Black Breastfeeding Week: How breastfeeding benefits babies, mothers

Black Breastfeeding Week is Aug. 25-31.

Doctors say breastfeeding is best for babies and mothers. It provides nutrition and immunity, helping to prevent diabetes, asthma, digestive issues in babies. For mothers, it also helps prevent diabetes, breast cancer, cervical cancer and helps with hypertension and cardiac health.

The problem is that too many moms don't know this.

"For Black moms they don't think that that is for them, and sometimes they don't receive that information, education while in the hospital," said Stephanie Esters, a clinical specialist and registered nurse with Priority Health. 

She works with expectant mothers and new moms, especially women of color. According to the CDC, 85% of white infants have breastfed, compared with 74% of Black infants. Also, while three out of four new moms start out breastfeeding, it falls to 43% or less at six months.

"CDC has recommended six months of breastfeeding is a really good time in order to support the mom," Esters said. "The support is needed, the education along the way, and the support - to make sure they know they can do it, and they can do it well."

Brandi Walker attributes her baby Ginger's health to her diet. Walker has been breastfeeding the 9-month-old since she was born.

"I knew that it had a lot of benefits, so from the start I knew that I wanted to breastfeed as long as I could," she said. "It's a great bond. I just love it. The experience is just amazing, and I'm going to go as long as I can."

Walker said there have been other benefits as well, as evidenced by the recent baby formula crisis.

"You don't have to worry about any shortages, you don't have to worry about any recalls, any colic issues, any allergies," she said.

But employers need to do a much better job of supporting new moms when they go back to work and need to pump.

"They start off breastfeeding, they start strong and by the time they're at work, there's not a lot of accommodations. Like a lot of jobs you're finding moms in public restrooms pumping their milk and that's not very sanitary," Esters said.

Experts say it's important so talk to your doctor before your baby is born, and find resources through your insurance or community groups.

Learn more about Black Breastfeeding Week here.