The Bronx has the lowest breastfeeding rate in NYC. A new Albert Einstein College PSA hopes to reach Bronx mothers

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Medical experts say breastfeeding can greatly reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, acute otitis media, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal diseases, asthma, allergies, lower respiratory tract infections, obesity, diabetes and other life-threatening illnesses for infants.
Courtesy Bronx Healthy Start

Hoping to dispel harmful myths and stigmas about breastfeeding, an Albert Einstein College of Medicine program hopes its new public service campaign can help increase post-hospital breastfeeding in the Bronx, where rates are the lowest in the city.

Bronx Healthy Start’s campaign spotlights breastfeeding mothers and their various support systems including doulas, grandmothers, fathers, nurses and more, and infuses iconic Bronx landmarks and community gathering spaces. According to the University of Albany, just 43% of New York state infants were exclusively breastfed while in the hospital and breastfeeding rates diminished post-hospital discharge and over time.

Medical experts say breastfeeding can greatly reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, acute otitis media, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal diseases, asthma, allergies, lower respiratory tract infections, obesity, diabetes (Type I and II) and other life-threatening illnesses for infants. There are also benefits for the mother that could reduce the likelihood of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer and breast cancer.

“Breastfeeding is important for mothers and babies but has a lot of barriers and challenges. Bronx Healthy Start is working to create a level of awareness across the Bronx to break some common misconceptions and stigmas about breastfeeding,” said Alma Idehen, co-director of the Department of Family and Social Medicine at Bronx Healthy Start Partnership. “This campaign is to help protect and support lactating persons and ‘normalize’ breastfeeding as the choice for Bronx families.”

The Bronx continues to rank last in health outcomes – 62 out of 62 counties – in New York state, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation County Health Ranking Report. The Bronx also has the highest rate of maternal mortality rates, which has become a priority for Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson’s administration.

On Aug. 31, 2021, Gibson, then a NYC councilmember, was joined by birth justice advocates and healthcare leaders as she announced more than $400,000 in City Council funding to combat high rates of infant and maternal mortality in the Bronx.

Gibson allocated $150,000 to Gotham Health, Morrisania, to support their Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Program that provides low-income mothers with comprehensive lactation services, and more than $200,000 to Bronx Health Link, Inc., for their doula programming. Both programs were funded this year with the intent to reduce poor health outcomes for Bronx birthing individuals and children, as the Bronx continues to have one of the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality in the city.

Data shows that New York state has a relatively high rate of maternal mortality relative to other states in the country, with 20.8 deaths per 100,000 people in 2018. In 2017, most pregnancy-related deaths in NYC occurred in Brooklyn (33%) and the Bronx (29%).

The data also highlighted a significant racial disparity with Black women eight times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related complications as a result of several factors that include: systemic racism and discrimination in the healthcare industry; comorbidities that can affect a mother’s health during childbirth; access to patient-affirming care from a culturally competent healthcare profession; and a myriad of other risk factors that can disproportionality impact a woman of color’s health.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes

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