Thursday, March 25, 2010

Do attitudes about formula explain breastfeeding disparity?

A new research study conducted at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center has found that black mothers' attitudes about formula may explain disparate breastfeeding rates. According to the study, moms of all races (Black, White, Hispanic and Asian) are equally comfortable with the idea of breastfeeding. In fact, 60% of black moms initiated breastfeeding in the hospital in 2006, compared with 77% of white moms. The difference was that black moms were much more comfortable with the idea of formula feeding than the moms of other races.

I'm not really surprised about the findings in this study (the article I read didn't say how many women were polled or what their socioeconomic status is) because I have found many moms who think formula is just as good as breast milk or a very close second. I also think we have to remember that most black moms are planning on returning to work after they have a baby and many will not have support in the workplace to pump (Isotoner anyone?) If you know you're going back to work and you know you may not be able to breastfeed past 12 weeks, you're going to have to believe that formula is fine or else you're going to drive yourself crazy thinking you are harming your baby.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Laurie Nommsen-Rivers, says the study raises an interesting point about how breastfeeding should be promoted. “The study results tell us that public health campaigns to promote breastfeeding must also include messages regarding the risks of formula feeding. We are committed to learning more about what influences women’s understanding of the risks of formula feeding, because this is a key part of improving breastfeeding practices and therefore, infant health, for some of our most vulnerable newborns,” she said.

So black moms, what do you think? Are your friends and family members comfortable with the idea of formula feeding? Do you feel they understand the risks to themselves and their babies that choosing not to breastfeed poses? Is it even a question of getting black moms to understand the risks of formula? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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