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Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health

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Although breastfeeding has been shown to improve health outcomes for infants, African American women initiate and continue breastfeeding at lower rates than women from other racial groups. This scoping review was conducted to assess the effect racism, bias, and discrimination have on breastfeeding care, support, and outcomes for African American women.


A scoping review was performed of the literature published between January 2010 through December 2019 using databases MEDLINE via PubMed, CINAHL, Cochrane Library, PsycINFO, and Sociological Abstracts. Studies that examined racism, bias, or discrimination with breastfeeding as an outcome were included. After a review of titles and abstracts of the articles using exclusion and inclusion criteria, 5 full‐text articles were included in the scoping review.


The qualitative and quantitative studies reviewed provide the perspectives of pregnant and postpartum African American women as well as those of health care providers. African American women's experiences of racism adversely affected both breastfeeding initiation and duration. Health care providers’ biased assumption that African American women would not breastfeed affected the quality of breastfeeding support provided to them. Specifically, African American women received fewer referrals for lactation support and more limited assistance when problems developed. This scoping review provides evidence that African American women experience racism, bias, and discrimination affecting breastfeeding care, support, and outcomes.


Racism, bias, and discrimination are modifiable barriers that adversely affect breastfeeding among African American women. Researchers and health care providers are encouraged to consider the effect of racism, bias, and discrimination on breastfeeding care, support, and outcomes.


Accepted version. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, Vol. 64, No. 6 (November 11, 2019): 734-742. DOI. © 2019 Wiley. Used with permission.

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