Using Babywearing to Build Health Equities

September is Black Infant Mortality Awareness Month

African American babies die at 2-3 times the rate of Caucasian babies. This high infant mortality rate is due to a disproportionate number of black babies born sick, prematurely or too small. Racial inequities in healthcare are real, and it’s causing very real and very alarming problems. The CDC estimates that increased breastfeeding among black women could decrease infant mortality rates by as much as 50%. Babywearing encourages on-demand feeding, on-demand feeding increases breastfeeding success, and breastfeeding success decreases infant mortality rates.

The stereotypical American babywearer is a white, middle-class woman. An effective way to normalize parenting practices in minority populations is to find leadership within the specific people group. Increase the number of lactation consultants and babywearing educators who are people of color. But you might ask, why not encourage people of color to access the resources that are already available? Why can’t we all work together? There are many answers to that question, and I don’t have all those answers. What I do know is that paternalism does not and has never been effective. I can’t tell another people group what is going to work for them. “Hey, this works for the dominant culture so let’s do that here!” It doesn’t work.

Kimberly Seals Allers, the author of The Mocha Manual book series says this, “Until you have walked where I have walked, seen what I have seen and stood where I have stood, please do not have the audacity to tell me and my community what we do and do not need. Yes, we are all in this together. But some of us need more attention to get us there.”

Credit for the idea of using babywearing to build health equities goes to Sherry Payne, MSN, RN and Uzazi Village in Kansas City, MO.

Group working to increase the practice of babywearing among people of color:

September is Black Infant Mortality Awareness Month:




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