Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Battle for the Breast

Last night, I attended a meeting for the healthcare foundation board that I sit on. This group has many wonderful pans in the fire, but last night, a proposal was made to start a new initiative dealing with cultural competency. Now before I started researching my breastfeeding presentation, I thought cultural competency was a noble enough goal- now I think it's absolutely essential to making a dent in health disparities. My look at research showed me how minority interaction with the healthcare community can be unproductive and downright punitive without the principles of cultural competency in place. There is a direct link between health disparities or health outcomes and cultural competence. That is why I'm so excited about this new 3 year initiative to fund the exploration of training for safety net clinics. I hope to have an active role in this, even though my term is up next year. What I found, while not directly looking for it, was that black women were less likely to be talked to about breastfeeding from their healthcare provider during prenatal care, were less likely to get follow up support when complications arose, and were less likely to have access to mother to mother community-based support. Failure to initiate or continue lactation has a direct impact on infant health- more so in the black community where health disparities already put black infants at more risk. What I found overall is that the infants most likely to benefit healthwise from breastfeeding, were the least likely to get it. My buddy Charlene has already warned me that I'd have to overcome WIC complacency in my presentation, that "they messed 'em up at the hospital, so what can we do about it now?" attitude. However WIC does see folks prenatally too! I'm gleaning my list of over 55 barriers. I want to shock folks out of their complacency, but not overwhelm them. I want them to see that black women don't just 'prefer the bottle' as some research suggests, but that they have overwhelming odds against them in the fight for successful breastfeeding. More to come on that subject.


Anonymous said...

I recall, as a first time pregnant woman and teacher I spoke with a fellow teacher about my upcoming plans to breast feed. She said blatantly that, as a black woman, she was taught to introduce a bottle as soon as possible. This was because "you never know when a woman might end up spending time away from her baby." She spoke of the history of the black community with mothers who died or had to work outside of the home. Her belief was that when she had her first child, she'd use formula in a bottle for sure, even if she chose to breast feed, "just in case." I wonder if this is actually a factor, or was just taught in her own family?


Laborpayne said...

There is an undercurrent of full acceptance of mother and baby seperation in black culture that makes bottle feeding a fit.