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Sahira Long's picture

As I read the recent MMWR from CDC, I was encouraged to see that we are making progress in increasing breastfeeding initiation and duration as a nation.  I was even more delighted to see that, while African American women continue to have the lowest breastfeeding rates among all ethnicities, the gap is decreasing.   Sure there is more work to be done, but this Black History Month I want to celebrate the work that is already taking place.

Working as a pediatrician in a low-income African American community where breastfeeding has not become the norm, I applaud the “she-roes” I come across who defy the odds.   Several are the first in their families to breastfeed.   Often they have only heard the negative stories of those who have not successfully breastfed beyond a day or so.  Some have attempted with prior children without the support needed to persevere through the challenging first few weeks.  Others have started out not breastfeeding, but decided to give it a chance after reviewing the risks of not doing so.  They have several family members with asthma and they want to do what they can to decrease the risk of passing it to their child.  These women dare to be different and push through many obstacles until they reach their goal.  They are becoming the change they want to see in their community.

I am fortunate to be a part of the village that helps them along their journey.  Sometimes it means I have to provide the education needed to help them make an informed feeding decision.  Other times, I am the cheerleader that reminds them of how healthy their baby is because of their sacrifice.  If a letter is needed to obtain their legal right to time and space to express milk once they return to work, I’m their advocate.  In her Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, Dr. Regina Benjamin, US Surgeon General, encouraged us all to do our part in making breastfeeding work for those who choose to do so.  What part are you playing in narrowing the breastfeeding disparities gap?

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