When it came to breastfeeding my two amazing children, it was an easy choice to make. I wanted to be sure I provided my children with the very best start in life and I understood that breast milk was considered the very best first food. Being born African American, we are already predisposed to developing many chronic illnesses and I wanted to be sure to do everything within my power to minimize those incidents for my children.
Breastfeeding decreases the risks for obesity, diabetes and asthma. As a nephrology social worker, I see firsthand the consequences of obesity that can lead to diabetes and ultimately chronic kidney disease. According to Center for Disease Control (CDC), a recent study among Michigan’s children aged 2-5, 16.3% were overweight and 13.3% were obese. Is anyone other than myself alarmed by those figures?
So many people fail to understand how breastfeeding could impact those figures. It appears that there are people out there in the universe who under estimate the power of breast milk. More and more research is finding that the longer an infant is breastfed, the lower the risk they have of being overweight and obese as they grow older. Breastfed infants learn to control the amount of human milk and calories they consume better than bottle-fed infants, who are often forced to continue feeding and finish a bottle after they are satisfied. It makes perfect sense. Apparently, energy-dense infant formulas may stimulate the endocrine system to secrete more insulin and growth factor than human milk does, which leads to increased rates of body fat in formula-fed babies.
Interestingly, breast milk contains unique hormones that affect a baby’s appetite, sense of fullness, and help stabilize baby’s blood sugar levels, thus minimizing the likelihood of developing diabetes. According to National MOTTEP, approximately 2.3 million African Americans have diabetes. This astonishing statistic further reinforces the grave importance of breastfeeding our children, specifically African American children who are at greater risk for chronic illness and mortality.
When it comes to asthma, breast milk continues to work its wonderful magic. The American Lung Association explains that asthma is one of the most common chronic disorders in childhood. The strongest links in research for breastfeeding’s impact on asthma were seen with wheezing and persistent phlegm, as children were more likely to develop these symptoms if they had never been breastfed. How about that?
I am happy to report that my children, ages 2 and 7 have experienced very few colds, zero ear infections with no asthma history and are overall happy and healthy children. I am proud of my efforts in maintaining their optimal health and am fortunate to have an incredible support system found with my husband and extended family. It is my sincere hope that my African American community soon embraces the concept of breastfeeding and its many benefits to mom and baby. This can be accomplished by increased awareness, education and support within the community.
As a Board member of Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association (BMBFA), I’d like to share that we are a growing force in the community to aid breastfeeding families. BMBFA, based in Detroit, MI aims to eradicate the racial disparity in breastfeeding rates among African American women. We offer one-on-one and group breastfeeding support, information and education. BMBFA’s Breastfeeding Club meets regularly, for more information please visit www.bmbfa.org. In the meantime be safe, be happy and breastfeed!
Originally posted at MomsRising.org in February 2013.