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Study: Breastfeeding Support Lacking in Areas With More Black Residents

Study: Breastfeeding Support Lacking in Areas With More Black Residents

September 3, 2014 — Women in areas with higher concentrations of black residents are less likely to receive recommended breastfeeding support from hospitals and birth centers, according to an analysis published in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Reuters reports.

Study Methods

For the study, CDC researchers sought to determine why black women are 16% less likely than white women to breastfeed their newborns (Cohen, Reuters, 8/29). The researchers compiled responses from 2,643 U.S. hospitals and birth centers from the 2011 Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care -- or mPINC -- survey.

The researchers analyzed the facilities' compliance with the World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund's best practices for successful breastfeeding and compared the results for providers in zip code areas with a higher percentage of black residents to those with a lower percentage (Lind et al., MMWR, 8/22).

Key Findings

The analysis found that providers in areas with a higher percentage of black residents were more likely to administer tests to their staff on breastfeeding support.

However, researchers also found that maternity wards in these areas were less likely to limit the use of formula and other breastfeeding supplements, which are tied with lower chances of breastfeeding. In addition, hospitals in such areas were 7% more likely to provide infants with pacifiers, which can sometimes impede breastfeeding, and were less likely to offer mothers breastfeeding support after they had returned home.

In addition, the analysis found that providers in areas with a lower percentage of black residents were 14% more likely to promote starting breastfeeding early and almost 12% more likely to attempt to keep newborns next to their mothers while in the hospital, both of which have been shown to promote breastfeeding, according to Reuters.

Lead study author Jennifer Lind said, "We think it's really important that all hospitals -- regardless of where they're located -- apply policies and practices proven to be supportive of breastfeeding so that more babies are able to reap the numerous benefits." However, she noted that "[b]ecause this is the first stab or look into the whole issue, we really don't know why we're seeing these disparities" (Reuters, 8/29).