Thursday, June 21, 2012

The White (Breastfeeding) Do-Gooder

Kimberly Seals Allers re-blogged an article on white supremacy. If you read this article about food justice the people involved are not supposed to be expressing dominance; they're supposed to be offering their services to communities in need, but the legacy of white supremacy is by all accounts, in full effect. This article showed how the willingness of white people to offer their services to communities of color -- those that seem to be in need of intervention in order to make their way of living, their health and well-being better. I read another one along these same lines recently from The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe, but on birthing -- where these 'educated' and 'informed' white women employ their services to these women Of Color in an effort to fix what is wrong and direct us -- show us the way.

The upcoming breastfeeding summit was on the same track. The focus will be on breastfeeding disparities in communities Of Color and the role racism and white privilege play in strengthening these. We -- the other summit advisory team and myself, received an email about the conference -- on the intended audience, where women Of Color and the issues within our community will be portrayed in front of health care professionals who are mostly white, in order to show how white privilege contributes to breastfeeding disparities. In other words the conference would enlighten these providers and suggest they find ways to rectify the wrong doing. It sounds good enough -- that we highlight the role of whiteness. Actually, in theory it sounds excellent. Whites get the finger pointed and from there should be convicted enough to evoke a radical transformation contributing to the demise of these disparities, right?! Well, not really. And in fact not at all.

I know everyone has the best intentions, and I'm happily working with all of these advisory members of various races and backgrounds. We are willingly and rightfully listening to each other in an effort to work towards the common goal, which is why I won't get too radical up in here. We all want to critique whiteness and highlight how it marginalizes and maligns (even the white members, who suggested this theme), and at the end of the day all of us want more women to breastfeed. But the reality is that just won't work. And what would be at that foundation would highlight the incredible dynamic that continues to be portrayed as progress.

Having women Of Color pitch our 'plight' to a conference full of white healthcare workers will not work towards the goal of increasing breastfeeding rates and ending disparities. In fact, not only will it not work, but it would calculate itself exactly the way white supremacy is formulated. These predominantly white providers would serve to deliver that level of dominance and structure of superiority and would be the ones to elect if and when to challenge injustice and decide if and when it's worth criticizing -- this format would remain cyclical, without questioning why this dynamic even exists in the first place. To what extent would members of a group who benefit daily from a system designed with them in mind, work to critically assess and make changes at a foundational level? That just hands over the authority and enables the continuance of a governing cycle that has been systematic and strategically in place for too long. People Of Color must join the conversation and be involved in all aspects of the efforts, in order to find as many practical and creative ways to challenge this legacy of domination and the repercussions it is responsible for. Whiteness will never work against itself.

Breastfeeding and human lactation: Traditional knowledge vs industrial practices

When I write something and it receives negative feedback, I'm not above re-examining what I've said -- looking over it to see if my perspective changes. In this case, it seems a number of IBCLCs found themselves quite pissed with my post on whether or not I would want to continue on to becoming a Lactation Consultant. The basis for my argument was -- and still is, I have not seen an IBCLC in the scope of practice that I am interested in and I have no desire to work in a clinical setting. Because of this, continuing the grueling steps of volunteering, taking courses and sitting for an extensive exam, is out of my immediate desire.

I came across an article recently. Actually, I didn't just happen upon this post, but it was posted on the AnthroDoula facebook fan page about IBCLCs vs CLCs -- which is better -- and reading all of the information, of course brought me back to my own article, where the numerous angry IBCLCs came in droves to all but tell me I had the gall to compare CLC/CLE with IBCLC -- which, based off of their sensitivity and defensiveness is what they assumed. But they were wrong. That's not what happened. I didn't equate the two -- there is no comparison -- in formal education, that is. I was questioning if I wanted to become an IBCLC because I had been thinking about exactly what I wanted to do with advocating breastfeeding, and was doing a comparison and honest exploration, questioning if I wanted to continue on the path. Click the link below, and read it for yourself. And don't leave out the comments.

Since that post, my ideas on breastfeeding and advocacy and my endeavors and projections for the future have thankfully become much clearer. But all of the bickering and hearing IBCLCs defend their background has really made me think. How has something so natural as feeding a baby become such an industry -- an institution -- where people argue over who knows what and who can place a tit in a baby's mouth, and who cant? The IBCLCs on my post suggested the hierarchy can be compared to RNs, LPNs, and CNAs, where Lactation Consultants are like Registered Nurses, CLCs are comparable to LPNs and so on -- something like that -- who has more experience and who can do what. OK. I'll accept that. One of my sisters is a Registered Nurse, and I know there are things that, by law she can do that LPs, CNAs, etc. cannot. But this isn't prepping someone for surgery or sticking an IV in someone's vein. Like I said previously I know IBCLCs have done awesome work -- I just talked to one today, who offered some very helpful advice to my friend who was concerned with her milk supply. But what about the other aspects? The necessary formal education? When did we decide our natural ability to feed our babies needed an overseer? What happened to information from our family members? Our kinship groups?

My oldest sister, who nursed seven sons, mostly talked to my mom. My other sisters talked to my mom and each other -- or their friends. When my mom had an issue with my little sister she went to my grandma. And my grandma, I'm sure, went to her mother. Would my grandma have been considered ill-qualified to guide and counsel her family since she didn't take general education courses in anatomy, biology, medical terminology or the others required at the community college level? Or accumulating clinical hours, in order to get a certificate -- the ones that have apparently relegated IBCLCs as the (mostly) matriarchs of human lactation? Would all of that information she brought from generations of being around breastfeeding women and her old school knowledge be castigated in the face of this 'new and improved' contemporary knowledge -- the way we do things? At the very least that's pathetic.

I know not everyone has this type of generational influence, but the reality is women have been breastfeeding for hundreds and thousands of years. And of all of those generations, decades and millennium -- has it only been in the last 27 years since IBCLC has been a profession, have we all of a sudden not known what we're doing? How has this replaced the natural "instinct, heritage and the knowledge that comes from our tribe"?

I want to teach breastfeeding education -- in order to highlight the benefits and get more people to join in -- which is why I will be in class bright and early come Monday morning for my CLE course. But regardless of any amount of formal training I would never consider myself the all-informed person who believes clinical hours and textbook knowledge could surpass the lengthy trajectory of human biology. Or, feel as if I possess all the answers to a tradition that has been necessary to sustain the human race. And I wouldn't be honest with myself or with you if I did not say that it bothers me to see how much of the traditional knowledge surrounding breastfeeding has and continues to be diminished and replaced with commercial intervention.

Twin Milk: Would you drink breastmilk? Again? (Video)

I guess this story catches my eye since I heard it last year when the first twin had her baby and her sister drank her breastmilk. I blogged about it then, so I think it's neat seeing the other twin about to give birth and hear the story. I guess it also grabs my attention because I have an identical twin sister, so twin milk is doubly fascinating to me. I said before I'd try my sister's breastmilk. There's no reason why not. But would I do it just as a taste comparison -- as Tia excitedly admits is the reason she wants to here? Of course the flavor of milk is dependent on several factors -- a big one being your diet, but heck. Sure I would. Why wouldn't I?!

Under Patriarchy, Breast Feeding is Nasty and Vulgar (Video)

If you missed church on Sunday, not to worry. The reverend angelsnupnup72012 has brought the service from the comfort of his home to yours. Actually, this is not a reverend who is preaching, nor is this church but it is a much needed voice on de-stigmatizing breastfeeding, and he did bring it -- "it" being the kind of inspiration and defense we need towards for women everywhere -- and especially in public places, which is what sparked this sermon.

Exploiting women's bodies, and making breasts objects only accessible to men, silences women. He also made a great point -- is the veneer we put on on a daily basis the result of being disconnected from natural breastfeeding relationships intended by nature? I wonder. And since "When did it become vulgar for a woman to breastfeed her child? What is wrong with the public?" Preach!

Big Breasted & Breastfeeding (Video)

What has been your experience with breast size and breastfeeding? I have to be honest that I have never come across anyone who complained about their breast size when they've given birth. And it's not that I haven't known women who have very large breasts and babies -- and who breastfed, but really I've only heard many women talk about how they looked forward to the increase pregnancy, childbirth and nursing brings.

This YouTuber talks about the difficulty she faces with being large breasted and trying to feed her son. She says she must take extra care in order to avert milkburn, ensure latching and to make sure her baby doesn't suffocate because of it. She also gives some practical advice on ways to continue to feed, such as positioning as well. But this video is inspiring because it doesn't cast a dark cloud on nursing  -- because aside from those difficulties, she says there is hope. As someone who is quite busty myself (40D, to be exact), I've had concerns over my cup size -- well, that is when I once upon a time wanted to have children, and dreaded the fact that my breasts would increase. What have you heard? What are you thoughts?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Breasts Feed the World (Video)

This short documentary came through my facebook feed through the Beautiful Breastfeeding fan page. Radical feminist, Bonnie Edwards, begins the video "Breasts. The beautiful, supple breasts of women feed girls, boys who grow up women, men." Aside from obviously promoting the tradition, it provides a visual cross-cultural examination and historic account of breastfeeding and critiques the patriarchal structures that have relegated breasts to sexualized objects. OK, I won't give too much away. But I just think you should be forewarned -- this is my kind of awesomeness.