Celebrating AAPI Month

Centering AAPI Voices in Breastfeeding Advocacy

As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI), HealthConnect One is highlighting the impactful work of To-wen Tseng, who has dedicated her career to centering AAPI voices in her breastfeeding advocacy. To-wen is a mother, journalist, author, and activist. She has been a key voice for the AAPI community in the breastfeeding world, serving as a long-time Volunteer Blogger at San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition, and more recently, an Elected Director on the United States Breastfeeding Committee. She co-founded the API Breastfeeding Task Force in 2017 and then Asian American Native Hawaiian and Asian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Breastfeeding Week in 2021.  

In collaboration with HealthConnect One’s First Food Equity Project, To-wen and her team led a Baby Cafè at DeDe Diner. Their mission was to combat stigma, decrease inequities and normalize breast/chestfeeding in Los Angeles County’s Asian and Pacific Islander communities by improving education and support practices. To-wen shares that the “social stigma, coupled with lack of resources, have hindered Asian parents’ ability to successfully breastfeed. Data shows nearly 50% of Asian Americans in San Gabriel Valley, the home to the largest Asian population in Los Angeles County, are limited English proficient, and less than 6% of lactation professionals in Los Angeles County speak an Asian language. Additionally, prenatal medical visits offer little breastfeeding education using language or culture-appropriate materials.” It is important to recognize the unique cultural and linguistic needs of AAPI families, which their Baby Cafè hoped to do. To-wen shares that they simply could not have an “API Baby Cafè,” because API is a very diverse population. They decided to center the most under-served group and with their community partner, BreastfeedLA , chose the Filipino population. Dede means breastfeeding in Tagalog, the native language of the Philippines. 

To-wen wants to remind people that while we tend to group all the AANHPI people together, “it is actually a very diverse, or I might as well say very divided, group. A record 22 million API Americans trace their roots to more than East and Southeast Asian countries and the Indian subcontinent, each with unique histories, cultures, languages and other characteristics. In many cases, they disagree with one another. In some extreme cases, they even hate one another. Please keep that in mind and don’t assume things when you work with API families.”  

Infant Formula Crisis Resources

We are currently facing an infant formula crisis. There is a severe shortage of formula, and children are going hungry. ALL babies deserve to be safely and adequately fed. As the United States grapes with this crisis, we know that Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities facing marginalization may be particularly affected by this crisis. 

HealthConnect One is an advocate for chest/breastfeeding and actively supports promoting First Food Equity through peer-to-peer support. However, we cannot ignore that there are families with social, economic, and physical barriers that prevent them from exclusively breastfeeding/chestfeeding their babies.

We recognize the deep racial disparities in advancing breastfeeding intention, initiation, and duration. We recognize the importance of access to peer-to-lactation support that can help parents who may be interested in relactation or accessing milk banks. Ultimately, we realize that what parents need right now is information on how to get their baby fed safely, without SHAME.  

We hope to provide information to families who need to feed their babies during this formula crisis.

Shareable Graphics and Toolkits

Breastfeeding USA graphic Tips for the Formula Shortage 

Factsheets & Advisories

White House FACT SHEET: President Biden Announces Additional Steps to Address Infant Formula Shortage

Health and Human Services Fact Sheet: Helping Families Find Formula During the Infant Formula Shortage 

FDA Advisory to Not Make or Feed Homemade Infant Formula to Infants

Questions & Answers for Consumers Concerning Infant Formula

Abbott Recall Notice: U.S./Puerto Rico

Resources

→ United Way’s 2-1-1 dial 2–1-1 to be connected to a community resource specialist affiliated with United Way who may be able to help you identify food pantries and other charitable sources of local infant formula and baby food.

→ Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA): certain HMBANA-accredited milk banks distribute donated breast milk to mothers in need; please note that some may require a prescription from a medical professional. Find an HMBANA-accredited milk bank

HealthChildren.Org: With the baby formula shortage, what should I do if I can’t find any?

Take Action

→ Donate cans of liquid formula to places like pediatricians’ offices, Head Start Centers, and Churches so that these items can get directly in the hands of folk who need it most.

Sign a Petition to President Biden to Take Action to Address the Formula Emergency 

Feature: Supporting Black Breastfeeding In Wichita

For many Black birthing families across the country, breastfeeding intention and initiation continue to pose a challenge. From the presence of infant formula in maternity wards to the failure of healthcare providers to encourage Black Breastfeeding to the lack of community support for Black Breastfeeding, the breastfeeding inequity gap continues to widen. At HealthConnect One, our First Food Equity project tackles this issue head-on, by strengthening resources and support within Black communities that will increase available breastfeeding support by diverse, community-based peer-to-peer providers.

HealthConnect One identified over 20 organizations to support community-led projects from identified Black, Brown, Indigenous, and People of Color leaders WBBC, based in Wichita, Kansas. As a part of the First Food Equity project, WBBC’s objective is to motivate Black and Brown women in Wichita to begin contemplating breastfeeding initiation in the antenatal period. During Black Maternal Health Week, we spoke with Joyea Marshall-Crowley, the coalition coordinator for WBBC, to understand the coalitons work and its vision for Black maternal health.

What’s the origin story of WBBC? 

Wichita Black Breastfeeding Coalition was started in October 2020 under the Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition non-profit organization. The creation of this coalition serves the purpose of giving black and brown mothers a safe place to get resources and support when it comes to breastfeeding. 

What issues are facing the Black communities WBBC serves in Kansas? 

The current issue in Wichita is representation and normalization. Black and brown women are not being asked about breastfeeding and their healthcare providers assume they are going to formula-feed compared to their racial counterparts. They are not offered the same resource and information during pregnancy and delivery about breastfeeding and there is a lack of black and brown IBCLCs in Kansas and currently none in Wichita. 

Share a success story within your program. 

Our program, “Latched Legacy” set out to normalize those black women who do indeed breastfeed. The campaign video highlights mothers with their families while displaying confidence to share that they breastfed, and their children are their legacy from that. The video was so powerful and touching that it has been a part of breastfeeding 101 classes, shared during black breastfeeding week, breastfeeding conferences, etc. 

We have been able to not only highlight normalization but also provide breastfeeding kits that include supplies and information to pregnant women to encourage them to initiate breastfeeding as their first choice upon delivery. We have successfully been able to 97% of the women who received kits initiate breastfeeding upon delivery. 

What is WBBC’s vision for Black Maternal Health? 

When this coalition started, there were no credentials in lactation within the group. We had nurses, chiropractors, and women who are passionate about breastfeeding and want other women to have a successful journey. As of today, we have two certified breastfeeding specialists (CBS) working towards their IBCLC, three doula-trained workers, three Chocolate Milk Café trained facilitators, and two in the works of getting their midwifery license. 

Our vision is to become the resource and information where Black women can seek help from the coalition, people who look like them and do not have to be outsourced because of “credentials”. 

How is your participation in the FFE community projects cohort helping you realize this vision? 

Our Latched Legacy Project is allowing us to build that foundation with the community and be consistent with providing information and supplies for free with the grant funding. We realize that this project has the possibility to be bigger than just Wichita, once we improve on our Latched Legacy Project and get a good system going, we want to start implementing the program in hospitals, local practices, WIC offices, etc.

To learn more about Wichita Black Breastfeeding Coalition, visit their website.

Lactation Across Borders

National Breastfeeding Month | Roundtable Discussion

 

Date: August 30th | Time: 2:00 PM EST | ZOOM Webinar

The declining health status of immigrant groups through generations is varied and complex, as are the breastfeeding practices and available support across communities.

To close out National Breastfeeding Month, HealthConnect One is hosting a roundtable discussion on “Lactation Across Borders: Breastfeeding and Lactation Culture and Practice within Immigrant Communities.”

During this discussion, panelists working with immigrant communities across America to strengthen their maternal and child health outcomes will share their insights on supporting breastfeeding within these communities.

Speakers

Charlene McGee | REACH Program Manager @Multnomah County Health Department
Charlene McGee, MPA serves as the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) Program Manager. REACH is a five-year funded program by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address chronic disease xc. In this capacity, she leads targeted policy, systems, environmental and communication strategies to redress chronic disease disparities and informs division-wide goals, monitors program performance, and assess outcomes to eliminate health disparities and cultivate a culture of Black Health for Multnomah County Black and African immigrant residents. A self-proclaimed Liberian-Oregonian, Charlene’s experience as a survivor of the Liberian civil war and a Black immigrant has heavily influenced her career trajectory. Her career spans more than 20 years, serving in a variety of roles

To-wen Tseng | Volunteer Blogger @San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition
To-wen Tseng is a TV reporter turned independent journalist and author. She writes about parenting, education, and family lifestyle for a variety of publications. She is an award-winning blogger and has authored six books. To-wen is also a passionate breastfeeding activist. She received a rude awakening when returning to her previous newsroom after giving birth to her first child in 2013 and was denied breastfeeding rights, which eventually resulted in her separation from that company. Since that experience, To-wen has dedicated her career to advocating for family-friendly policy and gender equity at the workplace and speaking out about breastfeeding barriers in Asian-American communities and beyond. She writes for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition and MomsRising; co-founded API Breastfeeding Task Force and AANHPI Breastfeeding Week.

Monica Esparza | Executive Director @New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force
Monica Esparza is currently the Executive Director of the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force. She is a trained CLC and Community Interpreter who previously served families as a breastfeeding peer counselor for more than 10 years, providing peer-to-peer support to lactating families through the WIC program both individually and in the hospital setting. She participated as a Leader in the Health Connect One Birth Leadership Academy and the NM Women of Color Leaders in Non-profit. She has served on different boards and currently sits on the National College of Midwifery Board. As a Mexican, Immigrant woman living in the south valley of Albuquerque, she brings a grassroots community approach and an equity lens into her work. She understands the importance of centering families and BIPOC communities in everything that we do. She enjoys hiking and gardening with her husband and 2 children.

Maya Jackson | Executive Director @MAAME, Inc.
Maya Jackson is a mother, community organizer, breastfeeding advocate, full-spectrum doula, and the founder and Executive Director of MAAME, Inc. (Mobilizing African American Mothers through Empowerment). A native of Durham, North Carolina, she graduated from North Carolina Central University, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Sociology. She has over ten years of working in nonprofit leadership in the arts and public health. In 2018 Maya became a birth doula and Milky Mommas International Lactation Peer Counselor. She eventually founded and launched MAAME, Inc. MAAME, a community-rooted maternal health organization whose mission is to support Black and other birthing people of color. This fall, Jackson will begin working towards her MPH and MBA at Benedictine University.

Stevie Merino
Stevie Merino is a community organizer, mom, anthropologist, birthworker, and proud islander woman–CHamoru (Guam) & Boricua (Puerto Rico). Much of Stevie’s work has been in efforts to uplift the voices of Pacific Islanders, who are often afterthoughts in discussions, resources, and invitations to the table. Stevie’s research in anthropology focuses on Pacific Islander birth traditions and birth disparities specifically on Chamorro’s in Southern California. Stevie presents her research at various academic conferences around the country, where she centers the experience and voices of Pacific Islanders that are often left out of these spaces. She is the co-creator & trainer of The Birth Workers of Color Collective and Long Beach doula of Color training. Stevie holds various positions in the community and in academia, including holding the Gender Equity Seat for the American Anthropological Association Members Programmatic Advisory and Advocacy Committee.

Announcing the First Food Equity Project

Diversifying the breastfeeding lactation support workforce will reduce breastfeeding disparities among BIPOC communities.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE // July 30, 2021

Chicago, Illinois — Through $1.2 million from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, HealthConnect One will increase access to community-based peer-to-peer breastfeeding support, critical to increasing breastfeeding rates and driving down infant mortality rates in Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities.

Breastfeeding is critical to young children’s health. Yet, years of disinvestment and systemic racism within the health care system created an untenable situation for low-income Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened this inequity as our health care systems are being pushed to the brink. HealthConnect One continues to put communities in touch with their own strengths and skills to augment years of systemic racism and neglect through collaboration, shared learning, and ongoing support for community-led work.   

The First Food Equity Project aims to improve the initiation and duration of breastfeeding rates among low-income communities by expanding community-based, peer-to-peer support models that diversify both the maternal and child health workforces rooted in these communities. 

“For new parents and babies, nothing compares to having lactation support that is from your community and shares your cultural background. W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s generous grant for our First Food Equity project provides us with the outstanding opportunity to grow the community-rooted lactation support in communities across the nation where the need is the greatest,” said Dr. Twylla Dillion, executive director of HealthConnect One. “For the communities we are working with, the option to work with someone with shared lived experience can be life-changing.”

  • Increase breastfeeding intention, initiation, and duration to improve mother and baby immunity and overall health.
  • Utilize the First Food Equity project to increase breastfeeding support by diverse, community-based peer-to-peer providers, resulting in increased breastfeeding rates.
  • Provide financial assistance and technical support for 15+ community-led initiatives and projects focused on increasing breastfeeding intention, initiation, and duration at six weeks.

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Media Contact: Zainab Sulaiman, HealthConnect One Director of Communications & Advocacy
Tel: (202)440-1576 Email: zsulaiman@healthconnectone.org

Video by National First Food Racial Equity Cohort

 Watch – First Food: Women of Color Removing Barriers to Breastfeeding

Thank you to the National First Food Racial Equity Cohort for your work and leadership. This video features HealthConnect One’s Brenda Reyes among other leaders.  The video shows breastfeeding challenges faced by people of color and the powerful advantages of “first foods.”

You can view their video below, or on RaceForward’s YouTube channel.