Young Mothers Deserve Just As Much Encouragement

by Heidy Brito, Jasmin Coreño, Jacqueline Alva and Jazmin Lopez

Teen parents tend to face a lot of negative stigma when choosing to parent. They are often told that they are poor decision makers and are losing out in so much in their lives. So when it comes to breastfeeding, it often surprises adults when young people make the choice to breastfeed.

As young Latina mothers from the Southwest side of Chicago, we’ve dedicated ourselves to normalizing breastfeeding within our community. Trained as Breastfeeding Peer Counselors by HealthConnect One, we have been assisting young mothers with breastfeeding through the Opciones Saludables program of Heartland Alliance.

In April, we had the opportunity to present at the ICAH Youth Summit for Pregnant and Parenting Young People on this very topic. When reflecting on our experience as facilitators, we were grateful that it was us that Summit attendees got to ask questions to.

One thing we noticed was that participants’ knowledge around breastfeeding was pretty low and they were lost to what resources were available to them. This showed us that medical providers are still not encouraging young people to breastfeed like they do older moms, and that they leave the hospital not knowing where to get support. The one thing that was encouraging was that these young moms still chose to breastfeed, despite them not fully understanding the benefits and having challenges. They had so many questions and were excited that we didn’t dismiss their questions but answered them honestly and respectfully.

We remember when we were in their shoes. We all felt that medical providers didn’t care about our needs and wants. We’re glad that we were able to give them the support that we didn’t have as young mothers. We encourage medical providers and those who interface with young parents to provide their participants with resources that fit their needs, are culturally sensitive, and give power and confidence back to WOMEN!

Moms, remember that your body is amazing. It knows how to give birth. It knows how to produce milk to feed your baby. Trust your instincts and feed on!

Heidy Brito, Jasmin Coreño, Jacqueline Alva and Jazmin Lopez are Teen Mentors for Opciones Saludables/Healthy Options at Heartland Alliance. HealthConnect One consulted with them in 2016 to design and launch a program that supports young moms.

Hidden Figures in the Black Birth World

For Black History Month, we invited Black allies, partners and friends to share about Hidden Figures in the Black Birth World. Here is what we heard.

Has there ever been a time you supported a mother and she wanted to deliver at a certain hospital but she wasn’t able to do so?

Yes, I had a mom that wanted to deliver in New Albany but she had to deliver in Tupelo due to her going to our local Healthy Start Clinic. She asked them to transfer her but they never did.

What did you do about it? Were you able to turn this around for the mother?

I asked client what she didn’t like about our local Women’s hospital, and then provided her with some of the pros and cons of delivering in different facilities around our area. I educated client that I knew of a lady that delivered in New Albany and baby had issues so they had to bring the baby to our Tupelo facility. I also explained to mother that I would be right there with her to ensure that her voice is being heard, as well as to hold her hand when she gets scared.

Was there ever a time you were supporting a mother who wanted certain services but was unable to receive them because she had public insurance?

I had a mom that wanted to have a home birth with a midwife but couldn’t afford it. She also heard about wireless monitors and other things that were offered to mothers that didn’t have state insurance.

What did you do about it? Were you able to turn this around for the mother?

I educated client on a birth plan and that she needed to state what she wanted to have for herself and her baby as long as it’s not an emergency situation that they should be able to accommodate her. Also for her to setup an appointment with her physician and discuss how she is feeling about certain things and what she is looking for when she delivers her baby.

After she did her birth plan and talked to her doctor, she was able to get all that she asked for. Her doctor educated her that the reason most don’t get it is because they never ask or question anything that is going on with them or what they are being told.

~ Natasha Enos with the Northeast Mississippi Birthing Project

Are there other Hidden Figures in the Black Birth World who you would like to recognize?

NyAsia Bey, aspiring midwife in the city of Detroit


~ Tyneal Carter

Dorothy Vaughan (played by Octavia Spencer) was performing the job of a supervisor but she wasn’t recognized as a supervisor — she wasn’t “professional enough.” Does that make you think of anyone?

Khyrej Jones started a Facebook group for mothers of color in our area who needed help breastfeeding. I noticed a huge lack of representation for parents of color and we created a Facebook group. Together, we teamed up to start a non-profit called Brown Baby Brigade that seeks to create a network of professionals of color to connect with other people of color who need their services.

Before I met Khy, she was told she couldn’t run a group about breastfeeding because she didn’t have any type of formal training. Instead of letting that set her back, she became a lactation counselor. She is also a doula.

Mary Jackson (played by Janelle Monáe) went before a judge to present her case concerning racial equity and became NASA’s first black woman engineer. Does that make you think of anyone?

I am a first generation Jamaican. My parents immigrated here before I was born. I have many cousins, but they all went straight to formula. I really wanted to breastfeed.

My daughter was born at 27 weeks and 4 days, and my dreams of breastfeeding seemed bleak.

Despite all odds, I was able to breastfeed my daughter, and we are still breastfeeding at 27 months — despite my struggle with tongue ties, allergies, reflux, low supply, etc.

~ Roxanne Bogalis, Brown Baby Brigade

Thank you for participating in our Hidden Figures Black History theme!

Although we set aside a month to acknowledge African-American women in the birth world for their amazing contributions and endless dedication, we know many remain hidden every day across the nation. Let’s continue to acknowledge our sisters to our left and to our right who work shoulder-to-shoulder with us — whether they offer breastfeeding support, support for birth, or they’re just being a friend.

Sisterly Love,
Tikvah Wadley

A Few Hidden Figures

NyAsia Bey
Aspiring Midwife in Detroit

Kiddada Green
Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association

Kathryn Hall-Trujillo
The Birthing Project

Khyrej Jones
Brown Baby Brigade

Jennie Joseph
Commonsense Childbirth Inc.

Shafia M. Monroe
International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC)