According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more women are breastfeeding than ever before, including more black women, but there is still a significant lag in black mothers who breastfeed.

Nearly 60 percent of black American women breastfeed their children, but that compares to 75 percent for white women and 80 percent for Latinos.

Overall, however, even women who breastfeed don’t do it as long as they should.

Nearly 75 percent of infants born in 2008 began breastfeeding, but only 23.4 percent of women breastfed their infants for the recommended breastfeeding duration of 12 months, the CDC reported.

The advantages of breastfeeding, says Dr. Michal Young, an associate professor and chairman of the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health at Howard University’s College of Medicine, include increased nutrient and protection against diseases and a lower risk of breast cancer.

And a study by a doctor at the University of Southern California found that for older mothers, breastfeeding canceled out the effect of delaying childbirth past the age of 25 — the average age of first birth in the United States.

Still, black women are less likely to breastfeed.

Researchers aren’t certain why but suggest several myths about breastfeeding may contribute to the decision not to breastfeed, including the notion that breastfeeding ruins the shape of breasts; formula is as good as breastfeeding, and that breastfeeding makes women fat.

Conversely, according to Dr. Young, when a woman decides not to breastfeed, her infant has a 64 percent greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, have more obese children and see an increased risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

August is National Breastfeeding Month and Dr. Young and other health practitioners are encouraging women to breastfeed their children for their own benefit as well as their babies.

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, a worldwide organization of physicians dedicated to the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding and human lactation, also is celebrating World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7. For more information on breastfeeding, go to the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine website.

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