Sunday, December 1, 2013

Brown Baby, Black Milk

I feel as though nearly all of 2013 has been primarily focused on breastfeeding issues.  It may feel that way to me because in the past twelve months I have attended the CIMS Forum, the United States Lactation Consultant Association Conference, the American College of Nurse Midwives, the Missouri La Leche League conference, The Inequities in Breastfeeding Support Summit, and the United States Breastfeeding Committee special meeting.  I have presented the Chocolate Milk Café talk about 10 times in the last 12 months..

Foremost in my mind is the "Inequities" summit which to date has been the most thoughtful if also the most difficult public tackling of a subject some would rather leave unbroached.  During the planning phase, La Leche League pulled out as a sponsor of the discussion, they apparently didn't want to be associated with a discussion about white privilege and systemic racism inherent in breastfeeding support.  I have concerns that this type of blatant denial will lead LLL down a path of irrelevancy.  Will they become a relic of a time now long past as they cling to their circa 1950s model of mother to mother support?  They are unwilling to have a discussion about white privilege while their organizational structure excludes almost everyone except stay-at-home white middle-class mothers.

I'm also exasperated by an occurrence that is all to common in communities across the US.  I left my doula client happily nursing her baby a couple of months ago, after her delivery.  When I visit her on her first day home (only two days later!) she was bottle-feeding! The nurses initiated this when the mom hit a snag on day two.  Oh, the frustration!  We've been working our way back to breastfeeding ever since.  My work undone, the client's confidence undermined, a baby denied its mama's milk.  This is not okay, people!  Babies being able to access their mama's milk is a big deal.  No more excuses for or from the nurses.  We have to start teaching  nurses what they need to know to support mothers.  Breastfeeding support for every nursing mother is not optional.  Where is the support for moms once they go home?  We need to be creative and innovative at finding solutions to mothers (especially in our communities) having no where to go with their questions and concerns.  We need to work more collaboratively with hospitals,and WIC clinics to bridge that gap in community-based support. And finally, we need to really address systemic racism embedded in healthcare organizations that unfairly targets women of color and penalizes them.  This is where my own work will focus- I look forward to opportunities the new year will hold.

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