Convinced

by Stacy Davis

Stacy Davis 1

She says she wants to breastfeed her baby,
But I’m not convinced.
She says she’s going to help me breastfeed my baby,
But I’m not convinced.
She says it’s too hard and her baby doesn’t like her breasts,
But I’m not convinced.
She says, “It’s okay and we’ll try again next time,”
But I’m not convinced.
She says her nipples hurt and she’s just too tired,
But I’m not convinced.
She says that she understands and is here to support and help me breastfeed my baby,
But I’m not convinced.

What she doesn’t know is that this is the first loving touch I’ve felt in my bruised and battered life,
But I’m not convinced that she understands what I’m feeling.
Maybe if she looked more like me or came from my neighborhood or my situation I could open up to her and she would be more convinced.

But I’m convinced that my baby and I will get through this.

Stacy Davis 2Stacy Davis, program coordinator at Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association, is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), with 16 years of community-based health care experience. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Health Administration from Davenport University and is currently pursuing her Masters degree in Public Health. Stacy is a 2015 Ecology Center Health Leaders Fellow and committee member for the National Association for Professional and Peer Lactation Supporters of Color. Mrs. Davis is the mother to four sons: Lawran (15), Devahn (12), Jessie (6), and Jace (3). As one of the few African American lactation consultants in the state of Michigan, Stacy is committed to providing families of color with culturally-competent breastfeeding support.

We honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today with two guest posts on “Birth Work for Equality.” Thank you to Stacy and to Dr. Joia Crear-Perry for sharing your work and your passion.

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On Working for Breastfeeding Equity

Interview with Joia Crear-Perry, MD

We caught up with Dr. Crear-Perry over email to learn about her work with the National Birth Equity Collaborative and how she came to be such a strong advocate for moms. Here is what she shared:

What is your name? How many children do you have and what are their ages?

Joia_Headshot_1bI am Joia Crear Perry, and I have 3 Children – 22, 19 and 5. I am the full reproductive spectrum :)

When did you begin your work to support breastfeeding?

I am an OB/Gyn. When I trained, they taught us nothing about breastfeeding and how to support women to ensure that they are able to breastfeed. When I went into private practice, I began attending seminars and trainings on how to encourage and support breastfeeding as a physician and member of the community.

You help so many families. Can you share a little about the help you provide?

Having worked in private practice, in public health and inside of managed care companies, we often see that the needs of poor women and women of Color are not adequately met. Having a Doula support the birth and breastfeeding of our babies can be reserved for those who are more well resourced. We are currently working to ensure Doulas are covered on Medicaid and insurance plans so that this disparity does not continue. These systemic shifts in resources are critical to us reaching any equity.

How does inequality show up in the work you do with families?

Our Vision at the National Birth Equity Collaborative is that every African American infant will celebrate a healthy first birthday. The fact that black babies die at two to three times the rate of white babies is inexcusable. It is the canary in the coal mine of our times. The coalminers used to bring caged canaries into the mines with them. If the canaries became sick or died, this was a sign that something was seriously amiss and that miners needed to get out. We need to make the U.S. not be a coal mine for black babies. The structural inequities that contribute to this must end.

Do you remember a time when a family you were working with was treated unfairly?

Speaking with large health systems and insurers about the importance of breastfeeding for communities of Color, we are often met with the statement, “They just don’t want to do it.” We are able to show data that Black women have high intention rates to breastfeed but significant work and structural barriers that they can address to improve those rates.

Birth work is often challenging, especially when we are faced daily with racism or other bias. Where do you find support?

I have found my tribe. I have a community of fellow OB/Gyn’s, midwives, doulas, reproductive justice activists who fight with and for each other. We know this is a battle for justice that has been going on for generations and that together, we are continuing to push forward towards equity.

What does this support look like?

Anything from phone calls to 3 day spa retreats. ( Need more of those :) )

What advice would you give to other birth workers who face racism, bias and inequity?

Make sure you find your tribe. We cannot do this alone.

What is one thing the person reading this can do to support equity in birth and breastfeeding?

Make sure any person you know is supported when they are pregnant, giving birth and breastfeeding. Ask them if they have someone to go to their appointments and hospital with them. Be a safety net for them. What we all need to have a safe, healthy baby is to be valued and supported.

Anything else you want to share?

We are living in a very exciting time. Equity and justice are parts of daily conversations in the United States today. The impact of structural, institutional, interpersonal and internalized racism on our health over the lifespan must be ameliorated.

Dr. Joia Crear-Perry is the Founder and CEO of the National Birth Equity Collaborative. Previously, she served as the Executive Director of the Birthing Project, Director of Women’s and Children’s Services at Jefferson Community Healthcare Center and as the Director of Clinical Services for the City of New Orleans Health Department.

After receiving her bachelor’s trainings at Princeton University and Xavier University, Dr. Crear-Perry completed her medical degree at Louisiana State University and her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Tulane University’s School of Medicine. She was also recognized as a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Dr. Crear-Perry currently serves on the Board of Trustees for Community Catalyst, National Medical Association, and the New Orleans African American Museum. She is married to Dr. Andre Perry and has three children: Jade, Carlos, and Robeson.

Her love is her family; health equity is her passion; maternal and child health are her callings.

We honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today with two guest posts on “Birth Work for Equality.” Thank you to Dr. Joia and to Stacy Davis for sharing your work and your passion.

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Top Five Topics in 2015

With immense gratitude for all of our guest bloggers, here is a sampling of our most-viewed blog posts in 2015:

Thank you to all of our friends and allies who’ve helped to make 2015 FANTASTIC for moms, babies, families and communities.

Happy New Year!

<3

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Shared Voices for Equity in Birth and Breastfeeding

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Last month, HealthConnect One hosted a National Action Summit to explore birth equity – and many other topics. We asked participants what stood out to them about this gathering:

“The real commitment to reflecting on and improving community based models of care was so refreshing and inspiring,” said Kayla Harvey Nasca. “How comfortable the group was,” offered another participant. “The women clearly felt comfortable sharing and being together. There was a palpable trust in the room that bought warmth to the learning.”

Summit-015We also asked about the experience of peer-to-peer learning, which is the core of every meeting, every training, and everything we do.

Kayla shared:

I learned a lot of ways that Bold City Doula Coalition can enhance and improve our community-based doula program. I gained insight as to what my peers and colleagues are dealing with their work and how I can better support them. I learned techniques to improve my own leadership skills in order to help my organization be more successful.

I think peer-to-peer learning is much more valuable than theoretical knowledge so this summit was an amazing educational opportunity for me and my organization.

Then she wrote a whole blog post on the value of Doula Unity!

Another participant told us:
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I learned that community health workers heal themselves as they help women avoid what many of them experienced. I realized that the work is sacred not only because of what it does in the community, but because of the bonds that are built and the healing that happens within the women that do the work. I learned that it is the healing and the deep sisterhood in the work that propels women to push beyond the difficulties of the position.

It was the best learning because traditional power dynamics that are associated with learning are not present and/or openly discussed. There was an ability to be open and build trust and exchange not just words: histories, hopes, frustrations, and, positive energy.

It was a blessing to be in the space.

This is what happens when you hold space, raise questions, and wait. This. Right here.

Summit 2015 BabiesFor a glimpse of what others shared on social media during the Summit, go here.

And please – let us know what you think, too. Are you a community-based doula? A breastfeeding peer counselor? A supervisor? An ally? Are you stumbling upon us for the first time?

What burning question do you have about equity in birth and breastfeeding?

Whatever perspective you’re coming from, we’re listening.

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Fathers and Breastfeeding… What Can We Do?

by Randi McCallian, MPH, CPH, CLC, CD(DONA)

“I think it’s such a high-risk deal, and you sacrifice a lot more by breastfeeding, but people don’t understand the benefits. Like saving money, their kid is gonna be a lot healthier, the mom is going to recover faster, reducing cancer risk. A lot of parents don’t know things like that, especially like us, the younger parents. And if we aren’t informed about it, we won’t want to do it. And we’ll take the easy way out.

“I think it’s such a high-risk deal, and you sacrifice a lot more by breastfeeding, but people don’t understand the benefits. Like saving money, their kid is gonna be a lot healthier, the mom is going to recover faster, reducing cancer risk. A lot of parents don’t know things like that, especially like us, the younger parents. And if we aren’t informed about it, we won’t want to do it. And we’ll take the easy way out.”

Men often wonder what they can do to support breastfeeding, sometimes saying they feel left out when a mother breastfeeds.

What they don’t often know is…

The support of the baby’s father is the most important to a breastfeeding mother.

At MHP Salud, we surveyed and interviewed almost 100 migrant Latina mothers who are successfully breastfeeding and they said that the baby’s father was the most important person that supported them.

Many breastfeeding programs and messages focus on the mother, but now it might be time to put some of that effort into helping men know how important they are to breastfeeding success, and how they can help.

Why support breastfeeding?

Babies fed infant formula are not as healthy as babies fed breastmilk.

Breastfeeding helps protect babies* from:

  • Sickness and diseases
  • Obesity
  • Asthma and allergies
  • Some cancers
  • Dying from SIDS

And helps protect moms** from:

  • Ovarian and breast cancers
  • Heart disease
  • Osteoporosis
It’s important for dads to be “supportive with public breastfeeding, even holding the blanket to help cover her. Because public breastfeeding is going to happen... be supportive and don't be embarrassed about it

It’s important for dads to be “supportive with public breastfeeding, even holding the blanket to help cover her. Because public breastfeeding is going to happen… be supportive and don’t be embarrassed about it.”

Ways to support a breastfeeding mother: 

Breastfeeding mothers say these are a few ways you can show your support and help them breastfeed!

✔   Encourage her to breastfeed.

Babies should eat only breastmilk for the first 6 months and continue breastfeeding for at least one year. There is no limit to how long breastfeeding should last, so mother and baby can breastfeed for as long as they desire.

✔  Congratulate her for breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is hard work, and you can help her keep going!

Tell her you are proud of her!

✔   Help her breastfeed in public.

Breastfeeding in public makes many women uncomfortable. Try helping mom cover up, or go with her to a private spot to breastfeed.

✔   Burp the baby after a feeding.

Hold them on your shoulder and pat gently.

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REFERENCES:

* “Breastfeeding Benefits Your Baby’s Immune System.” HealthyChildren.org. American Academy of Pediatrics, updated August 20, 2015. Web. October 21, 2015.

** “Healthy Milk, Healthy Baby: Benefits of Breastfeeding”. National Resources Defense Council, updated March 25, 2015. Web. October 21, 2015.

MHP Salud - Randi McCallianRandi McCallian, MPH, CPH, CLC, CD(DONA)
Randi’s passion for maternal and child health has been cultivated for over a decade. She has received certifications as a birth doula, lactation counselor, and completed a Master’s Degree in Public Health. Currently, Randi directs a Breastfeeding Program with MHP Salud and has conducted some of the only known Positive Deviance Inquiry research with breastfeeding mothers in local, Latino, migrant communities. Her most recent accomplishments include the birth of a daughter and her own breastfeeding journey, as well as sitting for the IBCLC board exam.

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What works for you? Please share below!

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