Reducing the Breastfeeding Disparities Among African American Women: A Commentary from ROSE, Inc.

Re-posted by permission; Original post appeared on Lactation Matters, the official blog of the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) – September 25, 2012

Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere, Inc. (ROSE) seeks to enhance, encourage, support, and promote breastfeeding throughout the USA, by working to reduce the breastfeeding disparities among African American women. We also seek to strengthen the health of their families through mentoring, breastfeeding support groups, social support, outreach, education, health policies and social marketing. ROSE works with national groups to strengthen local groups that serve African Americans who breastfeed.

ROSE group 2012

It is our understanding that a storm is brewing in the lactation community among International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) and the several other lactation certifying organizations to gain the title of grand matron of the breastfeeding world. The African American community needs all the breastfeeding management assistance we can get in order to overcome the breastfeeding disparities in our community. ROSE is grateful for the work that you all do. We understand that breastfeeding promotion is not enough. To be successful, mothers may need hours of skilled help that is provided when needed. We are of the position that there is a need for several levels of lactation managers. There is a need for the novice, the beginner, the intermediate and the expert lactation specialist. We are of the position that EVERY informed person can help a mother to breastfeed. We are in NEED of every advocate who wishes to be involved with lactation management, to be applauded and welcomed to the table of breastfeeding protection. Everyone does not NEED a cardiologist. Everyone does not need a specialist. However, when a specialist is needed, it is wonderful to be able to refer to the IBCLC.

Becoming and maintaining the designation as an IBCLC is a complicated and expensive process. Many of us, concerned with addressing the disparities of breastfeeding in the African American community do not have the luxury of the time that it takes nor the necessary funds to be involved in this complicated process. This is what we have been told by African American health care providers and community organizers as we travel. That some sort of designation is important for the provider of direct lactation services in the hospital, is an underlying theme. We are of the firm belief that EVERY person, that has contact with and cares for mothers and babies in the hospital, should be trained to assist mothers in the hospital with skin to skin, latch and pumping when necessary. Our goal is to have every African American woman who has successfully breastfed a baby help another African American woman breastfeed her baby. Most of these women will never be an IBCLC.

ROSE conference 2012

Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere, Inc. recently coordinated a Breastfeeding Summit which involved African American healthcare providers, community advocates, organizations, and government representatives from throughout the United States. We came together to ponder, discuss and debate the breastfeeding disparities in the African American community. We also celebrated. We celebrated the many accomplishments of the breastfeeding advocates that were gathered. This was an African American “Dream Team” of breastfeeding experts. There were 49 persons who assisted with the planning and execution of the summit. Three were African American IBCLC’s. Ten were African American CLC’s. All were experts at what they brought to the table to assist African American women breastfeed their babies.

ROSE banner 2012Discussions during the Summit included: reforming healthcare through breastfeeding, exemplary lactation projects, consulting with doctors on effective initiatives, samples of breastfeeding support programs, saving our babies, reclaiming our breastfeeding experience, a continuum of care from the hospital to the neighborhood which featured primary care, hospital, community and public health and bridging the gap on breastfeeding disparities. These were the concerns of the experts on the planning committee. They were confirmed to be significant issues in our community by those in attendance. The raging debate about what certifying body should reign supreme in lactation management cannot distract us as we seek to save our babies. We could, however use your help with special situations when the occasion arises. ROSE will continue to be about the business of increasing initiation rates and duration rates of breastfeeding in the African American community.

You may contact ROSE, Inc. by sending email to BreastfeedingRose@gmail.com or visiting their website at BreastfeedingRose.org.

ROSE Kimarie BuggKimarie Bugg MSN, MPH, is President and CEO of Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere Inc. (ROSE), a nonprofit developed to decrease breastfeeding disparities in the African American community. ROSE’s mission is to train African American healthcare providers and community organizations to provide culturally competent encouragement and support so that African American mothers may begin to breastfeed at higher rates and sustain their breastfeeding experience to match the goals expected by the Surgeon General of the United States. Kim has been a bedside breastfeeding counselor in a large metropolitan hospital, managed perinatal and breastfeeding projects and programs at the state level, and has served as a technical advisor to Best Start, as well as for the US Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. Kim was a founding member and officer of Georgia breastfeeding task force (coalition) and SEILCA. Kim was trained at Wellstart International and has traveled throughout the United States and several foreign countries training healthcare professionals to manage lactation. Kim previously worked for Emory University, school of medicine, department of pediatrics as a nurse practitioner. She also provides the training for Georgia’s WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselors, a proud position held since 2005. Kim is married to Dr. George Bugg Jr, a neonatologist and they have five breastfed children.

ROSE Mary Nicholson JacksonMary Nicholson Jackson, CLC, works in a large urban hospital as a breastfeeding consultant and is the co-president of the Georgia State Breastfeeding coalition. Mary is Vice President of ROSE. She is on numerous committees and task forces that address breastfeeding and lactation management in the community. She previously worked with Healthy Mother, Healthy Babies of Georgia. Mary is married and the mother of three adult children. She has three grandchildren.

ROSE Betty NealBetty Neal, RN, MSN, is a founding member of Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere Inc. (ROSE), a nonprofit developed to decrease breastfeeding disparities in the African American community. ROSE’s mission is to train African American healthcare providers and community organizations to provide culturally competent encouragement and support so that African American mothers may begin to breastfeed at higher rates and sustain their breastfeeding experience to match the goals expected by the Surgeon General of the United States. Betty has worked in women’s health for over 30 years. She completed certification as a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner from Emory University. She recently retired from the State of Georgia Department of Human Resources, DeKalb County Board of Health as a public health nurse and program administrator where she managed, developed and implemented numerous statewide and local public health programs. Her past experiences include instruction in a baccalaureate nursing program and mother-baby nursing in a large urban hospital. She has a passion for mothers and babies and believes we must support and ”nurture our mothers who will nurture our babies”.

ROSE Andrea SeranoAndrea Serano, a ROSE Inc. staff member, is from North Hollywood, CA, and attended Mount St. Mary’s College with a major in Healthcare Policy and a minor in Business Administration. During her course of studies, she participated in the Washington Semester Program- Transforming Communities at American University. She has interned at the U.S. Department of Health and Humans Service in the Office on Women’s Health and at Great Beginnings for Black Babies. Andrea has participated in breastfeeding awareness movements through the use of social media and hopes to one day establish a young women’s development center in the country of Belize.

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