Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington: I'm In!

I met with a representative from the Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington (BCW) yesterday! Finally! I say finally because we've been trying to meet for months, without success. So this was a great transition directly after the Target nurse-in, and over a hot cup of tea, discussed the coalition, public health, advocacy, and other topics. And I love the pen she gave me!

 Before the meeting's end I was made a member of this coalition and was overjoyed at the moment! This is my second coalition, the first being the Indiana Black Breastfeeding Coalition (IBBC), which I am still thrilled to be a part of.

I was asked a question yesterday during this meeting that has been in my mind since. "What is the answer to ending disparities?" Among communities Of Color, which is the reason I'm involved in this arena. I would love to have the answer to this one, and the only thing I could think of so far is to promote literacy and critical thinking, which I believe is a start to being able to make truly informed decisions. Of course it goes deeper than that, and we must take into consideration other factors as well -- racism, sexism, classism, which all work together, and must ensure we are not strictly making these issues for women to deal with. I don't have all of the answers.

I believe coalitions are such a great way to bring individuals and groups together to see the differences also, while recognizing we are inevitably working towards a common goal, while listening to and understanding each and learning the culture of these groups. I get more and more excited at the thought. I anticipate working with others.

Who Says Men Can't Breastfeed?

Now this is not your everyday situation, but I'm always thankful when I see contributions like these from those so willing to help out our little ones in the animal kingdom -- or in this case, to provide such nourishment to a stuffed baby manatee. And of course I'm always grateful for public breastfeeding advocacy! =D

The Nurse-in @ TARGET

I went to the Seattle, WA at Northgate Target yesterday to attend my very first nurse-in!    

The event was due to the harassment of a mother, who was confronted with both a rude sales associate, and a representative when she called in to complain about the anti-breastfeeding she encountered on-site. The nurse-in was organized as a  nation-wide protest to challenge the entity's policies or no policies on breastfeeding awareness.

I was the only Black woman in attendance, and of the small circle of about 15 the only one without kids. That didn't surprise me of course, but I also didn't see many women Of Color, and it got me wondering where they were. I know I must take things into account, such as location, but of course I was wondering. I saw random women with babies, and did not hesitate to approach them and ask if they wanted to join in. That I noticed, none of the Target associates had any problems with breastfeeding, and I even asked for some chairs for those involved, and a female associate asked what was going on. When I told her this is a nurse-in, and gave her the reasons why, her jaw dropped in disbelief right before stating she "supports us 1,000 percent!" Target apparently responded to this incident, but of course they were a day late and a dollar short.
I don't want to say "I can't wait for the next one," since that would mean another mother facing humiliation while trying to feed her baby. But I somehow get the feeling even with a protest at the national level we'll be back in some other store, government office or other institution. Yes it is unfortunate, but if I'm able to attend, I sure will.



Thursday, December 1, 2011

Is Slavery Why Black Women Aren't Breastfeeding?

I've heard this argument before and have read similar, but I stumbled upon this article recently that is from 2009. The author doesn't go into much detail about her theory on why she believes slavery may be the reason Black women have lower numbers in breastfeeding, but here is a small excerpt, and of course you can read the full article here:

Slave Owners Purchased Us As Wet Nurses
To get to the bottom of this breastfeeding business, it's important to go back. Waaay back. A long time ago, black women were notorious for nursing. In fact, slave owners used and purchased black women as wet nurses for their own children, often forcing these mothers to stop nursing their own infants to care for others. "On the one hand, wet nursing claimed the benefits of breastfeeding for the offspring of white masters while denying or limiting those health advantages to slave infants. On the other hand, wet nursing required slave mothers to transfer to white offspring the nurturing and affection they should have been able to allocate to their own children," writes historian Wilma A.Dunaway, in the book The African-American Family in Slavery and Emancipation, published by Cambridge University Press. And since breastfeeding reduces fertility, slave owners forced black women to stop breastfeeding early so that they could continue breeding, often to the health detriment of their infants, Dunaway writes.
Now, one of the legacies of slavery is the severe social inequality in economics that still has a large impact in Black and communities Of Color today, and the article talked about the belief that breastfeeding is for poor people -- an idea still situated in many communities.

Breastfeeding is for Poor People
But there's more to our story than breastfeeding interrupted at the hands of slave owners hundreds of years ago -- though many may argue that some vestiges of slavery still exist in the mindset of the black community. Aggressive marketing by the formula companies in the 1930s and 40s made formula-feeding the choice of the elite -- "the substance for sophisticates" -- white or black. And who doesn't want to be like the rich and famous? That marketing continues to this day, down to the formula company-sponsored bag of goodies you probably received on the way out of the hospital. Then there's something I call the National Geographic factor -- that is, most of the images we see of black women breastfeeding are semi-naked women in Africa whose lives seem so far away from the African-American lifestyle and experience.
"'Breastfeeding is for poor people,' my mom once said to me," explains Nicole, a 37-year-old mom from New Jersey, who breastfed two children for a year. "My mom is a very progressive woman, but this was the thinking of her generation. I couldn't believe it."
Well, Black women DO breastfeed! But there is no denying our numbers could use a drastic increase, which is why I want to start this conversation here. Do you believe being enslaved and forced to feed a white slaver's baby left a legacy and is the reason for our lower rates? Does the image above (that I found on a postcard for sale on eBay) hit a nerve with a tradition of being mocked? Or is it more advertising? Is there more to the story? Well, I have my theory and believe it can be all and neither and more, and I will be getting into that. But for now I'm eager to hear your thoughts.

The Breast Crawl (Video)

For some strange reason, I recently woke with an insatiable urge to research the breast crawl. Why? Why not? Well, I'm not sure exactly. It is possible because I only know very little about the it, and from what I've noticed, haven't seen or heard of it applied to many situations.

In case you are unfamiliar with the breast crawl, it is a method where immediately after birth a baby is placed on the mother's abdomen instead of the mother holding the baby in the usual cradle position -- and the baby initiates breastfeeding by finding its way to the nipple. If I'm not mistaken, it is said that the baby has a greater sense of autonomy from finding its way to its food source. But this information could be incorrect.

My search for more information has begun, but I have some lingering questions like: Where did this practice initiate? Why don't we see it more often? Why is it when I look something up it is usually a practice by women who are not from or in N. America?  Does it hurt the new mother's stomach to have a baby on top of her? Can it work after a Cesarean? Do you only use the breast crawl once after birth, or can babies do this throughout infancy? What happens with twins? Of course my mind works this way, but hey, I think they're good enough inquiries! Well, I am on a search to find more info, and if you know of any, please don't hesitate to throw it my way!

Have you, or do you know of anyone who has ever practiced the breast crawl?

References and image:

         To posts. 
It's free and there's NO SPAM!