The initiative also includes the distribution of educational toolkits in neighborhoods with the low breastfeeding rates
In recognition of National Breastfeeding Month, the Health Department's Center for Health Equity unveiled on Thursday a new breastfeeding initiative at Brooklyn Public Library which includes the opening of a new Baby Café in Brownsville as well as the distribution of breastfeeding toolkits for small local businesses.
The new Baby Café, located at the Neighborhood Health Action Centers in Brownsville, will provide spaces for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to meet other parents and to learn from lactation consultants on staff. The breastfeeding toolkits include information on New York's breastfeeding laws, a "Breastfeeding Welcome Here" decal for the business and examples of family-friendly policies regarding breastfeeding; the toolkits will be distributed in neighborhoods with the lowest rates of breastfeeding.
"The health benefits of breastfeeding are backed by decades of science," said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. "Breast milk strengthens the baby's immune system, supports brain development and prevents infections. For mothers, breastfeeding decreases the risk of ovarian and breast cancer and diabetes."
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continued breastfeeding with complementary foods until at least one year of age.
But health department data on breastfeeding trends in New York City show that babies born to women of color and from high-poverty neighborhoods are less likely to exclusively breastfeed during the first five days after giving birth. In 2015, Latina mothers had the lowest rates of exclusive breastfeeding in the hospital compared to other racial and ethnic groups, at 29.4 percent. Black mothers had the second lowest rate at 30.9 percent, followed by Asian/Pacific Islander women at 32.1 percent. In contrast, 47.5 percent of White mothers exclusively breastfed while in the hospital.
The persistent gap in breastfeeding rates indicates that mothers of color are more likely to face structural barriers to continued breastfeeding, including hospital policies and practices, marketing of infant formula, social norms, returning to work early and unsupportive work environments, as well as racism, classism and discrimination.
"It is critical for women — especially women of color in low-income communities — to feel supported in reaching their breastfeeding goals, and local businesses and partners should be included in the effort," said Bassett.
During the announcement, the health department also recognized the following ten spaces in Brooklyn as "breastfeeding-friendly:"
- 3 Black Cats, 3 Belmont Avenue
- The Office of Assembly Member Walter T. Mosley, 55 Hanson Place
- Bed-Stuy Provisions, 563 Gates Avenue
- Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon Street
- Brooklyn Public Library, 10 Grand Army Plaza
- The Office of Council Member Laurie Cumbo, 55 Hanson Place, Suite 778
- The Office of Council Member Robert Cornegy, 1360 Fulton Street, Suite 500
- Life Wellness Center, 376 Tompkins Avenue
- Manna's Soul Food Restaurant, 478 Rockaway Avenue
- Sincerely Tommy, 348 Tompkins Avenue
"Far too many mothers are still without adequate information and support regarding their rights and what resources are available to them, should they choose to breastfeed," said New York City Council Majority Leader, Laurie A. Cumbo. "I am proud to have made breastfeeding and lactation rights a focal point of my time in office, with legislation advancing greater education and access for those who need to express milk in public or in the workplace."