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My name is John E. Bridges, Jr. and I am a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor.
My Journey began when my daughter Amiya was born and it was discovered that she had Hirschsprung Disease. This disease is when certain cells in the large intestine are not active. Because of this disease, at 3 weeks of age she had to have 3 surgeries which ended with her wearing a colostomy bag — so she could have regular bowel movements. Her small intestine got long enough as she was growing so it could be connected to her rectum at 9 months of age, because the Hirschsprung Disease had killed most of the cells in her large intestine and a small part of her small intestine.
Amazingly, her mother breastfeeding — by way of a Grade A hospital breast pump — kept our daughter from catching colds and other sicknesses that affect a normal baby. The breast milk also made the cells in her small intestine much stronger, able to adapt to the different foods she was eating as she grew.
The knowledge I learned about the importance of breast milk, and the support I received from a lady name Paula Meier and her team, changed my life!! I began to understand that Breast milk is not just milk, but it’s medicine for your baby … and … skin to skin with both parents is equally important. These two natural tools are some of the best and most cost effective ways to nurture our babies.
I am also discovering new frontiers that the breastfeeding family as a whole has not talked about much, especially: Men as the main nurturing support for mom and baby.
Men can and do:
- Clean the breast pump
- Keep mom’s environment as stress-free as possible so her milk won’t dry up
- Provide hand and foot massages
- Listen to mom’s heart; listen to what she wants to share
- Listen to baby’s heart, as a way of connection
- Help mom with a healthy diet
- Do skin to skin, not only for the baby but for the mom, as well, when needed
This support is extremely important.
I believe the more men get involved, especially in the African American community, the more we are able to do whole family healing and education on the importance of breastfeeding, skin to skin, what are facts vs. theory, then more grandmothers, grandfathers, aunties, uncles and friends can love this new precious soul with unrestricted and unconditional love. These are some of the foundations of creating a strong family.
It takes a village to raise a baby.
Photo Credit: Helen Dimas
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For Black History Month 2015, HealthConnect One partnered with Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE), MomsRising, and National Association of Professional and Peer Lactation Supporters of Color (NAPPLSC) to celebrate the work of people, organizations and institutions who make a positive impact on breastfeeding in African-American communities.