A new study warns that Hispanic and Black children need to be breastfed for at least a year in order to protect from numerous health issues.
Many health officials have been encouraging mothers to keep nursing their kids for longer because previous data shows that a lot of mothers stop feeding their children after a few months, and this gives rise to health issues in kids. Furthermore, new research has brought forward results that have calculated the higher risks of experiencing life-threatening ailments in children who are bottle-fed. The research, conducted by Harvard Medical School, has found that Hispanic and Black children are at higher risk of such medical conditions compared to White children. The new study, focusing on mother and infant health outcomes, has been published in the Journal of Pediatrics. It analyzed the current federal data on the health outcomes of babies and mothers linked to breastfeeding.
According to the results, a lack of required breastfeeding relates to a twice higher rate of death in black infants compared to white children. Black infants also showed the rate of necrotizing enterocolitis being three times greater than white babies. Necrotizing enterocolitis is an intestinal disease affecting premature babies and is fatal. This disease is known to occur due to infants not receiving the proper amount of breast milk.
Two diseases were also found to be quite common in Hispanic and Black babies. These diseases were gastrointestinal diseases and ear infections. According to results, due to lack of breastfeeding, ear infections were 1.7 times more common in Black kids with Hispanic infants showing the disease to be 1.4 times as frequent when compared to white kids.
The rates of gastrointestinal infections because of a lack of breastfeeding were 1.4 to 1.3 times common in Hispanic and Black infants respectively when compared to white kids. Such diseases can cause parents a lot of stress and financial burden as it can lead to them having to leave going to work to take care of their kids.
The study also found differences in health outcomes of mothers due to breastfeeding being suboptimal. Compared to white mothers, for type-II diabetes and hypertension, black woman exhibited 1.4 times higher rate of experiencing these conditions and their breastfeeding not being optimal.
According to the lead author of the study, Dr. Melissa Bartick, from Harvard Medical School, federal data showed that breastfeeding rates are a lot higher in white women than black women. They also happen to be a bit greater than Hispanic women. The current research is the first study that has brought forward results about breastfeeding disparities translating into unfortunate differences related to health outcomes. Dr. Melissa also added that Hispanic and black mothers are commonly the heads of their households, and also have low-paying jobs that don’t provide sick leave. If such mothers don’t go to their jobs due to ill children, they don’t get paid. Mothers also face barriers to breastfeeding because of such factors. Either they stay home to feed their infants, or they stop breastfeeding earlier, or don’t breastfeed at all, to earn money.
Dr. Alison Stuebe, the co-author of the current study, said that the outdated maternity care and paid leave policy needs to be amended as they are negatively impacting families of color the most. The disparities in health can be solved by protecting a woman’s right to breastfeed their child.