Power of Breastfeeding Reflection

I had my son and the hospital told me to go straight to the WIC office and that’s what I did.  I needed to figure out how to feed him. I can recall when I got to the WIC office they asked me for insurance and proof of income. I didn’t have any of this paperwork and they told me they were unable to give me any formula for him. I sat in the waiting room and began to cry. The lactation counselor, asked me why was I crying? I said I couldn’t feed my baby and they (WIC) wouldn’t give me any milk for him. She said to me: “you can feed your baby!” I asked, how?  She pointed to my breasts and began to teach me in the waiting area how to breastfeed my child. That is how my breastfeeding journey began for me and my child. In my community, no one I knew breastfed.

If the lactation counselor was not there that day, I would have gone home, and my grandmother probably would’ve given my son Carnation milk and Karo Syrup or Similac with iron, which is also a staple in the African American community. Sometimes, I would feed my baby in the bathroom because I felt embarrassed about breastfeeding at home when relatives were present. I did not have the education or support which is widely available today. I thought of my breast as sexual objects which is another reason it was uncomfortable for me to nurse in front of others. However, today I recommend breastfeeding with the same confidence and assurance as the lactation consultant did with me!

Infant Mortality Rates (IMR) is much higher among African Americans 4.7% Non- Hispanic White we need to give our babies a chance and it starts by putting them to our breast. If you need help learning to breastfeed your child a breastfeeding support counselor can help you latch your baby on today. Here is a list of organizations that are providing breastfeeding support or you can send us an inquiry at info@healthconnectone.org and we can refer you. – Tikvah Wadley, HC One Lead Doula

World Breastfeeding Week: Interview with Cata Contreras Guajardo on Breastfeeding

In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, we wanted to share a short interview with Cata Contreras Guajardo, the woman featured in the powerful photo above. We thank Cata for taking the time to share her thoughts on breastfeeding.

Why is breastfeeding important to you and your family?

Breastfeeding is not just food. For me and my children, it’s been caresses, shelter, and comfort. It’s also important to us because it’s consolation on nights when they are sick.

What was your breastfeeding experience like with your child?

The first few months of breastfeeding my second daughter was complicated. I didn’t enjoy breastfeeding. I would get in a bad mood and this impacts babies. As time went by, things began to improve and only positive things came from breastfeeding.

What kind of event were you participating in when you were breastfeeding your child?

Throughout my pregnancy, I had participated in the traditional Tinkus dance. On this day, I went to the festival early to rehearse and breastfed my four-month-old son during the break. My parents came with me and took the photo before the performance began. Amaru is going to be five-years-old and since he was a baby has been going to the festival and Andean ceremonies

What advice do you give moms who are trying to breastfeed?

To the moms reading this post: Don’t give up! Breastfeeding is our natural right. Sometimes, it hurts, makes us tired, and can overwhelm us but it’s not impossible. If you’re struggling with the process, find a breastfeeding/lactation peer counselor to help you with any breastfeeding issues.

Photo credit: Parents of Cata Contreras

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Entrevista con Cata Contreras Guajardo sobre la lactacion materna

¿Por qué es tan importante la lactancia materna para usted y sus hijos?

la lactancia no es sólo alimento. Para mí y mis hijos han sido, caricias, cobijo y consuelo. Es importante para nosotros, fue la base de la alimentación, el consuelo de caídas y noches de enfermedad.

¿Cómo se han visto afectados usted y sus hijos por la lactancia materna?

Los primeros meses de lactancia de mi segunda hija fueron complicados, tuve heridas y no era agradable lactar, me ponía de mal humor e irritable y eso también afectaba a los bebés. Pasando los días fue mejorando y sólo fueron cosas positives.

Cuéntanos sobre la foto de ti con tu hijo

en esta foto mi hijo tenía 4 meses, había bailado Tinkus todo mi embarazo y este carnaval en específico me encantaba, así que mis padres me acompañaron cuidando a Amaru y me tomaron la foto ensayando antes de partir a bailar. Amaru está por cumplir 5 años y jamás ha dejado de asistir a carnavales y ceremonias andinas

 ¿Por qué es tan importante la lactancia materna para usted y sus hijos?

Mamá que estás leyendo esto: No te rindas !! La lactancia es nuestra naturaleza !! A veces duele, cansa y agobia, pero no es imposible! Buscar asistencia profesional puede resolver todos los problems!

(Autor de la photo: Padres de Cata Contreras) 

Jamarah Amani webinar photo

Increase power, improve health outcomes, Amani says

Please click below to view the webinar video from May 28.

“We cannot talk about health disparities without talking about power, and how lack of access to power over the course of one’s life impacts the ability to be healthy,” Jamarah Amani, executive director of Southern Birth Justice, told more than 100 birth workers and others on HealthConnect One’s recent webinar.

“By increasing power, we also improve health outcomes,” Amani said. She was the featured presenter on the second of three webinars focusing on birth equity this spring and summer. Milwaukeean Dalvery Blackwell presented her agency’s birth equity work during COVID-19 on the first; a third is later this week in Spanish and in English

Amani is founder of the National Black Midwives Alliance, the only national professional association specifically for midwives of African descent, as well as director at Southern Birth Justice, working to expand the birth justice movement and to make midwifery and doula care accessible to all. She’s been honored numerous times for tackling the epidemics of black maternal and infant morbidity and mortality for more than 15 years, such as the 2019 Trailblazer Award from the city of Miami, as well as media coverage in Florida where she’s based and nationally.

Birth Justice Bill of Rights & Circle of Mamas 

Amani presented an approach that combines the toolboxes of the community health worker and the community organizer. She shared her organization’s Birth Justice Bill of Rights, 22 core values that Black and all other pre-conception, pregnant, birthing or postpartum persons have a right to–from the right to stand against racism to the right to recognize that my body is always mine. 

She also discussed their seven-year-old Circle of Mamas program, a combination childbirth preparation, doula support, and leadership development circle, Amani said: “e talk to young mamas about their birth options. We educate them, they educate us on what their needs are, and we work together collaboratively with our community in a participatory way to uplift and honor their needs.” 

She presented, with permission, the video birth story of Bianca, a young woman who participated in Circle of Mamas and chose to deliver at a birth center. 

“When I watched this video,” Amani said, “it really to me is what is possible when we come together as a community, when we have access to black midwives and black doulas, when young parents are not shamed but they are celebrated for their journey into motherhood  and parenting. This is to me what is possible.”

“And it doesn’t mean it’s easy. You know but it is possible. And it will help to not only improve health outcomes but make our communities better places to live and to grow. That is central to the birth justice movement.”

PPE for Black Midwives available 

As Amani explained in the opening portion of her pre-recorded presentation, a client was headed into labor at the scheduled time of the session. But that seemed to present few problems for Amani, nor for participants who tuned in through to the end of the session, facilitated by the HealthConnect One team. Joining the call were more than 130 people from 30 states and Puerto Rico, as well as several who joined in from Brazil and Canada.

The presentation lifted up historical birth workers including Onnie Lee Logan and Biddy Mason and was dedicated to Claudia Booker, the Washington, D.C. midwife who passed away earlier this year, a formative influence for Amani.

Before ending the session, Amani discussed key initiatives in her work during the time of COVID-19.  The National Black Midwives Alliance and Everyday Birth magazine are paying for Personal Protective Equipment for midwives of color facing difficulties getting these supplies. Information on how to request a kit or make donations to support purchase of additional kits is here.

Esperanza Dodge against car mural backdrop

Why I Give: Esperanza Dodge

 

We are grateful to our supporters!  As we prepare for our virtual event in June where we will recognize all of our Birth Equity Leadership Academy faculty and leaders, we wanted to say thank you to everyone who has invested in our work in recent weeks.

 

One of the first to contribute this past week was Esperanza Dodge, who was last year’s Sen. Richard J. Durbin Community Health Worker of the Year awardee. You can read all about it and her work as a Co-Founder of the New Mexico Doula Association and Operations Director of Bold Futures – formerly known as Young Women United here. Here are her comments on why she supports this work and how she is coping in the present moment.

 

1. Thank you again for giving. Can you share what motivated you to give to HealthConnect One last week?

I wanted to give back because HealthConnect One has given so much to not only myself and other BELA leaders and faculty, but to mamas, parents, families, babies. So many of the birth workers I have gotten to know since doing this work have a connection to HealthConnect One. That is showing the wide reach they have which can have a great impact on our communities. I see BELA as a big network of supporting one another and as a resource for one another. I chose to give because I believe in BELA.

 

2. How are you handling the COVID-19 pandemic in your birth work? What has been most successful for you in dealing with the pandemic? 

The funny thing is, I don’t do any direct birth work. What I do love, however, is birth justice advocacy. I’m still involved in the New Mexico Doula Association and it brings me joy to see doulas connect across the state, including indigenous doulas. There are issues all the doulas and birthing families are experiencing that are unique to their area. It feels like a support system has emerged as a result of COVID.

I’m an Operations Director at my organization, Bold Futures, formerly known as Young Women United. I take pride in the fact that those of us doing mostly internal, behind the scenes work can make sure our operations and internal policies accurately reflect our reproductive justice values. It’s one thing to be on the front lines with policymakers demanding the right for our families to have decent childbirth and family leave, and it’s another actually “walking the walk” so to speak and implement those within your own organization. Take care of your people and you strengthen to be the best version of themselves to go out there and make women and people of color proud!

3. Where do you see community-based doula work heading? Will it continue to grow?

I think COVID has brought about two types of responses by doulas to the pandemic. One being a greater “fire in the belly” to fight hard and make sure birth work is valued and doulas and families have the support and resources they need, and coming together to make action happen, The other is sometimes that it is nearly impossible to continue work as a doula and some are having to put aside their birth work for the time being.

Both are OK! People are making the choices we need to make to survive right now. Knowing what you, your family, your community need and are capable in the moment are what we should be listening to. It’s great to take action, but it’s also wonderful to find peace in some pause time or a change of pace. Doulas had a hard enough time getting the pay they deserved before the pandemic. Now, it has only made things more difficult.

4. What else is on your mind right now with regard to birth work and what should we be doing or thinking about? 

One of the most emotional things I’m witnessing is the exponentially increasing positive COVID-19 diagnoses within the Navajo Nation. While I am not Diné, I have loved ones and colleagues who are from and/or live there and are experiencing heartache like you couldn’t even imagine, losing more family members to the pandemic than most of us have. This is where I would love to see more resources and love going- to support families experiencing tragedy in the Navajo Nation.

Learn more about Every Baby Our Baby 2020 

Honoring Black Birth Workers of the Past

by Olivia Dockery

Black History Month is the time when we honor, reflect and learn about elders who have impacted Black culture and how their legacy is continued. This Black History Month, HealthConnect One wants to honor the legacies of Black birth workers who have played critical roles in improving the health outcomes of Black mothers, babies, and families. Today, Black women are three to four times more likely to die due to pregnancy-related causes than white women. Most of these deaths are preventable, so why does this disparity exist?

The 15th century marked the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade. Africans were enslaved and brought over to the Americas to provide labor in order to secure and build European settlements and wealth. To resist one of society’s most dehumanizing atrocities, enslaved Africans preserved traditions and customs. One of those customs were traditional birth practices. Traditional birth workers were vital to the survival of Black people. These birth workers, also known as “granny” midwives, were viewed as trusted community members with the ability to heal, care, and assist others. They were taught through practice and would pass down their knowledge from generation to generation.

Black birth workers were known as more than midwives; they were postpartum doulas, lactation consultants, family counselors, health educators, and so much more. The post- Emancipation period did not improve the quality of life for formerly enslaved Blacks. They had to succumb to working and living conditions similar to those on plantations. Black birth workers traveled all over the south to make sure that Black families received the care that was needed regardless of their geographic location or ability to pay. They bridged the gap between disenfranchised communities and the health care system. Advancement in medicine, systemic racism, and patriarchy pushed Black midwives out and provided space for the white, male doctors that conquered U.S. medical institutions. Midwifery began to be regarded as an unsafe, outdated model of childbirth and “by the 20th century, 50% of births were attended by a midwife.”

According to ProPublica,  “only 10% of all births were attended by a midwife,”  and 2% of midwives in the U.S. are Black, noted the American College of Nurse-Midwives.” Multiple studies have shown that midwives and doulas can improve the health outcomes of mothers and babies. It is clear that community-based birth workers can lead successful interventions to combat the racial disparities that exist within maternal and child health. While we encourage Black health professionals to enter the birthing field, we must continue to challenge and dismantle the systems of racism and patriarchy. Black birth workers of the past did just that, today we honor them.

Spotlight On Historical Black Birth Workers

Bridget “Biddy” Mason was born enslaved in Georgia during the early 19th century. She was not only a midwife, but an advocate for other enslaved Black people. Her last owner moved west to California and there she petitioned for her and her family’s freedom. Once she was free, she began to save money from her midwifery practice. She founded the first African Methodist Episcopal Church in L.A. Through Mason’s acquired wealth, she became known as a local philanthropist. She donated to many charities, fed and housed low-income families, and visited prisoners. She also founded an elementary school for Black children. Bridget “Biddy” Mason’s contribution to improving the lives of Black families will not be forgotten.

Margaret Charles Smith didn’t start practicing midwifery until her late 30s. She was one of Greene County, Alabama’s first official midwives in 1949. Her career spanned over 35 years and she delivered over 3,000 babies. Smith worked mostly in the rural, Jim Crow South where there was little to no care for Black mothers and their families; whether there were no accessible health facilities or the health facilities refused to treat Black patients. In 1996, Smith wrote a book about her life as a midwife, Listen to Me Good: The Life Story of an Alabama Midwife. In 2010, she was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame. Margaret Charles Smith’s legacy of caring for marginalized and underserved communities lives on through the contemporary work of Black birth workers.

Mary Francis Hill Coley also known as Miss Mary was a midwife that practiced in Georgia for more than three decades. She trained under another great, Black midwife, Onnie Lee Logan. Miss Mary was a pillar of her community. Along with her midwifery practice, she became a health advocate for rural Black families. In 1952, Miss Mary was asked to do a training video for the Georgia Health Department. It was clear that Miss Mary was an expert at her craft, her patients and community loved her. The documentary, All My Babies: A Midwife’s Own Story, received critical acclaim and was used by the World Health Organization and United Nations to train midwives across the globe. We honor Miss Mary and the work she has done to improve the health outcomes of Black moms, babies, and families.

This month, HealthConnect One will be publishing our latest  in-depth brief “Community-Based Doulas and the Medicalization of Birth.” Stay tuned!!!

Pure CHW Awesomeness in South Carolina

by Amber Pendergraph, Community-Based Doula with BirthMatters

Talk about Pure Awesomeness!

I recently had the honor of being grandfathered into a Community Health Worker (CHW) course. The course was followed by a certification exam to become a certified community health worker for South Carolina! The training I attended was facilitated by Julie Smithwick. I thoroughly enjoyed her teaching style and strategies.

A CHW is a frontline public health worker who is a trusted member of and/or has an unusually close understanding of the community in which they serve. A CHW works directly with a member of the community as a liaison. They work to improve patient outcomes, increase access to healthcare, and address social determinants by bridging the gap between healthcare organizations and their communities to combat the ethnic and racial disparities in healthcare.

I am very passionate about the work that I do within my community. I have been in my career as a Community-Based Doula with BirthMatters for 8+ years. BirthMatters replicates the HealthConnect One model. This model is so amazing because you meet the individuals where they are. This community-based model that I follow as a doula believes we, the community members, have the solutions to these complex health disparities. It is very empowering.

Although I have been working within my community for many years, I had a lot of takeaways from the training. I learned so much and I am sure I will utilize the information to enhance my skills as a Community-Based Doula. There were two things that really spoke to me from this training:

  • First was the importance of cultural competence, which means to be respectful and responsive to all health beliefs and practices. This was a part of the HealthConnect One training and it’s nice to revisit this essential component.
  • The second is the need for health equity, which means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be healthier!

Because of this course, in my role as a community health worker doula, I will strive to practice these core competencies. I will work with my community to remove obstacles such as poverty, discrimination, and lack of access to good jobs and fair pay. I now feel more than ever that I am equipped to help members of my community by sharing resources and connecting with other organizations within the community I serve.

Interview with Esperanza Dodge, Durbin CHW Awardee & Operations Director of Young Women United

Birth Work in New Mexico

Sometimes, we don’t know all the birth options that are available to us and even if we do, they aren’t always accessible. It’s pretty cool that here In New Mexico, Medicaid covers home births and freestanding birth center births with a licensed midwife. It’s such a great option for many seeking a respectful perinatal care.

Many who hear about this after giving birth wish they knew of it sooner so they could have received that type of care. While I did know about home births when pregnant, I really wish I knew I could give birth at a freestanding birth center as this option really appeals to me as a single mom. . It could have meant so much to have prenatal, labor and postpartum care where I wasn’t rushed, but was listened to and my body and birth experience was treated respectfully. Pregnant women and people need a trusted relationship with their provider, not just the provider on shift at a hospital while you’re in labor. It makes a big difference when women and people of color can access birth workers that look like us. Our birth outcomes are better for it too.

Through my work at Young Women United (YWU), I helped launch the New Mexico Doula Association alongside other New Mexico-based BELA leaders to support doulas in New Mexico, advocate to make doula work sustainable and increase the number of women and people of color birth workers, especially in rural areas. My desire is to advocate for doulas and midwives because their jobs are so important in supporting the pregnant person and babies. It’s challenging for doulas to both have the time and energy to do birth work, but also spend their time doing birth equity work. As a non-doula, I hope I can be part of making their work a little easier and accessible to families most in need of this service. YWU is also conducting a research project that looks at the birth experiences of low income families of color who have accessed licensed midwifery care in the state of New Mexico and I’ve really enjoyed being a researcher on this project.

Addiction and Pregnancy

The project I’m most proud to have worked on over the past year is a unique curriculum I and YWU created alongside women with lived experience around addiction and pregnancy. This curriculum is a training for doulas and birth companions to work with women and people with substance use disorders during their labor. The training is informed by women with lived experience of addiction and pregnancy. Topics covered are unlike any I’ve ever experienced in the birth workers community. Even I learned so much from the women and find the information valuable and essential for our communities struggling with addiction who also deserve compassionate care. We’ve taught this training 4 times and every time, it has made a meaningful impact on the doulas and birth companions who will be proving their services to community who needs it the most. It makes me so happy to know women and people are closer to receiving the care they deserve. It is part of a larger movement we (YWU) has done to create a culture shift around addiction and pregnancy/motherhood alongside those most impacted.

Birth Equity Leadership Academy

I didn’t know I was a community health worker (CHW) until I attended the orientation for the Birth Equity Leadership Academy (BELA). One of the facilitators described it as improving the overall health of a

Birth Equity Leadership Academy Training at photo credit: Judy Fidkowski

community. It made me realize I’ve been doing this work for a long time in various communities. Being part of BELA has also given me the opportunity to host a webinar for my fellow BELA colleagues on making your money work for you, because as birth workers and advocates, finances are crucial to sustaining our work and our lives.. As a single mom I learned that taking control of my finances was essential for my family’s well-being and allows me to parent in ways I find meaningful.

The other part of BELA that I love is the regional meetings because they are rich in learning opportunities and allow me to connect with others doing incredible work around the US and Puerto Rico. It’s a great gathering where people share their birth work experiences, challenges, support and common goals. For me, it’s important that everyone is valued for their expertise in whatever piece of the work they are doing to make an impact. There are so many BELA leaders that are doing amazing work to address maternal mortality and other birth equity issues in their respective communities. I’m moved by the work BELA leaders and faculty are doing to provide grassroots level solutions and that gives me hope.

Advocacy: Ban-the-Box Legislation

Through the policy work I’ve done at my organization, I’ve been able to collaborate on and successfully pass Ban-the-Box legislation in New Mexico. It was important for me to work on this issue because it has a direct impact on the lives of women and families. Prior to this legislation, those who were previously incarcerated had to check a box on applications asking if they have any felonies or convictions, which could greatly diminish their chance at employment. This legislation removes that question. I accredit the hard work of the mothers and fathers we worked closely with who were previously incarcerated. For 5 years we lobbied our state legislators by having real conversations about what it means to seek employment with a record. They just want to find successful employment, give back to society and provide for their loved ones. Ban-the-Box brings them one step closer to this. It’s been a beautiful victory I’m proud to have finally won this year.

This Fall: Feature Film Debut on Addiction and Pregnancy

I am so blessed to be able to do the work I do, especially at a reproductive justice organization led by women of

Photo credit via Las Cruces Newspaper

color. Sometimes I’m in disbelief about the opportunities I’m given to make gigantic things happen across New Mexico, and beyond. One of the most incredible projects I got to work on is the feature film that we at Young Women United (YWU) produced that centers the complexities of addiction and motherhood. The creation of the film was created by women with lived experiences of addiction and pregnancy/motherhood. Their expertise was so valuable in shaping the film from its inception to actual production. We worked closely with professional cast and crew to bring the film to life. I’m so excited to see the movie debut this Fall. We are on our way to creating a huge culture shift in the way people view addiction and motherhood, which can have real impacts on people’s lives.

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Esperanza Dodge is HC One’s 2019 Durbin Community Health Worker of the Year Recipient

BELA Leader Reflection By Tyra Gross, PhD, MPH

This month, BELA leader Tyra T. Gross, PhD, MPH, shares with us how HC One’s Birth Equity and Leadership Academy (BELA) has impacted her as a researcher and advocate.

“I was attracted to BELA first because I trust and admire the community work that HealthConnect One does and secondly because of the opportunity to have leadership development and networking opportunities. As a faculty member, I often feel disconnected with the community but mentoring, networking and community work refreshes and invigorates me. I saw BELA as an opportunity to have support and accountability with my work on addressing MCH disparities in vulnerable populations.

My mentor is Diana Derige, and from our first call, I was immediately inspired and encouraged by her work as well as my fellow colleagues (shout out to Carmen, Kimberly, Isabel, and Taahira). Diana has charged us with being intentional about self-care as we do our community work and that continues to resonate strongly with me. BELA has helped me think outside the box on not only the way to approach my work as researcher and advocate to also the way to disseminate my work. It has helped strengthen my identity as voice as a leader.”

# # # # #

Recently, Tyra presented at the National WIC Association annual meeting and is scheduled in July to participate in the 2019 Faculty Leaders Program with the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The fellowship provides in depth training on public policy. Her focus will be on the following project “Best practices in the “Fourth Trimester”: Implications for health systems and policy changes to improve postpartum care in the United States.” Congratulations!

Supporting My Community as a CLC

by Ambar Rivera

I don’t know when exactly I saw the opportunity to apply for a scholarship to take the CLC (Certified Lactation Counselor) certification. What I do remember is that I didn’t apply right away. Probably very busy, as usual. I set it up for later.

Then, at the almost very last minute, I was posting on my Facebook profile asking for testimonials from people whom I had helped in their breastfeeding journey. The response was so humbling. I got so many, and from people I didn’t even know I had helped. I had simply answered their questions, provided them with information, and to me, it was minimal, but it was definitely crucial for them. At that moment, I knew I HAD to take the course. I wasn’t even aware of the impact I was already having in my community. There was the woman who was nursing right after a C-section, the mother nursing her toddler all throughout her pregnancy, the mom with Raynaud syndrome, the one who worked full-time and benefited from my own experience exclusively breastfeeding and working full-time away from home, and many, many more. Again, thank you!

I applied, waited to hear results, and this I remember clearly…. I GOT IT!! I was sitting in the parking lot waiting to go pick up some mail and then, the e-mail came! YES!! I will never forget that excitement.

I felt like I would now be more and better equipped to help those families in my community on their breastfeeding journeys. I have always believed and stand by the notion that breastfeeding is a choice parents make, but when parents decide to breastfeed, I want to make sure that they get all the information and support possible, starting from providing prenatal education to assisting them once they have their baby.

I particularly enjoyed that the training was based on very recent scientific evidence and how knowledgeable and accessible the faculty was. It was an experience I truly enjoyed and will cherish for a long time.

I am so thankful for HealthConnect One and the Birth Equity Leadership Academy (BELA) for making this dream a reality. I can now continue serving my beloved Puerto Rico.

Breastfeeding in L.A.

Photo by Mu-huan Chiang

My name is To-wen Tseng. I am an independent journalist based in Los Angeles, California.

My commitment to birth equity began five years ago when I returned to my previous newsroom after giving birth to my first child. I got a rude awakening when my previous employer refused to provide breastfeeding accommodations and harassed me for pumping at work. That was when I realized that I didn’t want to choose between my career and my baby. Before that, I never knew that breastfeeding was so important to me.

And I realized many mothers in my community might have experienced the same barriers I experienced.

At that time, I wrote for one of the largest Chinese-language newspapers in North America. I hoped no mother would have to go through what I went through, so I quit my job and sued the company for sexual discrimination.

During that period of time, the newspaper published two discriminatory articles. One was titled “Breastfeeding photos embarrass Chinese-American to death” and described breastfeeding in public and sharing breastfeeding photos on social media as “disturbing” and “disgusting.” The other one was titled “Nursing room shouldn’t be required” and indicated that it’s unnecessary and useless for employers to provide mothers space for pumping.

The two articles angered many nursing moms in my local Chinese-American community. Hundreds of mothers wrote to the newspaper to protest. A friend of mine and I wanted to organize a nurse-in to demand an apology from the newspaper, but we couldn’t recruit enough Chinese-American mothers who were comfortable about breastfeeding in public.

The nurse-in did not happen. We then wanted to start a photo voice project to show that breastfeeding photos are beautiful instead of “disturbing and disgusting,” but we once again faced multiple challenges: It’s hard to recruit models and put the money together for a professional photographer.

The photo voice project didn’t happen, either. However, my case was settled, and I started to volunteer for local breastfeeding organizations. Last year, I gathered a group of like-minded individuals and founded the Asian Breastfeeding Task Force of Greater Los Angeles. I also became a leader with HealthConnect One’s Birth Equity Leadership Academy (BELA). I see this as a great opportunity to make that photo voice project happen — I can finally recruit models with the Asian Breastfeeding Task Force and hire a photographer with BELA Community Project funding. I submitted the application and was selected.

Now I’m working with my team at the task force to put the project together. Thanks to HealthConnect One and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, after five years, the photo voice project is finally happening!

Read more by To-Wen Tseng at:

And I’d rather be breastfeeding.
One mother’s thoughts on family friendly policy, gender equality at workplace, among other things.