Breast-Feeding Less Common for Black Moms

Kathleen Doheny, USA Today, October 11, 2010

Black mothers in the United States are less likely to breast-feed their babies than other moms, and many cite a personal preference for the bottle as the primary reason, new research finds.

Overall, breast-feeding rates are rising, but the long-time disparity between ethnic groups persists, said Dr. Amudha Palaniappan, a pediatrics resident at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, N.J., who led the research. Fifty-four percent of black mothers try breast-feeding, while the national average is 73%, according to background information in the study.

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She grouped their answers into categories, including barriers experts consider relatively easy to change (fear of pain, latching problems, milk supply issues); barriers that are not so easily changed (lack of desire to breast-feed, insufficient knowledge, previous formula-feeding, return to work or school), or true barriers (being on chemotherapy).

Only 23% of the black mothers had easily changed barriers compared with 42% of the non-black mothers. Similarly, 89% of the black moms had barriers not easily changed versus 74% of the other ethnicities.

A lack of interest in breast-feeding was the most commonly reported barrier to nursing among black women–55% of black women compared to 27% of women in other ethnic groups felt this way.

Misinformation about breast-feeding was mentioned by 14% of black women and 31% of non-blacks.

“In other studies what has been shown is, there is this comfort level with formula (among black women), that formula is acceptable,” said Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, professor of pediatrics and division head of adolescent medicine at Cooper University Hospital, a co-author of the study.

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