There is an old adage that states, “When White folks catch a cold, Black folks get pneumonia.” Loosely translated this means that America’s problems tend to impact African Americans to a greater degree than the population as a whole.
Among the myriad of problems facing the United States, the shortage of baby formula has become a critical problem for many families. And, here too, new data shows how the shortage of baby formula disproportionately affects Black Americans. The percentage of White babies who receive all their food from breast milk during their first four months of life is double the percentage for African American babies. This fact alone shows that African American mothers are more dependent on the availability of formula.
Epidemiologist and professor at George Mason University Amira Roess studies the differences in breastfeeding between Black and non-Black mothers. She states that “breastfeeding does not come naturally to every new mom, and it is a lot of work. It often requires the support of partners, the medical system, and possibly lactation consultants. Not everyone has access to all these resources or the time needed to pump breast milk. Mothers with low income are especially burdened by this lack of resources. More Black mothers have hourly jobs where there is no access to places or time for pumping or refrigeration for storing milk. They often work further away from their home, which translates to less time with their infant and sometimes a lower supply of breastmilk.”
Dr. Roess reports that families who rely on formula and cannot afford the increased price will be more at risk for adverse outcomes. She says there has been an increase in hospitalization and a few deaths due to families rationing formula.
“It is unconscionable that in the U.S. in 2022 this has happened and that we are facing a situation where low-income Black babies remain at higher risk for malnutrition,” Dr. Roess said.