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Black Mothers Are Less Likely to Breastfeed

Here's what Black Moms Breastfeed is doing about it.

Black Mothers Are Less Likely to Breastfeed
When it comes to breastfeeding, there is a drastic racial disparity: Black mothers are less likely than White mothers to breastfeed their children. Why? For starters, hospitals in Black communities do not promote nursing as much as those in white communities. But it's also about visibility. Black moms and babies aren't portrayed in maternity advertising and marketing as often as White moms and babies. And the same is true on social media. A little more than a year ago, I noticed that most of the popular maternity and new mom Instagram accounts depicted very few women of color. Clearly, there needed to be more of an equal representation of women who breastfeed. When you don't see yourself reflected in the mainstream media, you have to create your own platforms. So I created Black Moms Breastfeed .

Image: Sasha M of theryankid_n_thesashakid

Breastfeeding is, of course, about more than beautiful imagery; it's about our babies' health. The United States has a higher infant mortality rate than any of the other 27 wealthy countries, at 6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births. That number for Black infants is a staggering 11.1 . This is a socioeconomic crisis that is clearly not due to a lack of breastfeeding alone. But it is estimated that we can save 1.3 million lives worldwide by reducing stunting, treating malnutrition, and increasing breastfeeding . As a global public health recommendation, infants should be entirely breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve the best possible health, growth, and development .

Image courtesy of Natalie T. of @royalhouseofwraps Royalhouseofwraps.com, Dennis Larios Photography

In recent years, breastfeeding rates have risen without question, with some of the greatest improvements being in the Black community. According to the latest official report from the CDC the percentage of Black women who chose to breastfeed increased from 47.4% to 58.9% over an eight-year period. A more recent CDC study even shows that of infants born in 2012, 66% of Black women chose to breastfeed. But while that is a fantastic improvement, breastfeeding statistics show that compared to other races, the Black community is still lagging: 75% of White women and 80% of Hispanic women choose to breastfeed. When baby turns six months old, only 27% of Black mothers continue to breastfeed, as opposed to 44% of women overall.

Image courtesy of JoJo B., @CurlyNuGrowth, curlynugrowth.com

Researchers have been able to pinpoint several contributing factors to this racial disparity and its resulting health care crisis:
  • There is a lack of breastfeeding education provided by health care providers in urban populations. This is one of the most critical pieces because the brief time that a mother and baby spend in the hospital immediately after birth can have a long-term effect on breastfeeding success. Hospitals in zip codes with greater than 12.2% black residents are less likely to receive the support required to be designated baby-friendly or pro-breastfeeding institutions .
  • The strong marketing strategies by formula companies, combined with the lack of Black mothers depicted in breastfeeding marketing and materials, create the notion that formula should be the “normal" and first choice.
  • Within the Black community, certain social stigmas related to breastfeeding still exist. Many of these stigmas date all the way back to slavery, when Black women were forced to be “wet nurses" for their masters' children.
  • Black women are also less likely to receive high-quality health care, breastfeeding-focus education, and community support.

Dashalay K., @dashadarling_

So why are these positive images of Black mothers and babies important? We live in an age where pictures and social media are huge pillars in our society: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. Visual representation is huge: it allows us to open our minds and start the conversation; and the more we see individuals who look like us and who we can relate to, the more normal a behavior becomes. Unlike what the media often depicts, black women can be entrepreneurs. They can be business women and wives and good mothers, and they have and still do breastfeed. In an attempt to reframe the messages that we receive from the media, Black Moms Breastfeed hopes to highlight the beauty of breastfeeding across races and to serve as a platform where Black moms and babies can rest in love and community. Written by S.M.M., a Registered Nurse, Certified Lactation Consultant, and creator of the Instagram page @BlackMomsBreastfeed. She grew up in the Midwest, has traveled the country, and now lives on the East Coast. Please visit and support the community at Black Moms Breastfeed.

After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.

$200

Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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9 products that will help baby sleep better (and longer!)

For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

How do I get my baby to sleep? This is one of the most commonly asked questions among new parents, and it makes sense, given that babies are born with their days and nights mixed up. For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

And while that might not exist (yet), we have found some of the best products out there that can help baby fall asleep faster and for longer durations. Because when baby is sleeping, so are you!

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack and swaddle

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. The detachable swaddle wing makes it easy to transition as they grow.

It's also super easy to get on and off, and includes a bottom-up zipper for late night changes, so you don't have to wake your baby in the process.

$79

Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine

Yogasleep hushh sound machine

With three soothing options, this is a perfect solution to help your baby settle when naps are on the go and during travel! I love how compact this noise machine is and that it can run all night with one charge.

$30

Bebe au Lait muslin crib sheets

Burt's Bees Organic Crib Sheets

With a variety of print options to choose from, these breathable sheets are *so* soft and smooth, even through multiple washes. The luxury fabric keeps little ones warm without overheating—a formula that helps ensure more sleep for everyone.

$32

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

You know what's going to help baby have their best sleep ever? Some quality, super soft pajamas. The timeless (and aptly named!) Perfect Pajama from The Simple Folk are some of our favorites. They last forever and they're made from organic pima cotton that is safe on baby's precious skin. They come in a wide range of sizes so siblings can match and feature fold-over hand covers on sizes up to 12 months.

$37

The Snoo bassinet

Snoo

Designed by expert pediatrician and sleep guru Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo bassinet gently rocks your baby to sleep while snuggled up in the built-in swaddle. Not only does it come with sensors that adjust the white noise and movement based on your baby's needs, there is also an app that allows you to adjust the settings directly from your phone.

While this item is a bit on the expensive side, there is now an option to rent for $3.50 a day, which is a total game changer!

$1295

Hatch Baby Rest sound machine + nightlight

best baby sound machine

The Hatch Baby Rest is a dual sound machine and nightlight that will grow with your family. Many parents use this product with their infants as a white-noise machine and then as a "time to rise" solution for toddlers.

The thing I love most about this product is that the light it gives off isn't too bright, and you can even select different color preferences; giving your toddler choices at bedtime.

$59.99

Crane humidifier

Crane Humidifier

The only thing worse than a sick baby is a baby who is sick and not sleeping well. The Crane humidifier helps take care of this by relieving congestion and helping your baby breathe better while sleeping.

Personally, I think the adorable design options alone are enough of a reason to purchase this product, and your child will love watching steam come out of the elephant's trunk!

$46.99

Naturepedic organic crib mattress

Naturpedic Lightweight Organic Mattress

In the first few months of life, babies can spend up to 17 hours a day sleeping, so choosing a mattress that is safe (read: no chemicals!) and comfortable is incredibly important.

Naturepedic uses allergen-friendly and waterproof materials with babies and children in mind, making them easy to clean and giving you peace of mind.

$259.00

Happiest Baby sleepea 5-second swaddle

best baby swaddle

There are baby swaddles and then there is Sleepea. Similar to the brand's swaddle that is built into the Snoo, the Sleepea is magic for multiple reasons. First, it's got mesh panels ensuring baby never overheats. Second, the zipper zips from the top or the bottom, so you can change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night without ever waking them. Third, it's hip safe. Fourth, the patterns are SO cute. And fifth, the interior swaddle wrap that keeps baby's ams down has a "quiet" velcro that won't wake baby if you need to readjust while they're asleep.

$27.95

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

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