Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Review + Giveaway :: TAINTED MILK: breastmilk, feminisms, and the politics of environmental degradation (Closed)

TAINTED MILK: breastmilk, feminisms, and the politics of environmental degradation by Maia Boswell-Penc takes a conscious-raising look at environmental pollution and breastmilk,  and its effect at a national and global level. It examines the politics behind infant nourishment, and looks at why the issue of contamination is repeatedly disregarded by those organizations and groups who would seem to have a vested interest -- feminists, mainstream environmentalists, the media, and other sections of society.

Environmental issues have been at the top of the list of socially-conscious discourse in more recent years. This is a result of more avenues of information, where more people's increased awareness, allows them to feel they have a level of control of environmental substances they are exposed to. Many people are again growing their own food at an increasing rate, buying organic and natural products, and the heightened awareness through academic and non-academic discourse makes these environmental issues a growing trend. 

Feminist ideas on breastfeeding have also shared the stage, since discourse surrounding infant nourishment has been both a topic where recent studies continuously show that human milk as a health imperative is the most nourishing form of infant feeding, and where debates and disagreements on breastmilk have erupted, questioning  the practice, progressiveness, and effectiveness to women's position in society and how it relates to these ideas.

These topics are often discussed, usually in different areas of concern, but in here are both at the center.  Maia Boswell-Penc clearly states her advocacy of breastfeeding, and the importance of breastmilk as infant nourishment is weaved throughout this text, of course. However, TAINTED MILK: breastmilk, feminisms, and the politics of environmental degradation is not a book of extreme breastfeeding advocacy. This means that while the overarching message strongly supports breastmilk as the preferred source of infant nutrition, and tells us in order to believe we are able to help eradicate the issues we must believe in its significance, it does not aim at convincing readers to strictly breastfeed. Instead, it takes each reader on a critical journey, where each can see the framework and foundation of these issues and our place among them, as it acknowledges the most important -- everyone should have the option to breastfeed, and to do so safely. 

Whereas other studies point to environmental contaminants as strictly an environmental factor, Maia Boswell-Penc, an academic, feminist scholar, and mother of two children who were breastfed while researching and writing this material, leaves no stone unturned, examining this breastfeeding caste, framing environmental contamination, and the effects of environmentally contaminated breastmilk and its relation to social stratification and structural oppression. Clear explanations of environmental factors and feminist ideas shows that these issues are not mutually exclusive, but are in fact are closely intertwined with each other, as well as many other areas of society. Through a mostly non-esoteric tone, she delves deep to the source and clearly identifies that which has been strategic in favoring those who society has deemed most worthy. She provided an aerial view, critiquing supremacist and racist agendas by providing historic examples that allow us to clearly see the structure which leads us to more contemporary times, and shows us that breastfeeding is seen not as a right, but a privilege experienced mostly by white, middle-class women.

This vivid picture is both compelling and convicting, sending a message about the burgeoning environmental pollutants -- breastmilk contains environmental contaminants -- these come from pesticides and plastics and many other areas and are being ingested and are being fed to our children and to their children, and to their children's children, and to all subsequent generations, and many are being exposed to serious illnesses and dying as a result. But the issue is constantly ignored.

To begin her argument, she uses an example; -- "the easiest way to measure [environmental] contaminants is through breastmilk",  and fortifies this, suggesting that breastmilk is like a social marker that can indicate social rank based on the  amount of contaminants. Meaning, society's most valued members experience less pollutants overall, and if we were to blindly measure breastmilk, the amount of pollutants can indicate social statuses, since the highest concentration of pollutants would be found in those society has deemed less worthy.

Her initial discourse explains the strategic methods and ways positive and negative sentiments towards breastmilk have changed, and what has contributed to this. Her analysis of the role prejudice has played then and now in  fearing the other and stigmatizing immigrant Women Of Color, who often were wet nurses, illuminated how these ideas initially began to erupt, as the reader begins to see how this is connected to other social issues. She also explains that the issues surrounding breastfeeding and reproductive decisions and lack of have been and are still blamed on Women Of Color, women in developing countries, and the stigma of 'tainted milk', regarding drug use and HIV transmission, has rested with those who have occupied a marginalized space; in other words, we continue blaming the victims.

Some main points used to show that the lack of attention from environmental advocates, feminist communities, and inattention from other social establishments show that these come from similar stances, where fear or anxiety encompass each. One side fears  breastfeeding backlash and losing important feminist strides, such as being relegated back to the dreaded role of housekeeper, or not seeing breastmilk as significant as violence, for example, while the other fears reprimand from society for appearing to support artificial formula.  She does all of this while critiquing the mainstream feminist movement and other sectors that ignore the consequences of disregarding these important areas, not looking at the overall outcome, historical facts, or how this perpetuates social division and continued health disparities, showing that this type of exclusion, essentialist, and supremacist thinking continue to work against the most vulnerable members of society.

Finally, she also explained the disregard from mainstream environmental movements and environmental advocacy groups that do not take into account marginalized groups who are continuously subjected to physical and cultural genocide through mainstream practices, and whose short-sighted agendas wreak havoc on those populations whose voices are continuously silenced. These attitudes and injustices are directed especially in Native American and increasing Latino communities.

Even given the standpoint of this material, one area of concern is that there are several words in quotes, which may be potentially confusing for some readers. An example of this can be seen with the use of the terms "race" and "white," which, when presented this way usually indicates an esoteric view of scientific and social research that has deemed these not an actual fact, but a social construct; something that is made up -- a view many will not agree with, since society has made many races very real, and whiteness, white dominance, and white privilege are real, and are clearly real even in the context of this text. Other examples of this can be seen throughout. However in relation to the entire text, this is a very small amount, and this well-researched material is accessible and readable to a wide pool of those in various academic and social backgrounds.

The relations between so many social issues surrounding environmental contamination and infant feeding is remarkable, and is delivered in a thought-provoking and convincing tone that cannot be ignored. Maia Boswell-Penc delivers this message with a sense of urgency that calls on all of us to take a look at the ways we have and the ways we continue supporting environmental contamination and breastmilk toxicity -- through our complacency, through our silence, and to help make the changes we so desperately need.

I'm not sure how this author defines herself as far as her racial and ethnic identity, but judging from the tone of this text I'm thinking she defines herself as a white woman. I have to be honest when I say as a Black feminist (and not just a Black woman who is a feminist), it is extremely rare that I find feminist scholarship from white women as representative and inclusive. It is mostly very idyllic and does not address the unique experiences and circumstances of Communities Of Color, and almost never looks at historical aspects exposing  the way privilege has and continues to play a role in dominating and excluding Women Of Color and issues concerning our communities. I also find it looks at oppression, social issues, and ways to change through a single-trajectory, and privileged lens -- meaning, what I think should work in my world, should work in everyone's world. However, I believe Maia Boswell-Penc's radical 'in your face' tone, providing historical facts with contemporary examples was instrumental in conveying the message that the history of breastfeeding issues and the continued effects of environmental contaminants and breastfeeding rights are weighted heavily against poor, women, and Communities Of Color, and is systematic and strategic, with white privilege, supremacist ideas and capitalism at the backdrop. I worry that many will ignore this conversation to continue averting this truth.

I have also read quite a bit about breastfeeding lately, and even though [at this point] breastmilk is still found to be superior to infant formula in producing healthier generations, it never occurred to me that breastmilk itself would contain contaminants. When it came to the environment, I have only ever thought of breastmilk as a shield from pollution. It also didn't occur to me the extent infant feeding is reflective of many other social issues.

I took from this text the message that our attention to breastfeeding, contaminants, and their politics is a strong indicator of our actual overall social progress, and the progress we feel, as far as being a society that is physically healthier, has more women with autonomy, one that is more socially conscious and globally aware, can only be counted as a veneer  if we continue ignoring the urgency of tainted milk and all of the issues surrounding it. And without paying attention to the causes and effects of contamination and degradation, making critical interventions, we end up at a worse point than before -- because instead of making a decision on how we choose to feed our babies, contamination leaves us choiceless. And that will affect all of us in all areas, everywhere. I am thrilled to have read this book.

Author: Maia Boswell-Penc
Publisher: SUNY Press. Albany, NY 
Year: 2006
Paperback: 31.95
Genre: Environmental/Women's Studies
Pages: 212
ISBN: 978-0-7914-6720-6

Thank you, SUNY Press, for providing a copy of TAINTED MILK:  breastmilk, feminisms, and the politics of environmental degradation for this review, and I have an additional copy for giveaway. At this time, this giveaway is open only to participants in the United States due to shipping issues.  Leave a comment on this post by next Tuesday and it will count as your entry. All names will be entered with a winner selected at random via, and announced in next week's blog post. Winner please respond within three days or another will be selected. 

If you appreciate giveaways on the Lactation Journey Blog, please consider donating $1.00 USD, in order to help me offset the shipping & handling charges I incur to bring these to you. Thank you in advance for any consideration.

Note: All opinions are my own and honest, and I am not compensated by the publisher!

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Is That A.T.T.I.C.?: Michigan Nurse-In Tomorrow!

This is not the joke where you look down your shirt and spell attic!
Yes, that was a titty! And it was feeding a baby!

A member of the Black Mother's Breastfeeding Association was harassed by a bus driver while boarding a bus and feeding her newborn son, and had her other young daughter with her. You can read see the entire story  here, and read the news report here.

The female bus driver blatantly asked, 'Is that a titty?' before erupting into disrespect and judgemental mode. I am at a loss for words.

You can take part in supporting our sister and help spread the word that breastfeeding is public is not a crime!  

Here is information from the Peaceful Parenting website on ways to help!

You can

Fill out a SMART Complaint Form

call the

SMART Bus Company


write to

Mr. John C. Hertel, General Manager
535 Griswold Street., Ste. 600
Detroit, MI 48226
Phone: 313-223-2100

or, go to the Nurse-In

Oakland County SMART Bus Terminal Nurse-In

2021 Barrett, Troy, MI 48084 
Date: Friday July 1, 2011
Time: 9:00 am-12:00pm
Location: Oakland County SMART Bus Terminal

I submitted a small letter via the complaint form and requested a reply.

Feeding an infant is not a crime! 
If you can, go! Take yourself, your titties, and if you have one, take your baby, too!

Help support summer art programs for kids in rural Mississippi. Click here to find out how! 
UPDATE: July 1, 2011
The screenshot below is a reply from the SMART Marketing and Communications manager. 
Sign the petition to ask SMART Bus to add "Breastfeeding Welcome Here" to all buses.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New Books :: On Breastfeeding, White Women, and Idealism, and Idealizing White Women Who Breastfeed (Slide Show)

I went to the library's bookstore (if that makes any sense). There is a bookstore sponsored by the library that is filled with used texts, which I assume are donated or previous editions the library has since upgraded. I headed directly for the breastfeeding section, of course. The prices are fantastic. I ended up paying less than six dollars total for four books! Here are the titles, minus one not on the subject.


I was really excited to find these and immediately began devouring them, marking them with notes and comparing them with other recent reads until I began to notice the larger theme, one that I had noticed before but for some reason really stood out with this batch of books, that, of course put a damper on my excitement. It was a theme flooded with idealism and white culture, and idealizing white culture, and idealizing white womanhood. These texts are filled with white women, white families, white babies, and white ideas -- ideas that disregard other experiences and traditions, and work at reinforcing racial isolation, dominance, and marginalization, showing that these ethnocentric views continue in pervasiveness, and that misrepresentation is far from over and extends to every part of our society. Breastfeeding is no different.  

These ideal images that are seen as displaying a supposed standard of perfection have played a major role in the way dominant society has represented itself. This can be seen on a daily basis. White women have not been subjected to the misrepresentation other Women Of Color have experienced, since the strategy throughout history has been to place her as the central figure of womanhood, making her appear all that is to be glorified, desired, and envied. And regardless of the era or views on breastfeeding (which have changed drastically throughout generations), mainstream messages and support have focused on white beliefs and ideology.

For example, society's overarching views on breastfeeding have teetered, going from a ritual with high regard, to a socially stigmatized act relegated to women in lower socio-economic statuses. During these different eras, it was the desires and experiences of white women that were taken into consideration and spread throughout society. When breastfeeding was seen as the only way to nurture an infant it was an act that many women participated in. But when the act became despised by white women who were most often the ones, because of racism, in more dominant and higher socio-economic statuses and positions in society, it became viewed as a demeaning task that these [delicate] women could not and would not subject themselves to. This was a large influence in  wet nursing legacies where wet nurses were mostly Women Of Color until infant formula was introduced, which replaced this, and it was a tremendous force in otherizing these women, since beliefs erupted that unwanted personality characteristics could pass from milk to infant.

Today, culture along with science and the fact that milk is produced in a woman's breasts, have proven that breastfeeding is the single healthiest form of nourishment for most infant children, so white women pervade the spotlight, which sends messages that continue work to try and signify her as the only loving, informative, figure who is concerned with the health and well-being of her infant. But if  breastfeeding an infant were a really a true measure of virtue, Latina women should dominate these areas since they breastfeed at higher rates than any other group, and Native Americans build and reinforce cultural legacies in their breastfeeding traditions. But their culture and methods are far removed from these texts since in order for dominance to continue, images, practices, and traditions of whiteness must continue to be present throughout breastfeeding society and breastfeeding texts -- using white women, their looks, their breastfeeding types, and their experiences as the prototype. 

I'm sure many will argue that the mechanics of breastfeeding are simple -- placing a breast inside of a baby’s mouth in order to latch on is the main idea, and while those mechanics are helpful, this lack of Color serves to misrepresent us by not representing us -- showing that we do not value breastfeeding or that it is not an important part of our culture -- at least that's the buzz I've been hearing. To push that further, of course these omitting tactics are strategic, and reinscribe racist and colonizing notions, marginalization, and ideology that criticizes us, our culture, and ignores our legacies, placing us outside of the breastfeeding circle with ideas that have a strong impact, inside and outside our communities. They are also ones that, without understanding and challenge, will not change, and will not allow us to arrive at a place where we can learn to understand to celebrate infant and breastfeeding culture through the many different cultural and racial lenses it is celebrated and experienced. That is not acceptable, so this must change.  

This slideshow are covers from books I found when I searched google for 'breastfeeding books.' I think of all the texts only about two or three had an image of a Woman Of Color and one was a government agency, WIC (Women, Infants, Children) pamphlet. 

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The Volunteer Meeting: One Down

So how about the bad news first, eh? There are no opportunities for any volunteer hours at hospital number one. Excuse me, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities available at hospital number one, just nothing specific to breastfeeding. The long-awaited email that took over one month inviting those interested to the initial volunteer meeting -- the first step in volunteering at this hospital, happened yesterday. And from the list of options, the closest to nursing mothers I would get is volunteering in Labor & Delivery providing assistance at the reception desk and taking family members and patients' children to the play room. It is NPC, or, deciphering their hospital lingo, No Patient Contact. 

The hospital does not have a neo-natal unit, and I was told there was no area for what I was interested in, though I could sign up and there may be something in the future -- just how far in the future? I don't know.

I admit it was kind of a bummer since I was really excited and waited so long to hear back, and I really thought this was a plus, but I'm still glad I went since I got the chance to meet a couple of neat ladies who I talked about breastfeeding culture with, one who convinced me to give Women, Infants, Children (WIC) a try, which I will be calling before the week is up. I remember calling them before, but couldn't remember why I didn't volunteer until now -- their funding was cut for a specific breastfeeding advocacy program -- one that may have otherwise had a space just for me. But that was a couple of months ago and things could have changed. I'm calling back. 

Play Freerice and feed the hungry

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Breast-feeding & race vs Hooters' tig ole biddies! (Video)

Why Black Women Who Bottle-Feed Matter (Video)

Black women who use infant formula  seem to get a lot of heat from many different directions these days -- outside and inside of our community. I've even found myself wondering why, if someone is fully capable and the benefits of breastfeeding have been proven, would breastfeeding not be the only option. But the more I think about it the more I realize what shapes our decisions  is not always so cut and dry, and is not always  about capability or desire, but it comes from our culture, our influences, and our lived and learned experiences -- those that we have been exposed to and what we daily put into practice.

I have been exposed to breastfeeding for as long as I can remember. Every woman in my family who has kids has breastfed, as have my friends at some point or another, and I know that there are many others who have been exposed to this same legacy. But  looking at this idea and understanding that everyone has been exposed to a different culture really forces me to try and understand those who have been exposed to a different legacy and upbringing -- one where infant formula is considered the natural feeding method. 

The way some understand breastfeeding is the same way others understand infant formula, and this is the framework, shaping the way we choose to nurture our children. Other ways that shape us are media representations and (mis)representation, and the way we are portrayed as Black women, as Black mothers, as Black people. The lack of Black women breastfeeding in images plays a large role, they way our bodies are portrayed contributes, and we can't overlook the fact that infant formula is entirely too easy to come by. We also live in a society that does not place a large value on breastfeeding, and this is clearly evident by the way we frame work and breastfeeding in public -- and even how we view breasts as nothing more than sexualized objects. The list is long. Breastfeeding is also a learned skill, and just because it is something we can do naturally, does not mean it comes naturally, and there are women everywhere who become frustrated and overwhelmed, which contributes to the decline. 

I know that making a positive impact on our community is necessary in order to show all the benefits breastfeeding has to offer. But I think it is also important to find ways to fully understand the reasons many do not breastfeed, and look below the surface in order to find ways to arrive at the outcomes we need in order to have a healthier community. I have found that it's really easy to throw our beliefs onto other people, telling them why we believe a certain way and why they should also. But much more difficult to try to truly understand where someone is coming from in order to see infant feeding the way they see it. I challenge you to get to know the breastfeeding culture of someone around you, regardless of their gender or whether they do or do not have children.

Help Wanted. ISO More Black Certified Lactation Consultants

Below is a letter I recently sent to organizations as a fundraiser, explaining the significanct lack of and significant need for more Black Certified Lactation Consultants. 

The cost of courses surprised me and after all calculations, turned out to be quite a bit more than I initially expected -- and that was even before I realized I have to take additional lactation-specific courses, which added up to almost $2,000 dollars alone. I felt this is a step that I had to make, since I cannot stop this venture since learning of all of the disparities.

And even though I have never done anything like, I really believe this is considered an emergency, and believe in the help of my community and a way for others to become involved -- those who I believe would be receptive. I also asked myself the question: "If I received a letter showing the importance of Black women as CLCs and had a chance to support an endeavor with a proven ability to get more Black women breastfeeding, reach breastfeeding goals, and help end innumerable disparities, would I respond positively?" So I stamped the letters and mailed them. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Boycotting Nestle: 30 Plus Years. Now What?

Lately, I've been thinking quite a bit about the boycott on Nestle and what it means when such measures against a company have lasted for so long. If you're unsure about this boycott that was launched over 30 years ago, let me give you a very brief history, but you can read more about it here, here, and here.

In the late 1970s, a boycott was launched against the corporate giant, because of their marketing of synthetic infant formula -- advertising their milk as superior to mother's as all infant formula companies do, of course. But using varied marketing tactics is nothing new and is something we face often since we are daily bombarded with ads and various outlets that tell us how much we suck without their products, which makes us feel inadequate, so we spend and spend and spend because the more we have the more we feel we are worth, and this veneer enables us to feel more accepted into society. But I digress. The issue with Nestle was/is these tactics continue to be used in developing countries where natural resources -- more specifically, clean water is inaccessible, the literacy rate is low, and breastfeeding is literally a matter of life or death for many infants. That along with other disparities in these areas that largely have Populations Of Color, including lack of access to health care, an overwhelming system of inequality, and  male figures dominate and female contribution and input is largely undervalued (believe it or not I'm not talking about the U.S.) and the equation looks something like this:

Low literacy rates in developing countries + no access to clean water + women's overall level of decreased value + corporate giants with unethical marketing tactics + babies born drinking synthetic formula made readily available and mixed with contaminated water, which leads to bacterial growth, diarrhea, or other gastrointestinal diseases + no readily available medical care = infant mortality, infants of Color mortality rate in exponential amounts!

And that is just the beginning.   

I'm not here to write everything I know about the boycott -- the links above provide a very good analysis of this, and you can also conduct your own research as well, which I hope will be the case. But my concern is why is Nestle, despite such long and wide opposition, still one of the largest corporations that exists, with such a large level of corporate authority that they are fully capable of continuing, without reprimand or ramifications, and still refuse to  comply with the World Health Organization's (WHO) International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes?

What's wrong with this picture?

When the citizens of Egypt decided they would no longer tolerate a corrupt government run by tyranny, plutocrats, and other ill practices,  they mobilized and took action. And in many ways the rest, as you know, is beautiful and wondrous history that gives me chills right now as I write this. What an amazing display of community action and desire for social change. A true revolution!

I don't have all of the answers, but I am concerned that we have become complacent, and this complacency is the free pass for companies like Nestle to continue these ill-practices. How are we compliant with Nestle's strategy? Seems that to just slap a boycott and call it a day has become the norm, without taking a real in-depth look at what lies below. The foundation must change.

If you are unsure of your position, but are interested in knowing ways to counter these practices, here are a few ways to start:

  • Continue to boycott! This will continue the message that we continue to oppose Nestle's regime. Here is and extensive list of brands owned by the company.  
  • Write to Nestle and explain your position in this boycott and express your dissatisfaction with their practices.
  • Find a way to become involved in campaigns that are geared towards ending these types of marketing strategies, especially in developing countries and in your own neighborhood -- and especially where literacy rates are low.
  • TEACH SOMEONE HOW READ!!!!! Volunteer, or find some ways to become involved. There are several programs and ways to become involved. Increased literacy means increased awareness and is a first step in increasing ones ability to making more informed decisions.
  • STOP BUYING AND DRINKING WATER FROM  DISPOSABLE BOTTLES. Aside from being a serious environmental pollutant, bottled water reinforces the idea that water is a commodified and not a human right! It hinders critical awareness that is needed to help combat the global disparities involving access to clean water, and supports its increasing privatization. 
  • Spread the word! Find new tactics to spread the word! One of my favorite Black feminists, Barbara Smith, talks about the importance of movements as more than just ideology. Organize! Get a group together and brainstorm ideas to come up with ways to get the message out and end these injustices.
As stated these are only a few ways we are able to voice our concerns and show our intolerance towards the genocide launched by corporations and their use of unethical practices directed towards our sisters and brothers in any region. But we must become involved in order to begin to see the global situation change -- with perseverance and collective action, or we'll be here in another 30 years singing the same tune -- instead of recalculating the equation to look more like this:

Increased awareness of global issues + collective action + increased pressure to end unethical marketing tactics + increased worldwide literacy rates + increased value placed on women's position in societies + clean water worldwide = healthy mommy, healthy baby, healthy community, and a happier planet! 

You in?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

People Who Don't Have Children Can Breastfeed!

Or at least we can help out!

The other night I called my dear, sweet friend to wish her a very happy birthday and shoot the breeze for a few. Towards the end of the conversation I mentioned I was going to school to become a certified lactation consultant, and without missing too much of a beat she started saying that it is almost impossible to instruct someone on breastfeeding if I have never done it myself. My friend is a mother of two, whom she always proudly boasts of having breastfed, which of course, is awesome. But she said something along the lines of me "trying to instruct and educate someone on breastfeeding it is like trying to teach someone art with an instructor who has never made one piece."

I get it. I've heard it before, and I know I'll hear it again, and I don't think it's unreasonable for someone to ask how I plan to successfully encourage mothers to breastfeed having never done it myself. I actually think it's a pretty fair criticism, and I'm glad it comes up because it gives me the opportunity to explain why it is that my participation is possible, and even necessary.

I have always held the notion that there are definite areas one needs understanding through lived experience in order to be most effective. For example, when I was in school I knew a 21-22 year old psychology major who was on her way to becoming a marriage counselor. Not only had she never been married and had only the life lessons any 22 year old would have, but I don't believe she had ever been in a relationship for more than just a few weeks. When asked how she felt she could relate to clients who, for one, would more than likely be older, and whose relationships were troubled from adultery, commitment issues, family and other pressures to stay or to go, assets, children, conflicting moral and religious views, and a slew of other categories from a lengthy list of issues that would draw these unions to a counselor, she explained experience was not necessary in order to help and understand. What do you think?

Is breastfeeding any different?

Of course there are things I don't understand about breastfeeding, but then there are  things I do, and believe these reasons require participation. I do understand that breastfeeding as we know it is a tradition that dates back to the beginning of time, but because of human intervention, including synthetic infant formula, is a reason many are not using breast milk to nurture their children. I do understand the sordid history because of the legacy of slavery where slavers bought and sold my sisters to provide their milk to other children, and from this many have theorized is the reason we are not breastfeeding our children. I understand there are disparities in society where our infants are disproportionately affected with childhood diseases, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), asthma, and other illnesses, and breastfeeding is able to help thwart these. I understand there has been a lack of trust among Blacks and healthcare workers and in order to help counter this it is beneficial to have someone that is culturally compassionate. I understand the benefits of breastfeeding can last a lifetime for mother and baby, which inevitably benefits the entire community. And I also understand that showing someone how to breastfeed and encouraging this tradition  in order to help end these disparities does not necessitate me having a baby and putting it to my breast. 

I understand no amount of book reading, people watching, question asking, assignment writing, note-taking, video watching, group discussion, or even showing someone how to breastfeed takes the place of an actual instance where a baby latches onto its mother's breast -- for survival, for comfort, for bonding. I don't know what it's like to have engorged breasts and sore nipples, or to have to lift my blouse and feed another human being. It would be foolish to even pretend I knew what that is like.

What I can do is sympathize and empathize, and continue to understand that there is a need for more awareness surrounding the positive impact mother's milk has on our group. There is also a need to stray from those traditional divisive beliefs that are just too pervasive and hinder our understanding that creating a healthy community and working towards positive change can start with us -- sometimes in places it may seem we do not belong. Understanding this, it is especially important for those 'non-traditional' people like myself to become equipped with any knowledge and understanding available to practice this form of 'breast activism', and spread its message far and wide.