Shafia Monroe of the International Center for
Most Oregon moms breastfeed their babies. But African American parents stop breastfeeding sooner than others and fewer choose to start breastfeeding at all. Now a community health partnership is working to understand why.
Parents of children under age 5 are invited to a series of focus groups on barriers to breastfeeding in the African-American community.
Although breastfeeding rates among Oregon's African American population exceed those at the national level, the percentage of those who start breastfeeding and continue breastfeeding to one-year is lower than Oregon's population as a whole, according to state surveys.
The focus groups are a collaboration of the International Center for Traditional Childbearing, Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program of Multnomah County, the Urban League of Portland and the Healthy Birth Initiative, Multnomah County.
"We want the black community to see breastfeeding as everyone's business,'' said Shafia M. Monroe, the International Center for Traditional Childbearing president and a midwife for nearly 30 years. "Some people think it's personal. You bring it up and everyone becomes quiet. But there needs to be more dialogue. We all care about our babies."
The Center will host two focus groups in Portland with women and an event for men.
"We know the many benefits mother's milk has on the growth and development of the baby, and it's free!'' said David Brown, WIC program manager. "Breast truly is best."
Jamaal Jensen, owner of Champions Barbershop, is one of the partners hosting the men's focus group. He says men have questions about how to support the mother while breastfeeding.
Health experts recommend babies be breastfed at least one year to promote brain development, and prevent illness from asthma and infections in childhood to lower rates of obesity, diabetes and cancer in adulthood.
The International Center for Traditional Childbearing is a Portland non-profit that serves the African American with an emphasis on healthy births, breastfeeding and doula training.
Monroe said the results of the survey will be shared at a half day summit in mid-September.
Women's focus groups will meet Thursday, July 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. and on Saturday, July 28 from 10 a.m. to noon, in Portland. The men's group will meet Aug. 1 at Champions Barbershop at a time to be announced. Registration for both is required by calling 503-460-9324 or email at [email protected] Space is limited.
Monroe says this is an opportunity to "share your experience in an intimate, fun, non-judgmental group and to be a leader in Oregon. You have an opportunity to shape how the next generation will live,'' she said.