Originally posted in the March 2015 edition of Natural Mother Magazine.
The National Immunization Survey reports an increase in breastfeeding duration for African American babies; 36% of African American babies born in 20101 were breastfed at 6-months of age – up from 18% in 20002. With culturally appropriate support and consideration of individual lifestyles and experiences, that rate can continue to grow. After all, the World Health Organization suggests exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.
Lifestyle changes occur, when new babies arrive. Many questions may also arise. Cloth diapers or disposable? Bed-share or not? Vaccinate or not? Childcare centers or a family babysitter? Stay-at-home or return to work? Multi-generational dwelling or single-family living? Organic or non-organic? Breast milk or infant formula? Breastfeed or exclusively pump? The list goes on and on. For some people, the answers to these questions may be optional. For others, the answers may be determined by life circumstances. While some may think that choice is always a factor, others realize that privileges, culture, support and finances strongly influence child-rearing behaviors. Often times these factors determine if and how long a baby will be breastfed. Breastfeeding lifestyles may be straightforward and uncomplicated for some, while for others; it requires huge efforts, lifestyle alterations and adaptations. With all things respectfully considered, here are 5 reasons why it is important to breastfeed beyond 6-months:
- Breastfeeding leads to secure and confident children. Your darling one knows what she wants. Breastfeeding is not linear. Demand for milk oscillates. Follow her cues.
- Breastfeeding offers a time for you to reconnect and relax with your baby. With the hustle and bustle of day-to-day living, breastfeeding presents a time of bonding for mother and baby. Take advantage of the restful moments.
- Babies need intimate attention. Breastfeeding conveys warmth and affection while giving your baby reassurance and security. Balance your baby’s emotional and behavioral state by engaging touch in your relationship.
- Breastfeeding has a valued spiritual significance. Breastfeeding symbolizes a bi-lateral covenant between the mother-baby dyad. Let the communion of breastfeeding serve as your covenant.
- Who can count the superior immediate and long-term health benefits? The list could be endless but here are a few. Breastfeeding protects against: diabetes, obesity, heart disease, infections, asthma and allergies. Protect your baby.
We understand that successful breastfeeding requires a community of support. For those who require more than sheer will and determination to initiate breastfeeding or to do so beyond 6-months, contact us at Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association. We will work to connect you to locally socio-cultural appropriate breastfeeding support. In the case that you are in an area void of resources, we will connect you to an online community of support. BlackMothersBreastfeeding@gmail.com or 800.313.6141.
1 Datasets and Related Documentation for the National Immunization Survey, 2010 to Present Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2013
2 Datasets and Related Documentation for the National Immunization Survey, 2009 and Prior Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2013