Friday, March 26, 2010

Racial Gap in Breastfeeding Rates Widens

This morning the CDC released a new report, "Racial and Ethnic Differences in Breastfeeding Initiation and Duration, by State," which lists the breastfeeding rates amongst the various racial groups from 2004-2008. The news for black women doesn't look good. According to this report, black breastfeeding initiation rates actually went down from about 60% to about 54% since the CDC's Breastfeeding Report Card came out in 2009, which was based on data collected in 2006. In fact, everyone's rates appear to have taken a hit, with white women's breastfeeding rates going from 78% initiation in 2006 to about 74% and Hispanic women's rates dropping from 82% to 80%.

I'm not sure what to make of these numbers. At first glance, the 2% drop for Hispanic women seems to be statistically insignificant, but what of the drop for black moms and white moms? Is this just a matter of overlapping years when the data was collected fudging the numbers a bit? Or is this something to be concerned about? At a time when breastfeeding promotion seems to be a priority of the government what with the health care reform bill including a provision for time and space to pump at work and the retooling of the WIC food packages, not to mention a cultural shift to breastfeeding in the US, I expected the numbers to be much higher.

So now I'm feeling a bit depressed. When people ask what percentage of black moms choose to breastfeed, I'll no longer be able to say we're at an all-time high with a 60% initiation rate.

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