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Nursing professors encourage breastfeeding among Black mothers

Breast/chest feeding is internationally recognized as a method of infant feeding with health benefits for both infant and mother. In South Carolina, breastfeeding initiation among Black mothers is low while infant mortality rates continue to rise. 

 University of South Carolina nursing professors Tisha Felder and Joy Jackson are working directly with families to increase breast/chest feeding equity and encourage success in Black communities.  

 Why it matters 

According to the CDC, increased breastfeeding among Black women could decrease infant mortality rates by as much as 50 percent. 

  • South Carolina’s infant mortality rate has grown by almost 40 percent since 2017 for infants born to Black mothers.
  • Black infants die at a rate nearly 2.5 times that of white infants.
  • Research suggests breastfed babies face a lower risk of developing ear, respiratory or digestive tract infections, asthma, obesity and diabetes. 
  • Breast/chestfeeding reduces the mother’s risk of developing “hard-to-treat” breast cancers, such as triple-negative breast cancer, which disproportionately impacts U.S. Black women.

The solution

Supported by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, the nursing researchers are creating a network of African American families, lactation consultants, family physicians, obstetricians, nurses and other providers, researchers, hospitals and community leaders. Knowledge gleaned from the network and a multiyear research project will be used to create tools and best practices specifically designed for Black mothers that can be used throughout the state. 

 What they’re saying

“The reasons for racial disparities in breastfeeding are rooted in historical and structural practices and processes that systematically disadvantage African Americans,” says Felder. “Creating a network for Black mothers is empowering because it allows us to discuss our collective challenges, while simultaneously creating safe spaces to imagine ways to overcome them.” 

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