Breast Feeding is a Black Thing

How the First Lady was right about black women and breast-feeding--and why critics like Rep. Michele Bachmann are dead wrong.

By Akiba Solomon Feb 17, 2011

Common Sense Policy:

As part of her Let’s Move! childhood anti-obesity campaign, First Lady Michelle Obama recently championed breast-feeding for all American women. Her reason: Kids who are breast-fed are 22 percent less likely to be obese than those who aren’t because breast milk helps regulate baby’s metabolism, and an all-formula diet leads to increased levels of insulin in baby’s blood.

At a Congressional Black Caucus confab, the FLOTUS (correctly) gave a special shout out to black mothers and babies:

"And because it’s important to prevent obesity early, we’re also working to promote breastfeeding, especially in the black community where 40 percent of our babies never get breast-fed at all, even in the first weeks of life."

Manipulative Headline-Grubbing:
Tea party darling Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) framed Michelle Obama’s breast-feeding advocacy as a hard-left, anti-business conspiracy to form a nanny state–and set up a run for Senate.

Just Stupid:

Fox News contributor Sandy Rios, a champion of Bachmann’s distortions, straight-up race-baiting on Megyn Kelly’s show:

"If Michelle Obama really wants to help women in the black community, I’m all in favor of that, to encourage them to nurse their babies. But to change federal law to force employers as part of this initiative to provide a place for mothers to nurse and time off to nurse or to pump is not right. Talk about fairness, are you going to make business owners accommodate nursing mothers at their expense? Say equal pay for equal work does not apply here."

How to Counteract the Headline Grubbing and the Stupid:

If it takes branding breast feeding as a black thing, we should do that. It’s simple: Breast-feeding is healthier for babies and mothers. New tax and labor laws are slowly chipping away at the traditional barriers to it, including the high cost of breast pumps, formula makers shoving their product into new moms’ faces at the hospital, and employers not providing adequate break time or sanitary pumping conditions. Plus a growing online community of black mothers are exorcising our psychic demons around this very natural, very basic way of nurturing our babies and ourselves. Breast-feeding is our issue.

One more thing: If Bachmann et al continue to politicize breast-feeding, especially along race and class lines, they better quit calling themselves pro-life. They need to tell truth and shame the devil: They’re only pro-life for certain lives. 

Hat-tip to Media Matters for the Rios transcription.