Updated: Aug 24
August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and we are dedicating ourselves to supporting Black Mothers' Breastfeeding Association with our Breastfeeding Isn't Free collection in collaboration with Ashley Reckdenwald of @workingmomnotes.
Breastfeeding comes with hidden costs that disproportionately affect marginalized communities. In the pursuit of providing optimal nutrition to newborns, the financial burden of breastfeeding becomes an unspoken challenge, exacerbated by racial inequities in access to proper care and support.
Breastfeeding is associated with numerous health benefits for both mother and child, including reduced risk of infections, allergies, and chronic diseases. However, the notion that breastfeeding is a cost-free endeavor is far from accurate. The financial burden associated with breastfeeding can be attributed to several factors:
Lack of Paid Maternity Leave: The absence of paid maternity leave in the United States forces new mothers to return to work soon after childbirth. This hinders their ability to establish and maintain a breastfeeding routine, as well as to adequately care for themselves and their infants during the crucial postpartum period.
Breastfeeding Equipment, Proper Nutrition, and Supplies: Breast pumps, nursing bras, lactation consultants, vitamins, increased food needed and storage bags are essential tools for successful breastfeeding, but they come with a price tag; a Yale study found that these expenses can exceed $10,000 for a year of breastfeeding, which can be a huge barrier for low-income families.
Time and Opportunity Costs: Breastfeeding demands time and flexibility, which can conflict with work schedules. Many mothers, especially Black mothers, face the dilemma of choosing between breastfeeding their babies and earning a living to support their families.
The intersection of race and healthcare disparities further compounds the challenges faced by marginalized communities when it comes to breastfeeding. Racial inequities in access to quality care, support, and resources perpetuate a cycle of disadvantage:
Access to Lactation Consultants: Studies show that Black mothers use lactation consultants at much lower rates than their White counterparts. This lack of access to professional help can hinder the establishment of successful breastfeeding routines, leading to premature weaning.
Healthcare Bias and Discrimination: Racial biases within healthcare systems can influence the quality of care provided to new mothers. Discriminatory practices often result in inadequate breastfeeding support, less successful initiation, and shorter breastfeeding durations.
Black Mothers' Breastfeeding Association was founded with a mission to reduce racial inequity in breastfeeding education and care for Black mothers. Through education, service, and advocacy, they are working to strengthen systems to overcome historical, societal and social barriers to breastfeeding success. Spread awareness about the financial burden of breastfeeding and support BMBFA today with our Breastfeeding Isn't Free collection, or through a direct donation here!