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Reflections of black women who choose to breastfeed: Influences, challenges and supports | LATCH

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Author: Pam Middleton, RN, BSN, MPA

The benefits of breastfeeding are well documented in literature and supported by a wide range of key professional and public health organizations. For example, through the national Healthy People 2020 initiative, the US Department of Health and Human Services set target goals for 81.9% of all women to breastfeed upon delivery and 60.6% to continue to breastfeed their infants at 6 months of age. Despite all the evidence supporting maternal and infant benefits of breastfeeding, black women continue to have the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the nation.

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To identify factors that contribute to black women’s breastfeeding success and challenges, a qualitative content analysis was conducted by nurse researchers Melanie Lutenbacher, Sharon Karpand, and Elizabeth Moore. This study of 16 black women found that “cultural beliefs, traditions, experiences, and personal preferences of black women and their families must be taken into consideration as systems are developed to address racial and ethnic disparities in breastfeeding.”

Participants in the study stated they had few role models within their family and circle of friends who breastfed. They further identified the internet was the main influencer affecting their choice to breastfeed and described “Google as my friend”. These women indicated that the “late prenatal period, early postpartum period, and the point they returned to either work or school” were the three most critical periods when they either received or needed breastfeeding support.

Unlike other studies, Lutenbacher et al found that advice and support from healthcare providers were “conflicting, disconnected, fragmented, dogmatic, authoritarian, and rushed.” This study attempted to expand on the knowledge gaps and supportive needs of black women around the initiation and maintenance of breastfeeding. Major content themes and critical periods of influence were developed to educate the health care professional in providing sensitive and targeted lactation support by. It is important for healthcare provider teams to learn to be culturally sensitive and enact a coordinated continuum of care that speaks to the needs and beliefs of black women – from prenatal to post-delivery. Such strategies will serve to both improve health outcomes and facilitate the successful meeting of the 2020 Healthy People goals. Therefore, in addition to educating and providing lactation support, healthcare clinicians should take these factors into consideration if we want to reach our breastfeeding 2020 goals. To read this excellent article for yourself, see the reference and link below.

Reference

Lutenbacher, M, Karp SM, Moore ER. Reflections of black women who choose to breastfeed: influences, challenges and supports. Matern Child Health J. 2016;20:231-239. doi:10.1007/s10995-015-1822-y