Black Women Least Likely to Breast-Feed in U.S.

Steven Reinberg, HealthDay Reporter, March 25, 2010

Messages about the health-boosting powers of breast-feeding aren’t reaching black American women as well as their Hispanic or white counterparts, a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests.

The researchers found that while more than 80 percent of Hispanic mothers attempt to breast-feed, and about 74 percent of white moms do, that number falls to 54 percent for black mothers. And one year after delivery, only about 12 percent of black women are still breast-feeding their child as recommended, compared to 24 percent of Hispanic women and more than 21 percent of white women.

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“Hispanics have the highest rates of breast-feeding closely followed by whites and there tends to be a pretty big gap with blacks,” [Cria Perrine, one of the study’s coauthors,] said.

The report is published in the March 26 issue of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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Breast-feeding among racial/ethnic groups also varied by state, particularly among black women, with the highest rates of breast-feeding among blacks seen in western states and the lowest in southeastern states, Perrine said.

The reasons for the disparities are not totally clear, Perrine said. “We definitely need more research in that area,” she noted.

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Among Hispanics, breast-feeding is the cultural norm, Perrine noted. “In their countries of origin, breast-feeding is just the natural way of life.”

However, after coming to the United States there is some loss of that tradition, with more Hispanic women favoring formula feeding, she said.

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[The CDC’s report “Racial and Ethnic Differences in Breastfeeding Initiation and Duration, by State — National Immunization Survey, United States, 2004-2008” can be read here.]

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