Historical Antecedents of Breastfeeding for African American Women: from the Pre-Colonial Period to the Mid-Twentieth Century.

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Spatz: 0000-0001-7316-6616

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J Racial Ethn Health Disparities

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INTRODUCTION: African American women have much lower breastfeeding rates than other racial and ethnic groups in the USA. While researchers are beginning to explore contemporary factors contributing to this inequality, much less research has been devoted to the historical conditions that have contributed to these disparities.

AIM: The aim of this paper was to describe the social, economic, and political factors that have influenced African American breastfeeding behavior in the USA from the colonial era through the mid-twentieth century.

METHODS: A thematic analysis was conducted across multiple databases and sources. A social history framework, which focuses on the experiences of ordinary people and events, was used to identify and integrate themes found within the reviewed literature.

RESULTS: Three themes emerged: (1) Labor forces and other socio-cultural factors affected feeding practices and communal caregiving; (2) history of supplementation; and (3) influence of medicalization of birth and mobility on infant feeding in the twentieth century. These themes illustrate how African American women's ability to breastfeed has been significantly constrained throughout the U.S.

HISTORY: Supplementation with non-human milk substitutes and communal caregiving helped African American women navigate infant rearing under adverse socioeconomic circumstances.

CONCLUSIONS: Social, political, and economic factors have contributed significantly to African American women's ability to breastfeed throughout the U.S.

HISTORY: Understanding the influences of historical antecedents on breastfeeding decisions over time may be key to finding effective interventions that might increase breastfeeding rates within this population.



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