Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ending Environmental Racism and Preserving Culture: Breastfeeding as traditional food

I've been giving a lot of thought to the Race Conference I attended a few weeks ago. This year's theme was Building Community to End Environmental Racism, and the first workshop I sat in on was on Native American Culture. During this one titled Indigenous Wisdom (s), Traditional Ecological Knowledge, and Public Health, the main speaker introduced the class to some of the traditional culture and told stories of some of the ways the population lived during a pre-colonial era. Her lecture introduced the class to everything from gathering and using herbs for medicinal purposes to cooking and food sources. It was illuminating.

I've been in conversations lately -- about the history of breastfeeding among Native communities, the disparities that exist and all things connected to it -- like the legacy of housing misplacement, which at the very least was a hinderance, food rations that were drastically different and culturally inappropriate, which contained starches and other non-healthy ingredients that led to a multitude of diseases and ailments that we still see today. I'm far from knowing the entire story about breastfeeding culture and history among Native communities, but what I do understand is that the tool of the colonizer remains intact today.

Following the sentiments of the speaker that Saturday, there is a connection that exists -- and infant nutrition is a part of that connection. For some communities, breastfeeding is more than nourishment or a way to create a bond but is a traditional food within a relationship connected with all things physical and inanimate, visible and invisible, tangible and intangible, and is the foundation of expressing culture and transcending those throughout generations. Yet the effects of racism continue to threaten the environment in many Native American communities, and simultaneously the traditional foodways of this population.

During this talk, it reminded me of Maia Bosswelll-Penc's evaluation of environmental degradation and its connection to racism, and reminded me of some articles I had previously written on the issue of voicing Native communities and that reminded me why I even began; voice. That Native communities are among some of the most ravaged with environmental toxins at the hands of us and corporations is no surprise. These acts of violence towards traditional foodways, and cultural genocide are continuously sanctioned by our willingness to remain silent. What we put in our mouth is more than just something to fill our bellies, but is fastened with legacy, and breastmilk, like foraging salmon or deer, is a traditional food for babies.

The Business Case for Breastfeeding = DONE!

I just wrapped up the project sponsored by the HHS Office on Women's Health -- the National Worksite Breastfeeding Support for Employers of Overtime Eligible Employees: Innovative Strategies for Success, project I've been working on over the past few months. The HHS provided minigrants to about 10 breastfeeding coalitions across the country, to highlight the positive aspects of ways employers accommodate working women who also choose to breastfeed. I was able to successfully complete the project, and submitted a total of 11 businesses from a required 10. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post the names of the businesses, though they signed a waiver stating they don't mind receiving publicity, but maybe that's just through the OWH. The HHS were looking for a diverse pool of worksites, and the main criterion was the businesses must employ at least 30% hourly workers. This is because generally when folks are hourly-paid they face more challenges to access, whereas someone who is salaried would have more access to an office or other type of private space. I was able to get some diverse businesses: Museum, Real Estate, Manufacturer, Casino, Service (pest control), a natural birth center and others, so I'm pretty proud of the selection.

I have to say I'm quite impressed with some of the ways women were accommodated, but I guess I didn't know exactly what to expect but some of the things never really crossed my mind. For example, some worksites have not only a private lactation-specific rooms where they provide hospital-grade breast pumps for employees, but beds and cribs for babies are on-site. At another place -- a crunchy grocery store -- they hold breastfeeding classes where employees, customers and the general public can sign up and learn about mother's milk. The manager of that store told me a story about a customer who complained when he saw a woman -- a customer, nursing in the store. She told me "We didn't do anything about it!" At another worksite, I visited a woman who was the H. R. Rep, and who also nursed her son at that location. During the interview, one of the questions was "Why do you feel these services are important?" and her response was "What's a nursing woman supposed to do? It's a given."

But even with all of those positive experiences, I was turned away a lot. I also continue to think of the role of privilege even in these spaces. I also think of employer motive and weighing that against society; is it about caring for their employees, adhering to a law, trying to increase their profits -- but I know it's a mixture of all. But what about those who still do not have access to pumping on the job? I also continue to wonder if in the big picture of American society, we should lobby for the right to stay home with our babies and increase maternity leave instead of building a database for other employers to model in the face of challenges to serve their nursing mothers?

Though I'm a bit sad the project is over, I really enjoyed visiting worksites and checking out their lactation services. Though there may be an opportunity to do some additional work with this project, since they will select only a few coalitions to film a video about one of the worksites that demonstrated "exceptional best practices," -- and I suggested the crunchy grocery store. I am going to keep my fingers crossed. But if we're not chosen, I'm thankful I had the opportunity to participate, and view this as just a way I was exposed to more breastfeeding information, culture and business practices. I'll keep you posted. It was also a great sedge-way to the whatever the universe hold for the next chapter of my breastfeeding and human lactation advocacy.

A BIG, Bad BREASTFEEDING Summit, get together-type Conference thingy, right here!

I don't think I could be more excited about this, than if I was on the planning committee myself. But wait, I am!

I received an email talking about a Breastfeeding Summit for the area --  the Puget Sound/Washington State, and I guess folks could come from anywhere in the Pacific Northwest or in the country or the world, I guess, if they really wanted to. The BCW manager, I know, was inspired by the upcoming ROSE Summit focused on disparities in the Black/African American community, and suggested we plan one here. That made my day. That made my week! My month. And I'll be excited up until I'm sitting in the venue and in workshops.

When she first made the suggestion, from the way I interpreted it was assuming she wanted the focus to be only on the disparities among Black women, and before I had a chance to ask her why, with the serious lack of cultural and racial diversity around here,  would there not be a focus on the broader picture that includes how we are all connected in a society that praises whiteness and is responsible for many of the underlying reasons in brestfeeding disparities among groups, I received an email from a LLL board member stating the event will focus on the disparities among women Of Color. I'm happy to hear that since I think I will be able to garner a much-needed examination of what is going on with our communities from these various perspectives! There was also some other very exciting news in that email, but I'm not sure how much I can let on right now, but I'll give you a hint: guest speaker, Black woman, book. For the rest, you'll have to keep an eye out for updates!

Planning a Summit is no joke, and takes a lot of work. Because of this, will happen sometime at least a year from now and at this point Spring, 2013 is on the radar! I've never helped plan a Summit before -- well, at this level, though I have had some input for the upcoming ROSE Conference, but I'm so far away and felt more detached. But for this one I'm right here. Hands on! I'm pretty excited, which will make the wait to next year a long one, but that's OK, I've been working on ways to become more paitent anyway. What suggestions do you have for us? What were you doing if you were planning a Summit centered around women Of Color?

10 Tips for successful breastfeeding (Video)

If I were a new mom, I would want to find as much information as possible to assist with my breastfeeding endeavor. Fortunately enough for me, I have plenty of women around who have breastfed -- sometimes multiple times, so thankfully I would always be surrounded by a wealth of information. But what about others? People who are exposed to limited resources and information, or who need to be exposed to new information? I found this video that list 10 tips for being successful at breastfeeding, and started out with patience, and included comfort, eating right and taking prenatal vitamins to have a great nursing bra and others. Below is the complete list, but aside from what is here and the advice given, what else would you add?

  1. Have patience.
  2. Make sure you are in a comfortable position.
  3. Drink water to stay hydrated.
  4. Eat a balanced meal -- you are what you eat! And what your baby eats, too!
  5. Take prenatal vitamins.
  6. Find nipple cream/gel.
  7. Have a great nursing bra.
  8. Have nursing pads handy to absorb breast milk
  9. Have a good breast pump
  10. Have storage containers/bags available to store breast milk

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Book Review + Giveaway :: This Milk Tastes Good! A Breastfeeding Nursery Rhyme (Closed)

If there's anything better than reading a children's book centered around breastfeeding, it's reading a children's book centered around breastfeeding with a family Of Color. The awesomeness that is this newly released This Milk Tastes Good, authored by Chenniah Patrick and illustrated by her husband, who are both founders of JhaZamoraS Publishing. Chenniah, whose milk is the focus of the little baby girl protagonist in the text, as it draws upon the experience of nursing her child -- or more specifically, a nursery rhyme that was created from her own breastfeeding experience which inevitably created a "bonding experience she had not anticipated." This Milk Tastes Good is from the baby's perspective -- based on what his descriptions are based on what her mama eats, as Chenniah informs readers it not an implication that breastmilk drastically changes in flavor, but for the child to "connect breast milk with healthy foods."

I won't deny that I was more excited about receiving this book than many others I've read and reviewed. In fact, I was excited even before I learned this would be on my website, and before it showed up in the mail. This Milk Tastes Good took me back and reminded me of my little sister's baby days, and my mom -- I think she ate strawberries, which turned her milk pink. I'm not sure if it was strawberry-flavored, but I'm certain just like this baby, my little sister thought it did taste good!

Had I purchased this text, one drawback I feel is the price. $15.99 for a short paperback is pricey, but books focusing on the breastfeeding experience of Black babies and families, are rare, so it does makes it priceless. The only other missing element is the tune to this nursery rhyme. How do we sing it? How does it sound? But even with that missing this is still a text I am thankful to have, and am especially thankful I had the opportunity to review it.

The author of This Milk Tastes Good, singing the nursery rhyme.

Thank you, JhaZamoraS Publishing, LLC, for providing a copy of This Milk Tastes Good: A Breastmilk Nursery Rhyme, 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 Saturday 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. Leave your email address with your comment: yourname(at)emailserver{dot}com, net, etc. Winner must respond within 24 hours, 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.

Author: Chenniah Patrick
Year: 2012
Paperback: 15.99
Pages: 25
Genre: Children's
ISBN: 9-780985110703

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

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

ARE YOU MOM ENOUGH?: My thoughts on 'TIME'

Yes, I have seen it! I had a few people send this article my way today. It's the latest version on TIME Magazine, with a woman on the cover with the headline "ARE YOU MOM ENOUGH?" I'm assuming the title, along with the small summary "Why attachment parenting drives some mothers to extreme," implies this woman, with her three-year-old son at her tit, is "extreme." Too big to put in a cradle-hold makes this "drastic" because he is just "too old!" -- failing to mention how many woman don't even breastfeed, which is the issue we should be looking at instead of otherizing this act -- which is completely normal in many societies. What does that say about us?  I haven't formed a complete opinion on this one -- yet, though I'm definitely tempted to head to  the library and straight for the issue. What first comes to your mind?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

She put feed in a bottle: baby's too hard to handle (Video)

This video makes me smile. First of all, how many men do you know who sing about breastfeeding? I am also happy because of the story line from this reggae song about the importance of mother's milk, telling the story of a woman whose "baby's too hard to handle" and initially has no time and wants to go out and "whine and dine" and is tempted with the convenience of infant formula, and gets the bottle together for the baby. Watch to see how it progresses.

But this video also makes me think about something else -- the pressure on women. Now when I hear women talking about breastfeeding it is most often coming from a place where they make it look so easy. But what happens when women are overwhelmed, by herself or when she just ain't feelin' it? There is nothing in this video that make me believe this woman is partnered in any type of relationship (as far as someone helping with her baby), and not that that's even necessary, but it undoubtedly a task that requires much more sacrifice time and commitment. What happens when mothers are overwhelmed and just want to get away or need some outside attention which can lead to other areas like loneliness and depression which can absolutely interfere with a woman's ability or desire to breastfeed? What happens then?

Let's talk about breastfeeding! Well. . . . maybe

If you ask anyone who knows me, they'd tell you besides anthropology, one of my favorite subjects over the past while is breastfeeding. I've found myself slightly obsessed with human lactation over the past while, and no, I'm not afraid to admit it. But as much as I love and can talk mother's milk for hours, I have not reached a point where I'm brave enough to approach an obvious pregnant woman and strike up a conversation about her feeding choice. Or, when I see a -- especially a Black women with a small infant who is using a bottle (like I have on several occasions), muster up the courage to ask why and to get her thinking about her own milk supply.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not the least bit shy and when I've found myself in situations with someone (like the woman in the store yesterday), who looks so ready, and everything in me wants to approach her, strike up a conversation that will of course lead to some type of session about breastfeeding and all the benefits and how important it is, I just cant.

I always find myself in numerous conversations with strangers over the years, but it's usually after someone has started talking, or there is something we are both focused on -- "When is the next bus arriving?" -- something fairly mundane. I have yet to imaging myself walking up to someone on a park bench and start talking milk.

I think the problem is that I sometimes feel my conversation would come off as being invasive. I wonder how I would feel if, after speaking to someone for just a few they asked me "So how do you plan on feeding that baby?" Personally I don't think I'd mind, but that's just me. And of course how a woman feeds her baby is important. Needless to say I've been working on garnering up the courage, so I've decided to look for a pinback button that says something along the lines of "Ask me about breastfeeding!" or something of that sort. I'll see how that turns out, and maybe it won't be that difficult after all. 


I received an email from the director of Bastyr University yesterday, and it's official; I'm going to nursing school! Of course when I say nursing I really mean nursing -- as in lactation, and not nursing as in sticking someone with a needle. But more specifically, the Professional Education in Breastfeeding and Lactation (PEBL) kind of nursing, which is a course offered this summer. I was awarded a $200.00 scholarship towards the very steep $879.00 tuition for the five day course, so my balance is now $679.00. Actually, my balance is only $229.00, since I mailed $450.00 off yesterday right after I found out about my award.

This course provides the first 37.5 hours necessary for the requirements for the IBCLE exam, but as I've said before, at this point I'm not even sure I want to continue working towards IBCLC, so I'm going to obtain the basic education and add my own spin -- veering off in the direction I think is best for me and the community I want to represent, although I know I'll take additional lactation-specific courses as well.

I talked to someone recently about the course -- a mother of two, who said she also completed this a while ago and was surprised at how much she learned, since she was already very knowledgeable about breastfeeding and human lactation, to begin with.

Once the PEBL course is completed the school provides the Certified Lactation Educator certificate, which, although I think it's pretty cool, I'm more excited about what I'm learning than anything.

Gay men, social control, anthropology and nursing in public. What do these all have in common?

It never would have crossed my mind that trying to raise awareness around breastfeeding by calling into an internet radio talk show, would turn into an hot zone for confrontation -- or that it would be a place where I'd find myself being called a 'dyke' or 'ho' in the middle of just about every other word from the room. I previously wrote in to the host and recommended a topic, since she always suggested we do so, and because I thought it would be a great opportunity to get more people to recognize the importance of breastfeeding, how it affects us all and just as crucially how we can find ways to support each other and get more people to pitch in. She decided it was a good topic, and I was very impressed when I found out she did some research of her own before beginning the program, and she and I talked for a while, while others listened in and used the chat room to talk more about the subject. And the show was going well. But of all the things that keep me awake at night, this one held me down with a special weight, and after a decent amount of crying from the intensity from everything that happened on Sunday, I fell asleep and had a nightmare, which is rare for me. 

The tragedy here is that while talking about breastfeeding -- the benefits to mother, child and overall society --  things were going so well. I really enjoyed speaking about why Black people need to make ourselves count in supporting breastfeeding women. And how just by doing so raises awareness and contributes to the overall health of our community -- and empowers all of us. We also talked about other practical aspects, too, like colostrum, and fore and hind milk, infant formula and a number of other related topics. Things were fine! But that was all before the show went off the air and another listener called in to explain to us the reasons behind the ban on women who nurse in public, which she staunchly believed is because men -- "gay men are controlling the strings in society and hate women's bodies so much that they've stigmatized the act" -- and the host agreed! But not only did these two women agree that gay men are the root cause of the issue, but also that "we live in a homosexual-based culture, and this is what society needs to see in order to get to the bottom of it all!" And they told me I needed to recognize that also. 

I won't argue that men are at the root of public breastfeeding discrimination. That they have taken women's bodies and continue to commodify and exploit them for sexual pleasure, is indisputable. That stance has been adopted by the majority of society to not see breasts as a site of nourishment for a baby, but for pleasure, and that we have, even as women, adopted that as truth. I won't deny it. But I don't really know how to take this -- the gay thing. I don't know how to put it in front of me and dissect it at all, except look at it for what it is -- at face value. 

Even though there's a very big part of me that wishes I would have just left early on -- that instead of sticking around and trying to change the perspective of these people by telling them that their so-called objective views on homosexuality are only perpetuating the division, neo-colonialist and puritanical views this room full of Pan Africanists oppose every Sunday afternoon I should have just folded. And even though I've been trying to get better about choosing exactly which battles I'll fight, wonder what that would that have meant for me -- as far as being compliant and supporting this viewpoint I feel so strongly against? But I just couldn't wrap my brain around what they said. The society I live in denounces same-sex domestic partnerships, and just about everything else. It seems like on a daily I'm reading about another teen who has taken his own life, or how some legislature has been shot down prohibiting people who love each other form sharing a legal union, or that someone is fired, ostracized or killed. Maybe I missed something.

The reality is by taking such a stance, the women on the line and the others in the chat room are not doing anything that contributes towards a more just environment nor helping to increase the health of future generations. It is not raising awareness, it is not getting more Black women to breastfeed and it is not helping to end disparities -- especially the ones that affect those of us in the room the most. But the only thing I can hope for is that even in the midst of it all, there has to have been some kind of progress made -- in breastfeeding and perspectives. And I do agree one one thing she said -- that "Not being able to feed your baby in public is a form of oppression."

And this, my readers, is my 100th blog post.

After a great deal of reluctance, I have embedded the episode from that day. What is so unfortunate is the conversation went so well, until the show ended and we began to stream and another listener called in. On the link below, I call in at around the 63 minute mark and the other listener at 114 minutes, but shortly after that my cell phone signal dropped. Keep in mind this is not the entire episode, since once the show ends on Blog Talk Radio we move to the 'After Party,' a different forum where we are able to continue chatting through the online chat service as well as through webcam. It was insanity.

Disclaimer: Queen Ifama always uses very strong language during each show. If you are sensitive to profanity, you may consider skipping over listening in.

         Queen Ifama AKA on Blog Talk Radio