Sunday, September 16, 2007

If White Folks Sneeze, Black Folks Already Have The Cold

I attended a facinating talk the other night. A local retired dentist, Brian Palmer has set about the last 20 years to devote himself to researching the tie between breastfeeding and oral health. I have heard him present before, but this time his message seemed more refined and succinct. It was really exciting to listen to him explain the relationship between breastfeeding and SIDs, breastfeeding and sleep apnea, breastfeeding and speech impairment, breastfeeding and bed wetting, breastfeeding and ADHD, even breastfeeding and beauty (!) I couldn't help but get excited. This information should be known, and bless his heart, he's working to get it out there. Dr Palmer is a pioneer, and I feel so fortunate to have him right here in my own back yard. What was most impressed upon me, once again, is that issues that impact our culture as a whole, can really have exponential impact on the black community. Black women need to breastfeed. Its as simple as that. We have so much more at stake. Our folks suffer in disproportionate amounts from the above-mentioned maladies (more SIDs, more ADHD, more speech impediments, more asthma and sleep apnea) and therefore need the intervention of breastfeeding more. Why aren't healthcare providers saying this to women of color? Why aren't researchers saying it to healthcare providers? Well I'm going to say it. African-American woman need to choose breastfeeding (and low tech birth, but thats another essay) to impact long standing chronic conditions that impair the health and vitality of our children. (We also need to change other habits, but thats another blog also.) Black women need to be strongly encouraged to breastfeed and told exactly why. How about a government funded campaign for that?


Housefairy said...

There is so much here to contemplate, and a bit of it was touched upon on SageFemme's recent race and midwifery blog, but here's my 2 cents:

Breastfeeding is so much easier when others around you are doing it. If, as a black mother, you never saw breastfeeding, your mother didn't breastfeed you, your grandmother didn't breastfeed your mother, and your great grandmother and her stories might be lost or seen as "backwards/olden times" and you perceive that "no one" is doing it, your chances of nursing your baby are going to be low right off the bat.
Then add the whole idea that it is "modern" (AKA NOT "for poor people") to use formula. Hottest new stroller, coolest baby clothes, cutest little shoes, awesome bottles...just like going to a DOCTOR, it might be seen as classy and educated to go high tech. Exactly what mothers and babies DON'T need. but high tech sells and we all know how much capitalism and the media machine is trying to cast its greedy shadow over the black community, whats best for black people is irrelevant to the bog corporations, Nestle included.

Now, add in some socio-economic factors. Of course there is always the risk of sounding like the big racist, and yes, I am white, but hopefully I have had enough life experiences to be able to speak upon this, so deep breath and here goes: What if the black mama is raising her baby without support? Then we have the whole issue of pumping at work, etc. Difficult for anyone. What if the black mama is low income, and has WIC, and WIC pays for formula, enough to feed her baby full time--but the food they give you if you are breastfeeding is definately not enough to live off of? (A little peanut butter, cereal, and cheese--I am on WIC trust me)
What if the black mama is surrounded by friends and family who think breastfeeding is for ____ fill in the blank, hippies, freaks, poor people, losers, whatnot. Why/how on Earth would she, could she possibly succeed? What if she is young, and is going to return to school right away, or all her teenage friends expect her to be back on the scene in a week or two, not home nursing her baby.

I am so sorry if all that sounded like I am saying black mothers are all poor or young. Again, tackling this from a socio-economic viewpoint as well as a personal one (I was young and poor when I had my 1st baby) hopefully is enough for me to be able to say this without going too far or coming off in a way that I do not mean to.

I guess it will have to start in the OB-realm, the family doctors, the daycare centers, the media and hopefully become societal? There is so much education this entire nation needs, across all race lines, when it comes to the welfare of it's youngest citizens.

It is so sad that nursing our babies has become some political, socio-economic topic. Its so insane. But really, its about the capitalist machine, and how mamas and babies are so vulnerable to slip through the cogs and get crunched somehwere deep inside the gears, if they make it out at all.

Made by men, for men, for the advancement of men--white men--that is capitalism. All resultant fallout is still being played out in 2007.

When our society is really all about money and making more money and keeping those in power in power, then the task of raising up mothers and children to a high level of importance feels so so difficult.

In my heart I feel the only true matriarchal overthrow would come in the form of communes. Mass exodus. I can dream...:)

Laborpayne said...

I appreciate your thoughts. I wanted very badly to breastfeed and I was everything you described, poor, teen, alone, no resources, on WIC, no family history of it, AND YET, I knew I wanted to nurse my baby. I know I'm not (that much of) a freak. There are others, especially teen moms. They simply lack knowledge and support, and they are surrounded by authority figures (family and HCPs) who don't believe they can do it. I pumped when I was a waitress, slinging hash and pumping furiously in the ladies room before the 'lunch rush' descended. If I can do it, others can too. I know its tempting to give folks an out- but then we are just as bad as the folks who keep saying, don't make moms feel guilty- soft peddle all that breastfeeding stuff. We just can no longer afford to.

kris said...

well said ladies. and hey, if somehow someone got the new york city hospitals to stop automatically give out formula diaper bags, why can't we get a gov't funded program for this??

Housefairy said...

I agree. I guess the tone of positve change needs to focus on what can we do, not why maybe some Mamas dont/wont/cant breastfeed. I got off on a tangeant is all...

The WIC office I go to is plastered with Breast is Best types of signs, all featuring minority mothers and babies nursing, very cool to see. But it has to be grass roots, too, if it is going to take hold. Or maybe much larger scale than some little posters that nobody probably gives a hoot about.

A campaign just as you suggested, to really come out and show the hard evidence of the factors leading to diabetes and other diseases might be a good start--but black and white and all other people already "know" that we arent suppossed to eat all the processed foods and high fructose corn syrup that we do, and yet we as a nation seem to refuse to stop. Something has to really get out there to make it CLICK that breastfeeding is really, really important and right and good and normal and not just "one option in infant feeding", but the way that babies eat, period. You grow a baby in your womb, and then nurse it at your breasts. Period.

Stopping handing out the formula bags, absolutely needs to happen. That is just wrong.

Perhaps a much harsher "campaign" outlining the very real DANGERS of feeding artifical formulas to our babies would catch more attention? Presenting breastfeeding as saving the next generation from rampant diseases. Strong women do what is right for their kid kind of an angle? Say no to The Man and his greedy plot to keep us all buying the expensive vastly inferior baby formula. Outline the costs, both literal (cost of formula, bottles,) potential (more doctor visits, ear infections, gastrointestinal infections, lower IQ,) and future (diabetes, obesity, etc)

It has to happen. I will keep thinking. Awesome topic.

CappuccinoLife said...

I am white, but my husband is black (native African) and we live in a predominantly black area.

It's funny--the older black ladies in our church are tremendously positive with me about breastfeeding--you know "Is he breastfed? I can always tell! Breastfed babies are so healthy!" kind of comments. But the young mothers *all* bottlefeed as far as I can tell. Somehow the information didn't get passed down. :(

For a while we were seeing those "babies were born to be breastfed" billboards in the predominantly black areas, but I'm not sure how much good those do.

Anyway, you are right on!

Anonymous said...

Tagsueber von einem Meeting ins andere, nach Feierabend schnell den Einkauf erledigen, die beste Freundin wegen ihres Liebeskummers trösten und ? dann zum Sport. Gerade fuer viel beschaeftigte Singles ist das Internet eine tolle Alternative. Verschwendete Ausgehabende an denen wir dem Prinz oder der Prinzessin mal wieder nicht begegnet sind, können Sie sich sparen. Im Internet suchen Sie ganz zielgerichtet.

[url=] [img][/img]

er sucht sie
er sucht ihn


Anonymous said...

Thе premium's obviously on the beach or business within a block or 2 of it then I would suggest that they learn how much they cost. When you buy popcorn at a business ballpark, fair grounds, amusement park? The most reliable method of determining the cash balance is based on the ratio of negative-to-positive reviews online, and endeavors to offer its perpetual-license model for the company. This could be the most secure Linux/Unix distributions available.

my web site; internet marketing strategist