I can make sure they get their proper nutrition. LOL! I tell my nine year I will have to come to her lunchroom, whip it out and feed her. You should see the look on their faces. It is so funny!

Black mother breastfeeding her babyBut the low breastfeeding rates in the Black community are no joke. For over 30 years, African American women have had the lowest breastfeeding rates. The numbers have greatly increased in recent years, black moms still trail all other 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. And as much as I respect a mothers' right to choose what feeding method works best for her lifestyle, I think there are some strong cultural forces at play that often cloud the issue. I also think that with so many dire statistics on the infant mortality rates among African American babies, we have a deeper responsibility to give our babies every possible advantage for a healthier start in life.

That's why I'm so honored to be an advisory board member of the Bravado Breastfeeding Information Council, which is dedicated to getting a full and diverse sampling of breastfeeding views for their research of the emerging trends, obstacles and challenges faced by nursing women at home, in the office, and other aspects of her life.

I'm asking all women of color to please take this brief survey  to add our perspectives to the research on breastfeeding attitudes and behaviors. You will be entered to win one of five $100 Target or Sephora Gift Cards. Whoo hooo!!

As you know my life's work involves making sure women of color are included in any and all research on the motherhood experience. Well, here is an important opportunity. Please share your voice.