Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Black Woman's Guide to BREASTFEEDING (Video)

The Black Woman's Guide to BREASTFEEDING: The Difinitive Guide to Nursing for African American Mothers, just showed up in the mail about an hour ago. I'm so excited! I have been waiting for it for over one week, and now I can finally start reading -- well, I actually already read the DedicationLetter to the Reader and Introduction.

I am so excited to have my very first book about Black women breastfeeding by a Black woman. Before I ordered this text I read a few reviews and did some searching and was very excited about those reviews, and I just happened to stumble upon a video by the woman who wrote the book, Katherine Barber, on YouTube. Turns out, not only did she write this text, but she is also the founder of the African American Breastfeeding Alliance (AABA). Who knew?

I love that it deals exclusively with the lives of Black women, with a realization that we are affected differently and face different barriers and challenges -- things many people outside of our community (and even some inside) sometimes just do not understand.

I really love the way this book is dedicated to me. I'm so flattered and I've never even met her. But it's true --  naming people in the Dedication she wrote: 'To anyone out there supporting Black women in their breastfeeding experience.' That would be me!


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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

V is for Volunteer

I went to the local hospital today to inquire about volunteering -- ya know, knocking out some of those 1,000 clinical contact hours. The receptionist took my  info and emailed a one-page sheet about the process. I am going to have to wait for the emailed invite to the orientation, which should be within the next couple of weeks. Then a TB test, bacground check, and a physical. A physical? I don't get it, but ok!

They have no neo natal unit, which I just recently found out exactly what that was :OI  -- a new baby unit. Hey, I never knew that place actually had a name besides 'the baby nursery' =D. But without one, it means baby, mama, and other family members are always together :O)

My first choice would not have been the hospital. I would much rather start volunteering at a birthing center or something like that -- a very natural setting. However, I started thinking about it and realized it's such a great place to start. I plan on volunteering in a different setting like a birth center eventually and with a midwife, but in the meantime a hospital provides a perfect opportunity for a cross-cultural comparison and understanding the workings of different birth institutions, an ethnology! I know I will be working with breastfeeding women who experience hospital birth as well as home birth and birthing center deliveries and birth in other places, and I think it will be such a great experience to have a well-rounded knowledge of all of these areas.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Racial diversity among lactation consultants

Over a year ago when I was working with a group of Parish nurses for a Participatory Action Research (PAR) anthropology course, towards the end, the Reverend, a Chaplain, a white Chaplain, and director of the program and I began talking about the lack of People Of Color who joined the nursing program at the local community college. As we talked, he explained this lack inhibited other People Of Color from seeking help from the hospice nurses, who are community nurses involved with a local church who make home visits, host health and community events, pray with clients, and offer other services like making prayer shawls -- all to ensure the well-being of patients, which reduces recidivism -- a patients return to the hospital.

When the Reverend asked me if I would pose for a picture, he explained the idea was to display diversity (I was that diversity since I was the only Black women in the program in that town -- even though I was just a student at the time), which in turn, would draw in more nursing students Of Color. He took a few snaps, but over the next couple of weeks, decided we needed a more 'professional' picture, so we posed later on.

Until recently I still questioned whether that was wrongdoing on my part or not. I felt  a bit guilty and uneasy about it that I went home, but I did not ask the Reverend or the staff to pull the image.

Last night, I ran across an article about the necessity of lactation consultants from different racial backgrounds. It explained that cultural misunderstandings are vast and lead to complications, mistrust, lack of participation, all which lead to disparities. When I read that article, it almost eased those feelings of guilt I had over the past one year of thinking that I somehow duped my community, and instead I almost began to feel pride for allowing the pictures to appear in the pamphlets. While I was not a nurse, I was a participant in the program at the hospital that tried to find a way to bring the best outcome for the overall goal of the program, which was to find the most effective way the nurses supported the community. I am also very aware that there is a history among people of color, and especially Black people in this country with mistrust in health care, which, understanding this history, makes sense, and unfortunately with such barriers continues the disparities in our communities and everyone suffers.

When I think about this now and how I will relate this to my journey to becoming a lactation consultant, I am not so sure how others have related to a person hovering over them and offering a cultural interpretation that someone may just not get -- yes, even when it comes to the politics behind how we People of Color breastfeed! I am at the least glad that I don't have to pose and I actually am on  my way to being a more diverse figure contributing to healthy baby, mama, family, community. When there is a more diverse group of health care professionals -- this diversity includes various genders as well, there is a more diverse group of people receiving the proper care, attention, and cultural understandings they deserve.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Erykah Badu On Breastfeeding (Video)

"why my breast hang low." 

I found an article on the Blacktating website tonight and had to share it. One of my favorite artists, and besides the great music of course, the emphasis was several shots of Badu nursing a sweet little baby girl during a recording session -- for the world to see! After I saw this I remembered back from my myspace days that she shared a image of her breastfeeding a baby with the caption "why my breast hang low." I checked and the image from 2007 it is still on the social networking site. 

Consultant Courses

According to the International Board of Certified Lactation Consultant's (IBCLC) website, here are the requirements for Pathway 1, which is the route I have decided to take, and apparently the path most others take as well. I chose this because I am able to complete courses from anywhere in order to meet the requirements and don't have to sign up at any one specific shool. For example, though I don't really care for online courses, I figure I can take the continuing ed courses online, then take CPR at the hospital for $15.00, and the college courses on campus. For me, pathway 2 seems too confining right now and pathway 3 -- just seems too complicated. So pathway 1 it is!

I have already taken some of these classes such as Biology and Cultural Anth, but since all must be completed within five years of the exam and it will be past that time for me, there goes that! *sigh* Good thing I love school! :O)

Continuing Education Courses:
  • Basic Life Support
  • Medical Domumentation
  • Medical Terminology
  • Occupational Saftety, including securtity for health professionals
  • Professional Ethics for health professionals (code of ethics)
  • Infection Control

Regular College Courses:
  • Biology
  • Cultural Anthropology (hope I'll be able to pass this one)
  • Human Anatomy
  • Human Physiology
  • Infant Growth & Child Development
  • Nutrition
  • Psychology or Counseling or Communication Skills
  • Introduction to Research

I am also required to volunteer 1,000 hours in a hospital-like setting! This will be the challenging part -- that's a whole lotta hours!

I called around a bit and talked to a few places and really didn't get anywhere. La Leche League doesn't allow non-nursing mothers to volunteer and the WIC office in my area has no funding, so I'm looking for birthing centers and other midwife practices. Wish me luck!

I figure I will have all of this completed by the end of 2012 and take the certification exam in the summer of 2013!

Update: I just realized I also have to take 90 hours of lactation-specific education courses!! OK, now I can search for where I will take those as well! As long as I at least have all of the courses done before July of next year, I'll be good!! I can still volunteer after that, but must have courses completed.

Why I'm Here

A couple months ago, an article that came through a facebook feed about breastfeeding among Native American women caught my eye. But before that, for some strange reason I had been thinking quite a bit about breastfeeding already. I say this is strange because although I have been around the ritual most of my life with family and friends and though I consider myself a very involved othermother to my 12 nephews and 3 nieces, I don't have any children of my own, and as of now, I don't see this changing -- save maybe for adoption down the road. I don't think these thoughts came about as a premonition or a period in my life where I was becoming maternal and was fantasizing about having a baby. Not at all. But for some unknown reason they were just there.

Like most things about me, breastfeeding was heartfelt. What I mean by this is when something meaningful or illuminating is going to happen or soon become revealed, my heart will pick up a signal and begin searching it out, feeling it, and I can feel something there, but will have absolutely no idea what it is all about until later when it is ready to reveal it to me. That it what happened here. I had become almost consumed with the idea of breastfeeding and didn't know why. When I began reading more about breastfeeding, I began to see there was a lack of breastfeeding as tradition among Black women.

I have always been a 'Breast is best' kind of girl since I have been around this for just as long as I can remember, but when I started to really look and see the disparities that is when I knew why I was drawn here. I know there are plenty of awesome Black women out there who breastfeed their children -- my grandmother, my mother, my sisters, and my friends were some of them! And I also know that there are also plenty of awesome Black women who don't. I also understand that breastfeeding is an area that I know has a lengthy list of benefits and some complications and regardless, every mother wants the best for her child. But in my mind, the numbers are too low when health issues and an array of disparities in Communities Of Color are too high.

For me, being able to equip myself with the proper tools and information to help end these disparities as well as actively participating in the tradition -- being able to answer questions and actually show someone how to properly breastfeed -- someone who may become discouraged or who may otherwise not choose this route, is the reason for my heartfelt participation.

I am also doing quite a bit of research along the way with the hopes of gathering as much information as I can that will help me with my studies and the communities I will be working with.

This is a journey. It is not simply a task where I learn the steps of attaching an infant to its mother's breast. That's the easy part, I'm sure. I am hoping to explore this area via a holistic approach --  examining cultural traditions, ritual, language, and all aspects of infant feeding and nurturing through the various ways it is expressed and experienced. My dream is to help create and maintain a positive atmosphere for Black women and all women who choose to participate in this wonderful, healthy tradition, and to encourage other women and men to advocate this area  -- especially those 'non-traditional' ones who, like me, do not have children, and who are often seen as not needing to concern ourselves with this area, to join in.