Racism and Racial Trauma as Barriers to Breastfeeding

African American mothers continue to have the lowest breastfeeding rates, even as the breastfeeding rates have risen in the U.S. over the past 25 years. Racism is an important barrier to breastfeeding, as examined in Part 2 of a special issue on “Breastfeeding and the Black/African American Experience: Cultural, Sociological, and Health Dimensions Through an Equity Lens,” published in the peer-reviewed journal Breastfeeding Medicine. Click here to read the issue now.

The special issue is led by Guest Editor Sahira Long, MD, a pediatrician and lactation consultant.

Exploring how racism creates barriers to breastfeeding for Black mothers and how Black women resist racism during their quest to breastfeed are Catasha Davis, PhD and Aubrey Van Kirk Villalobos, DrPH, Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, and coauthors. In their article, the authors identify three forms of institutionalized racism as significant barriers to breastfeeding: the historic exploitation of Black women’s labor; institutions pushing formula on Black mothers; and lack of economic and employer-based support.

“Institutional support for breastfeeding from employers and hospitals is an essential ingredient for countering institutionalized racism,” state the authors.

In the article “Reimagining Racial Trauma as a Barrier to Breastfeeding versus Childhood Trauma and Depression among African American Mothers,” Maria Muzik, MD, Michigan Medicine and colleagues examined the relationship between several maternal risk factors and breastfeeding status at 6-months postpartum.

“We found that African American mothers had reduced rates of breastfeeding at 6 months, above and beyond all the other risk factors in the model,” said the researchers.

Arthur I. Eidelman, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Breastfeeding Medicine, states: “This two-part Special Issue addresses the multiple facets of this ongoing public health crisis, and will assist in mobilizing our nation’s resources in remedying the consequences of institutionalized racism.”

About the Journal

Breastfeeding Medicine, the official journal of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, is an authoritative, peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary journal published 10 times per year in print and online. The Journal publishes original scientific papers, reviews, and case studies on a broad spectrum of topics in lactation medicine. It presents evidence-based research advances and explores the immediate and long-term outcomes of breastfeeding, including the epidemiologic, physiologic, and psychological benefits of breastfeeding. Tables of content and a sample issue may be viewed on the Breastfeeding Medicine website.

About the Publisher

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers is known for establishing authoritative peer-reviewed journals in many promising areas of science and biomedical research. A complete list of the firm’s 90 journals, books, and newsmagazines is available on the Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers website.

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