Kimberly Seals Allers

African American Moms at Higher Risk

We all know breastfeeding is best for mom and baby. But moms have to continue to practice excellent self care, by eating well while breastfeeding. A recent study found as many as two of three mothers in Cincinnati, Ohio, who breastfeed had insufficient blood levels of Vitamin D. In addition, three of four one-month-old infants whose mother breastfeed had Vitamin D insufficiency, according to the study by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

"Mothers who are Vitamin D deficient produce little or no Vitamin D in her milk and are unable to give a baby all of the Vitamin D that he needs," says Adekunle Dawodu, M.D., a physician in the Center for Global Child Health at Cincinnati Children’s and lead author of the study. "Mothers and babies who breastfeed need Vitamin D supplements to ensure optimum health."

Dr. Dawodu presented his study recently at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Vancouver, Canada.

The study focused on 120 mother-infant pairs who were enrolled in a global human milk research collaborative. The prevalence of Vitamin D insufficiency in mothers was 66.4 percent at four weeks postpartum and the prevalence of deficiency was 16.8 percent at four weeks. The prevalence of insufficiency in infants was 76 percent at four weeks and the prevalence of deficiency was 18 percent.

Major results of Vitamin D deficiency include brittle bones, rickets and increased risk of respiratory infections. Vitamin D deficiency is particularly high among African Americans, so black women have to extra vigilant.

"In addition to taking Vitamin D supplements, people can also make sure they are getting modest sunlight exposure," Dr. Dawodu says.

Your commitment to having a healthy baby and a healthy you doesn’t stop at delivery. Breastfeeding moms have to continue to eat well, drink plenty of fluids and take vitamin supplements, if necessary, to maintain their own optimal health.

The Black Maternal Health Project is all about embracing the mother, and just as important, asking more mothers, breastfeeding or not, to do a better job of embracing themselves.