DENVER - This week is Black Breastfeeding Week and doctors across the country are hoping to highlight the importance of the practice.
According to the latest Centers for Disease Control statistics, 21,000 babies died in the United States in 2018.
The CDC reports the rate is higher for Black infants.
“Black infants are at higher risk for respiratory diseases, they’re at higher risk for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), they’re higher risk for infant mortality. Breastfeeding — the CDC’s latest data shows it can reduce all of those risk factors as much as 50%,” said pediatrician and breastfeeding specialist Dr. Sonal Patel.
Patel, who practices in the Denver metro area, said 75% of white mothers initiate breastfeeding while 50-60% of Black mothers initiate breastfeeding.
“Black women are offered a little more formula, they are not offered more support for breastfeeding. I think it’s inadvertent. It’s not that anyone is out there doing this with bad intentions, medical professionals just don’t realize they’re doing it,” Patel said.
During this awareness week, Dr. Patel said she wants to get the word out: breastfeeding can literally change lives.
“We always talk about breastfeeding in terms of infants, but it also helps women. It helps in reducing ovarian cancer risks, it helps with reducing breast cancer risks, heart disease. And heart disease is very prevalent in the Black women population,” Patel said.
Patel said there are also environmental benefits for breastfeeding because when moms choose breastfeeding, fewer bottles end up in landfills.