Breastfeeding: The Formula for Better Outcomes for Ohio’s Black Babies

For Immediate Release
Thursday, January 12, 2017

For More Information Contact:

Renuka Mayadev
rmayadev@childrensdefense.org
(614) 221-2244

Ashon McKenzie
amckenzie@childrensdefense.org
(614) 221-2244

COLUMBUS, OHIO – Better support for breastfeeding moms could lower Ohio’s infant mortality rate according to a new policy brief released today by Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio (CDF-Ohio). Delivering Better Outcomes for Black Babies through Breastfeeding highlights the benefits of breastfeeding for vulnerable infants and provides recommendations for how Ohio could better support new moms – especially Black moms.

Ohio ranks 45th in infant mortality, and Ohio’s Black infant mortality rate is among the worst in the country. In Ohio, Black babies are three times more likely to die before their first birthday than White babies. Breastfeeding is a known intervention to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which claims the lives of Ohio’s Black babies at nearly three times the rate of White babies.

While breastfeeding rates have been rising across the county, the numbers suggest that much more could be done to support moms who want to breastfeed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends six months of exclusive breastfeeding – a breastmilk-only infant diet. But according to recent data from the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC):

  • Only 18.6 percent of Ohio’s Black mothers exclusively breastfeed three months after birth, compared to 41.4 percent of White mothers. 
  • By six months exclusive breastfeeding for Black infants is down to 3.8 percent compared with 16.8 percent for White babies.

This means that suboptimal breastfeeding is a major issue in Ohio and could be one reason why Ohio’s Infant Mortality rates are so poor.

“It’s imperative that we offer more support for new moms. Too many of Ohio’s black mothers and infants are missing out on the life-altering, and in some instances, lifesaving health benefits of breastfeeding,” said Renuka Mayadev, Executive Director of CDF-Ohio.

There are a number of breastfeeding barriers that are unique for Black moms. Cultural and historic perspectives shaped by the legacy of slavery and the part breastfeeding played in it has left many black women without strong support or family role models for breastfeeding. In addition, barriers common to all moms, like short or no family leave and unsupportive work environments, disproportionately affect black mothers, who are over represented in Ohio’s low income brackets.

CDF-Ohio’s brief offers solutions including statewide paid family leave, updated hospital requirements to promote breastfeeding starting in the delivery room, and the creation of a breastfeeding bill of rights to inform and empower women in exercising their rights in the hospital and in the workplace.

“Ohio has to take steps to eliminate barriers to breastfeeding for Black women and support moms who choose to breastfeed,” says CDF-Ohio Policy Director Ashon McKenzie. “Ohio’s babies are depending on us.”