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.

Honoring Birth Justice Heroes: Looking To The Past As We Chart A New Future

Many active birth justice heroes embody Sankofa, a Ghanaian symbol that represents the importance of looking back to our traditions and culture as we move forward. It is essential that as we work toward birth justice, we bring forward our brilliance and traditions to promote unity, wellness and health in our Black community and innovate toward a brighter future.

In the last year, the needs of moms and babies in the Black community have been increasingly overshadowed by the pandemic, racial tension and the associated fallout. Birth justice leaders have persisted and adapted their work despite the challenges, leaning in, advocating with and supporting moms, babies, families and communities. We will proudly honor the work being done by partners and collaborators in the Black community to promote birth justice throughout the month and the year, because the greatness, progress and innovation of the Black community must be celebrated each day, not just in February.

We have begun our planning for our W.K. Kellogg First Food Equity Program, where we will facilitate positive change to ensure culturally reflective breastfeeding support in 20 locations across the US.

HealthConnect One is working to rebuild community health by partnering and collaborating with Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities that experience the greatest inequity in the current system. As our country grapples with pandemic-related challenges and the movement toward racial and social justice, the time is now to support and advance outcomes that build healthy communities. 

HealthConnect One is the national leader in advancing equitable, community-based, peer-to-peer support for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and early parenting. HealthConnect One is committed to collaborating with Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities to ensure safe and healthy pregnancies and births, thriving babies and families, and successful early parenting and nutrition.

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!!!

Freedom

by Milkah Jackson

Flat on her back
Legs spread far apart she lays
And no matter how uncomfortable
Still and fearful she humbly obeys

I cannot even begin to tell you the numerous occasions I’ve seen this
The countless times this image has played in my head
Back and forth…forth and back
But somehow this particular scene I can never seem to lose track of
I’ve tried completely erasing it from my mind
But how could I when deep down inside I knew…

I knew this is only the beginning of a long journey
With the same script different cast of a mentally enslaved woman
Whose fate was in the hands of her slave masters
With a role simply of domination
And they gave code words such as sedation, starvation, and augmentation
Then one day I suddenly realized that fear not only possesses the ability to institutionalize, but that it specialized
In causing her to become completely mentally paralyzed

See, the funny thing about history is that it has a way of repeating itself

You know, Harriet Tubman freed a thousand slaves and would have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were enslaved
While I cannot free every mentally enslaved woman
I can indeed show her how to break this vicious cycle of mental imprisonment
As she brings life into this world
And like Rosa Parks, I simply refuse to take a back seat on this issue of African American mothers and babies dying at 2x the rate of their white counterparts
No, I’m certainly not trying to pull the race card here
But in the cards that we’ve been dealt, RACE is written in Black Bold letters

So I promise, I promise to remain committed to boldly joining a coalition with doulas and health workers in my community
We will educate, nurture, and support marginalized women which in turn will foster unity
Reducing racial disparities through empowerment
Taking voices back, no longer being subjected to birthing while lying flat, but in fact…

Standing strong and firm with birth plan in hand,
Using visualization and a gentle massage as sedation
We will take birth back, no longer sitting on the sidelines
But right in front holding space until one day
These disparities will eventually be completely erased
And we start one community at a time
one birth at a time
one mother at a time and
one baby at a time.

Ebony “Milkah” JacksonEbony “Milkah” Jackson is the CEO and owner of In “2” This World Birthing Services. Being the mother of 8 caused her to realize her purpose in life. As a doula, Milkah’s mission is to serve women and their families by providing sincere and qualitative birthing services. She strongly perceives her role as nurturing and believes it is of utmost importance to preserve the mother’s birthing experience. She is also a founder and board member of Bold City Doula Coalition, which is a nonprofit organization that provides pro bono doula services for marginalized women in the Jacksonville, Florida community.

For Black History Month 2016, HealthConnect One invited partners and allies to share how they have been influenced or inspired by Black women who made history.

We hope you will share with us, too!

We invite you to join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #BlkHerStory.

Dana Posley

Helping Mom and Baby Breastfeed

Dana Posley picby Dana Posley, CLC

I have been educating and supporting mothers on breastfeeding since 1996.

After having my first daughter Jaylin, I not only felt a connection between the two of us but also a connection to the experience of breastfeeding. It wasn’t until signing up for WIC services for my son in 2009, however, that I became aware of the “Wonderful World of Lactation” as a career. As a result of that encounter, I was connected with HealthConnect One to become trained as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor (PC), and within two years of becoming a PC, I obtained my CLC certification.

I have worked at multiple locations throughout the City of Chicago and suburban areas assisting, supporting and educating mothers and their support people on the joys of breastfeeding.

One joyous moment that sticks out for me occurred while working for a local WIC office. I encountered a mother who was determined to breastfeed her first baby. Mom came into the office wanting a Latch Assessment because she felt the baby was not latching right and he was constantly crying whenever feeding took place. When the Mom came for a visit, I asked for her opinion and thoughts, followed by an observation of a feeding to get an idea of what was happening when baby tried to nurse. Through my training, I recognized that the baby had a tight frenulum and as a result, he could not latch properly. I worked with the Mom to have the Pediatrician verify what I thought was occurring. After some back and forth conversation with the Pediatrician to refer baby to an ENT Specialist for the frenulum to be clipped, baby was able to properly latch. Mom felt good about her decision not to give up and baby began to gain weight as needed. As for me, I felt as if I empowered this Mom to care for her baby the way she had planned and this confirmed my decision to become a full-time Lactation Counselor.

An area of breastfeeding support that is being overlooked is providing Moms with the mental tools needed to survive the first four weeks postpartum. Any previously breastfeeding Mom will tell you how difficult the first four weeks are when breastfeeding. Those first four weeks will test a Mom’s character and strength. A Mom needs support to handle the emotions of being a new mother, add the physical changes that she is experiencing, and she needs help to keep her support people supportive of her feeding decision.

My go-to education for Moms would be the Improving Latch by Improving Positioning videos by Jessica Barton, available on YouTube. Her series of videos demonstrates how making babies comfortable in their positions will get the most effective and accurate latch needed for successful feeding.

If you are interested in helping a Mom and Baby successfully breastfeed, try these simple tips:

  1. Make Moms feel at ease and offer up assistance if needed.
  2. Empower Moms to feed, regardless of location.
  3. Offer encouraging words of support.
  4. Post “Breastfeeding Welcome” signs, so that everyone knows breastfeeding is welcome in your facilities.
  5. Support your local Breastfeeding Task Force, Groups, Clubs or Organizations.

Thank you!

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Dana Posley is a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) and Breastfeeding Peer Counselor (PC) working with the wonderful mothers in the City of Chicago. She is the proud wife of 15 years to Rev. Gregory Posley, Sr. and mother to four beautiful children, all breastfed between 2 ½ years and 3 years-1 week! She is also past Chairperson for the Chicago Region Breastfeeding Task Force, in 2013 and 2014.

 Now we want to hear from you!  

Please connect with us on Facebook or tweet your thoughts with the hashtag #BlkBFing.

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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.

On Infant Feeding: Research, Support and Community

For Black History Month, HealthConnect One is partnering 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.

This is the third guest post in our Black History Month blog series.

by Ifeyinwa V. Asiodu, PhD, RN, IBCLC
Postdoctoral Research Associate, UIC College of Nursing
Board Member, California Breastfeeding Coalition


Can you talk about your commitment to breastfeeding support, and how you began?

My interest and commitment to infant feeding support developed out of my clinical, graduate, and personal experiences.  As a public health nurse working with pregnant and parenting African American women and their families, I observed infant feeding disparities within our client population.  At intake, the majority of our clients would state an intention to exclusively breastfeed; however many clients encountered challenges (e.g. lack of support and limited resources) and were unable to successfully initiate or maintain breastfeeding for a significant amount of time.  Subsequently, I often dealt with the emotional ramifications of unsuccessful breastfeeding as clients would blame themselves or their bodies.  I became an IBCLC in an effort to better support my clients, their families, and the community.


What is an area of breastfeeding support that is being overlooked and what should be done about it?

One area currently being overlooked is the amount of funding allocated to infant feeding research.  In a perfect world, this area of research would be funded at the same level as other important public health initiatives.  There are a number of excellent researchers and graduate students working in this area right now.  Additional funding and support would assist in the development and implementation of evidence-based programs and systemic changes.


What is an area of breastfeeding support you find encouraging or powerful?

The mobilization of women, families and communities is very encouraging.  There are a number of community based organizations and coalitions throughout the country doing such wonderful work — e.g. A More Excellent Way, West Oakland Health Council, Soul Food for Your Baby, Black Breastfeeding 360, Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE), Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association, African American Breastfeeding Network, HealthConnect One, and Uzazi Village, to name a few.

I am equally encouraged by the local, state and national discourse around infant feeding inequities and the lack of diversity within the lactation profession.  More and more organizations are committing themselves to help marginalized communities overcome the historical, social, cultural and structural barriers associated with infant feeding.

In addition, the breastfeeding support being provided through different social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) is very powerful.  Pages such as Black Women Do Breastfeed, Normalize Breastfeeding.Org, and The African American Breastfeeding Project are engaging women and communities on a whole new level, while the Teach Me How to Breastfeed YouTube video reinforced the importance of utilizing different forms of media.


What’s your favorite breastfeeding resource (i.e., article, blog post, video, website)?

There are so many great breastfeeding resources available right now; however my favorite resource would have to be The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding (2011) issued by Dr. Regina M. Benjamin.  This pivotal document outlined critical issues concerning infant feeding and provided strategies to improve breastfeeding initiation and duration rates by focusing on a number of key areas (e.g. mothers and families, communities, health care system, employment, research and surveillance, and public health infrastructure).


What is one thing the person reading this can do to support breastfeeding moms in African-American communities? Or to support your work/research/projects specifically?

One thing any person can do to support breastfeeding moms in African American communities is…Ask Open-Ended Questions.  Instead of making assumptions (e.g. this person or group is not going to breastfeed or only wants to use formula), have a conversation with your client(s).  Ask, “How are you planning on feeding your baby?” or “Have you thought about your infant feeding options?”  Also, inquire about future plans (e.g. “How long would you like to breastfeed for?” or “What is your goal?”) and if applicable “When are you planning on returning to work or school?” and “How can I support you during your infant feeding or breastfeeding journey?”  Other areas to inquire about include: previous infant feeding experiences with family and friends, identified support persons (e.g. partners, grandmothers, friends, church members, etc.), and knowledge of local infant feeding resources.


Any other thoughts or comments?

Infant feeding, specifically breastfeeding is such an important public health issue.  I am honored to be part of this community.  Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts on this subject.

 

Dr. Asiodu earned her PhD in Nursing from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Nursing in 2014.  She is also a graduate of UCSF’s Master of Science in Nursing program, in addition to receiving her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Southern California.  Dr. Asiodu has been a Registered Nurse since 2003 and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) since 2011.  Dr. Asiodu’s clinical expertise is in Public Health, specifically Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health programs.  Her research is focused on identifying barriers and facilitators to breastfeeding initiation and continuation in the African American community.

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 Now we want to hear from you! 

Please connect with us on Facebook or Twitter, or see what people are saying with the hashtag #BlkBFing.

Let’s Defy Breastfeeding Myths

For Black History Month, HealthConnect One is partnering with Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE), MomsRising, and the 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.

This is the second guest post in our Black History Month blog series.

by Gaylean Woods, Former Board Member, HealthConnect One

gaylean woodsMy commitment to breastfeeding started as a young mother. I believe it is the best start we can give our babies.

My first child was not breastfed because of a myth that my husband had. He believed that the breasts were not meant for that purpose because it was an old fashioned concept. He also believed that the breasts were a means of pleasure. I, on the other hand, did not see things the same way. I relented to his wishes not to breastfeed, but vowed that any children that I had after the first would be breastfed.

All of my other children were breastfeed for at least 2 years.

I didn’t know about the value of mother’s milk, the values of colostrum and the antibodies it provided early in life. I didn’t know about the bonding effect it had for me and my babies. The only things I knew were that I didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night to warm a bottle, I didn’t have to carry powder and bottles every time I left the house, I didn’t need a stove, microwave, or hot water. By breastfeeding, I just wanted to defy my husband and prove a point. I quickly realized that I had everything I needed and those were the perks.

Most people frowned or ran away, some even argued about how unsophisticated or even illegal it was to breastfeed in public. I wasn’t deterred, but became an advocate to support other women who wanted to breastfeed and faced similar challenges. As my children grew, I used my commitment to become a breastfeeding advocate every chance I got. Teaching, supporting, and speaking out about the value of breastfeeding for both mother and baby, often using whichever child was still breastfeeding at the time as a demonstration model.

I would like to see more support and advocacy in the African American community for women who want to breastfeed. Young women in our community today still see it as an old fashioned concept that modern women don’t do. The breast is still sexualized and considered only useful for one thing.

Although my children are all grown, when I see a woman who is pregnant and trying to decide if breastfeeding is something she should do, I encourage her and talk to her about the value of it, her fears and feelings, the challenges, and her supports. I often hold up my children as an example of breastfeeding success. I challenge women to defy the myths, and encourage them to advocate for breastfeeding every time they can.

I have made a lifelong commitment to HealthConnect One and its mission, as well as any other organization that supports breastfeeding. HealthConnect One is a great local resource and provides support to all women, whether they breastfeed a few days or a few years. The work that they do daily to promote breastfeeding and to support women throughout their journey is inspiring.

The take-away from this for readers should be that breastfeeding is no longer in the past. It is a wonderful start to a new life and has many perks. Women face many challenges in life but breastfeeding isn’t one of them. It is healthy and natural. It helps to create a bond between mother and baby that is lasting and loving, that continues to exist between them throughout their lives.

Gaylean Woods holds both a Master of Arts degree in Communications and a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Governor State University, and is currently working as a Care Coordinator for Cenpatico Behavioral Health. A motivated leader, she is extremely passionate about her work and has a rare, unwavering dedication to community health issues and causes. 

Gaylean Woods is also the founder and President of Woods Consulting. She is a strong advocate for raising awareness and supporting training, education and community based programs to prevent violence against women and children, and has received numerous awards and recognition for her commitment to community service. She consistently demonstrates her passion for the health and wellbeing of mothers, babies, and teens through volunteerism, and has affiliations with the NASW Committee on Community Violence, National Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, and the HealthConnect One Board of Directors.

Gaylean Woods has a positive mental attitude and is a source of encouragement for those around. She has a willingness to speak out and is unafraid to get in the trenches to help fight for solutions that will improve the quality of life of others.

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Now we want to hear from you! 

Please connect with us on Facebook or Twitter, or jump into the conversation on #BlkBFing.

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Black History Month: Breastfeeding Perspective

For Black History Month, HealthConnect One is partnering 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.

This is the first guest post in our Black History Month blog series.

by Tytina Sanders-Bey, CLC

My name is Tytina Sanders-Bey. I am a Certified Lactation Counselor. I currently work for Healthcare Consortium of Illinois, as the Lactation Counselor for the Healthy Start Southeast Chicago Program.

Tytina 2I have been doing this work for a number of years and I truly feel that this is my calling.

I started as a young mother, with minimal support. I gained interest when I saw other mothers like me, striving to be good parents. I initially started as an outreach worker, promoting Healthy Start, encouraging mothers to get prenatal care early on, and passing out fliers for free pregnancy tests at local health centers.

While this allowed me to help, I didn’t feel as if I was helping enough.

Soon, I became a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor. I worked and volunteered at various places as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor. I was able to get a scholarship from the Illinois Department of Human Services to sit for the Certified Lactation Counselor Course and Exam.

My initial plan was to become a nurse. I have done coursework on that path, but I am not comfortable with some of the things that come along with being a nurse. I decided to specialize in helping moms “nurse” instead. Based on my experience thus far, I am confident I made the right choice.

I have developed wonderful relationships with the people I have assisted over the years. It’s the comments, compliments, and affirmations that I have received that keep me going.

One dad told me, “I’m so glad we listened to you. You sure do know your stuff.” As a matter of fact, I think it’s more flattering when the fathers contact me.

The moms will bring the babies to see me, or call and text me updates about the babies. That shows me that they are proud and want the babies to know me.

That is all the payment in the world for me.

Tytina 1My agency supports breastfeeding in various ways. For one, we have the opportunity to employ Breastfeeding educators. We have relationships with hospitals, federally qualified health centers, and other community resource centers. Our goal is to reduce infant mortality in some highly affected communities throughout Chicago. One of the easiest ways to help is to remind families how important breastfeeding is. We do breastfeeding support and education in the community. We host Community baby showers and workshops for the extra opportunity to make a difference.

In my mind, the area of breastfeeding support that is being overlooked is the access to adequate breastfeeding support being more wide spread. In this day and age, there are still people who have no idea what a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor, Certified Lactation Counselor, Doula, or IBCLC is. Therefore, they don’t know how to access one, and if a breastfeeding issue should arise, formula comes into play.

Also, education on breastfeeding should begin in middle school and high school. When the reproductive system is discussed, the function of the breast should be included.

My favorite breastfeeding resources are other breastfeeding advocates. I enjoy learning and networking with like-minded people. Sharing ideas and encouraging each other is more beneficial than picking up a book or clicking a link to a website.

One thing you – the person reading this – can do is “hug” a breastfeeding advocate. This is not easy work and you must be passionate about helping families in order to stay in the field. Also: Ask the expecting families you know if they have access to a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor or Certified Lactation Counselor. If they do not, encourage them to find one.

One thing I’m not really fond of is how I go to conferences and things, and statistics show Black women don’t breastfeed, or are least likely to breastfeed. I take pride in empowering women that look like me. Black women are breastfeeding, and I know because I have been there to help… I don’t like to be stereotyped like that. How about “American born” women are less likely to breastfeed? I have had women of other races decline breastfeeding.

Why do we have to be separated by race? If we all pull together and focus on families breastfeeding, we just might get a better outcome.

I help mothers of all nationalities. All of our breasts serve the same purpose, and all of our babies deserve to be breastfed.

Tytina Sanders-Bey, sometimes known as the Breastfeeding Fairy, is a Certified Lactation Counselor and Breastfeeding Peer Counselor in the Chicagoland area. A passionate provider of and advocate for breastfeeding support, Tytina is mother to five children.

 Now we want to hear from you! 

Please connect with us on Facebook or Twitter, or jump into the conversation on #BlkBFing.

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