COLUMBUS— The Ohio Black Maternal Health Caucus (OBMHC) today recognizes the month of August as National Breastfeeding Month and Aug. 1 to 7 as World Breastfeeding Week, both of which promote public awareness and support for breastfeeding.
The theme of World Breastfeeding Week 2020 is “Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet.” In line with this theme, the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are calling on governments to protect and promote women's access to skilled breastfeeding counselling, a critical component of breastfeeding support.
“The Ohio Black Maternal Health Caucus is committed to ending racial disparities in health outcomes for Black mothers and babies. Acknowledging and promoting breastfeeding is essential to this important work,” said Rep. Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights), co-chair of the OBMHC.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that mothers exclusively breastfeed infants until at least six months, and then combine breastfeeding while introducing new foods until at least 12 months.
However, a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revealed that Black women are more likely than others to need to return to work earlier than 12 weeks, and tend to be confronted with ‘inflexible work hours’ that make consistently nursing and expressing milk extremely difficult. At the heart of many of these issues are racist policies which play out through issues such as Black women being paid less than their white peers, or the lack of paid family leave.”
Breastfeeding is beneficial to almost all mothers and infants, but the benefits may be significantly greater for minority women. Minority women are disproportionately affected by adverse health outcomes, and their health may improve with breastfeeding. There are numerous barriers to breastfeeding that affect all women such as reported pain/discomfort, embarrassment, employment, and inconvenience. Additionally, there are also obstacles that are unique and more frequent among racial/ethnic minority women including a lack of social, work, and cultural acceptance/support, language and literacy barriers, lack of maternal access to information that promotes and supports breastfeeding, acculturation and lifestyle choices, including tobacco and alcohol use.
“A mother breastfeeding her child has been described as nature’s most specific personalized medicine. Breastfeeding has many benefits, and I believe it is one of the best investments for saving infant lives and improving the health, social and economic development of all mothers and babies,” said Rep. Howse (D-Cleveland), co-chair of the OBMHC.
The OBMHC has introduced several bills to promote women’s access to breastfeeding services, including:
- House Bill (HB) 611 (Hicks-Hudson, Crawley): To require Medicaid coverage of doula services. The role of the doula in early breastfeeding support can help women reach their goals of a satisfying and successful transition to motherhood;
- Senate Bill (SB) 94 (Maharath): To enact the "Ohio Pregnant Workers Fairness Act," which would require employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees who are pregnant or breastfeeding.