Where Do You Look For Strength? #ThrowbackThursday 1995

Since 1986, community health workers have been sharing their personal stories with HealthConnect One — stories of peer counseling, of childbirth, of breastfeeding, of pumping — stories of labor, and supporting the choices made by sisters and neighbors and friends. These stories are shared to motivate one another, to connect or to inspire, and they are timeless.

Here’s one from our Winter 1995 Peer Counselor Newsletter, Natural Times.

Where Do You Look For Strength?

by Assunta Osterholt

TBT 3 5 2015Once you start working in the breastfeeding community and you repeatedly come across inadequacies towards breastfeeding, and unjust practices towards women and infant feeding, where do you look for strength?

I know some look to their “God.” Some talk to others of like mind. Maybe you read a book that reaffirms what you always knew to be true. Some will get recharged by attending a conference. Others become active members of organizations in the field. Still, time and time again, we are confronted with many different challenges. Some of these challenges can be very exhausting. I often ask myself, when will that turning point be, when breastfeeding is considered the norm and bottle feeding is known to be the abnormal?

To help me get through these difficult times, I close my eyes, breathe deep, and relax. I mentally visualize such a turning point in society. After awhile, I open my eyes … I look at my children and they seem to put everything into perspective for me.

So, sister, carry on. Peace.

TBT 3 5 2015 masthead

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NICU Dad’s Breastfeeding Journey

For Black History Month, HealthConnect One is partnering with Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE), MomsRising, and National Association of Professional and Peer Lactation Supporters of Color (NAPPLSC) to celebrate the work of people, organizations and institutions who make a positive impact on breastfeeding in African-American communities.

This is the sixth and final guest post in our Black History Month blog series.

by John E. Bridges, Jr.

NICU Dad and PC - John BridgesMy name is John E. Bridges, Jr. and I am a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor.

My Journey began when my daughter Amiya was born and it was discovered that she had Hirschsprung Disease. This disease is when certain cells in the large intestine are not active. Because of this disease, at 3 weeks of age she had to have 3 surgeries which ended with her wearing a colostomy bag — so she could have regular bowel movements. Her small intestine got long enough as she was growing so it could be connected to her rectum at 9 months of age, because the Hirschsprung Disease had killed most of the cells in her large intestine and a small part of her small intestine.

Amazingly, her mother breastfeeding — by way of a Grade A hospital breast pump — kept our daughter from catching colds and other sicknesses that affect a normal baby. The breast milk also made the cells in her small intestine much stronger, able to adapt to the different foods she was eating as she grew.

The knowledge I learned about the importance of breast milk, and the support I received from a lady name Paula Meier and her team, changed my life!! I began to understand that Breast milk is not just milk, but it’s medicine for your baby … and … skin to skin with both parents is equally important. These two natural tools are some of the best and most cost effective ways to nurture our babies.

I am also discovering new frontiers that the breastfeeding family as a whole has not talked about much, especially: Men as the main nurturing support for mom and baby.

Men can and do:

  • Clean the breast pump
  • Keep mom’s environment as stress-free as possible so her milk won’t dry up
  • Provide hand and foot massages
  • Listen to mom’s heart; listen to what she wants to share
  • Listen to baby’s heart, as a way of connection
  • Help mom with a healthy diet
  • Do skin to skin, not only for the baby but for the mom, as well, when needed

This support is extremely important.

I believe the more men get involved, especially in the African American community, the more we are able to do whole family healing and education on the importance of breastfeeding, skin to skin, what are facts vs. theory, then more grandmothers, grandfathers, aunties, uncles and friends can love this new precious soul with unrestricted and unconditional love. These are some of the foundations of creating a strong family.

It takes a village to raise a baby.

Photo Credit: Helen Dimas

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Breastfeeding is Not a Private Issue

For Black History Month, HealthConnect One is partnering with Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE), MomsRising, and National Association of Professional and Peer Lactation Supporters of Color (NAPPLSC) to celebrate the work of people, organizations and institutions who make a positive impact on breastfeeding in African-American communities.

This is the fifth guest post in our Black History Month blog series.

by Rosetta M. Walls
Rosetta Walls photo in Time Out Chicago July 2012

My name is Rosetta M. Walls and I’m a former Breastfeeding Peer Counselor with HealthConnect One. I inadvertently became a counselor by taking the class to find out how to get my “Boob-Head” son off my breast. He was a little over one years old and I was totally exhausted from nursing. Amazingly, by the time I completed this class and bonded with those wonderful mothers, I nursed him till two-and-half years old.

It’s funny how you seek out something to end a journey only to discover another one that’s been awaiting you to embrace it. I knew this was the direction I was to undertake because I loved educating and promoting breastfeeding.

I smiled everyday just knowing I was about to educate a mom on the importance of her God-given breast milk to increase the healthiness of her baby, and to see that baby latch properly on her breast was a wonderful feeling. Why? The HEALTH journey began.

Actually, it begins every time a woman becomes pregnant. It’s amazing how her body changes not only to accommodate the hibernation of that precious baby but the nutrition to feed it – nutrition to combat diabetes, asthma, and one of today’s society top health villains: OBESITY. If mom does not eat healthy, her children will not, as well. Everything starts at home!

But breastfeeding should not be looked upon as a private issue. It needs to be embraced more in the public.

From what I’ve gathered, young ladies (16-25) in the African American community are not exposed to breastfeeding, nor are they taught how their grand or great grandmothers nursed their parents. HealthConnect One Peer Counselors do an outstanding job in disseminating breastfeeding information to young mothers and families all over the State of Illinois, especially where there is misinformation or a lack of information.

When one is educated with Respect – not just tolerance – a light radiates in one’s soul. Then transformation of the mindset begins. I’ve seen it time and time again.

Breastfeeding is not only giving the best nutrition to our babies. It also strengthens the bond between mother and child, something that is truly missing in today’s society among families. It’s nothing like seeing the love in a mother’s eyes as she nurses her child and those beautiful eyes of the baby looking up at her. Wow! I miss this job.

I would like to see our Junior Colleges and Universities incorporate a class, even if it is an elective, about Breastfeeding. This way, it becomes mainstream in society, opening minds to the great importance of the subject. It will help to alleviate the ignorance of just viewing a woman giving her breast to a baby and will help the nay-sayers understand the benefits of nursing for the both of them.

You’ve probably gathered I can go on and on about this subject. Even in my present job, I still talk to moms – and especially expectant moms – on the importance of breastfeeding.

I just want people to understand it is a beautiful and self-less act for a woman to give of her body for a healthy baby. A healthy baby means less visits to the doctor’s office, less time taken off work, less worries about catching sickness and diseases, and more money in the family’s pocket. What a win-win situation.

Thank you for allowing me to express my views and experiences.

Rosetta M. Walls took the 2010 Access training for Breastfeeding Peer Counselors through HealthConnect One, and then worked as a Peer Counselor at John Stroger Cook County Hospital. Ms. Walls left to continue her education. Although she no longer does rounds in the hospital setting, she is a Peer Counselor at heart and continues to help mothers in her community.   

 Now we want to hear from you! 

Please comment below, or tweet your thoughts with the hashtag #BlkBFing.

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Helping Mom and Baby Breastfeed

For Black History Month, HealthConnect One is partnering with Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE), MomsRising, and National Association of Professional and Peer Lactation Supporters of Color (NAPPLSC) to celebrate the work of people, organizations and institutions who make a positive impact on breastfeeding in African-American communities.

This is the fourth guest post in our Black History Month blog series.

by Dana Posley, CLC

Dana Posley picI have been educating and supporting mothers on breastfeeding since 1996.

After having my first daughter Jaylin, I not only felt a connection between the two of us but also a connection to the experience of breastfeeding. It wasn’t until signing up for WIC services for my son in 2009, however, that I became aware of the “Wonderful World of Lactation” as a career. As a result of that encounter, I was connected with HealthConnect One to become trained as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor (PC), and within two years of becoming a PC, I obtained my CLC certification.

I have worked at multiple locations throughout the City of Chicago and suburban areas assisting, supporting and educating mothers and their support people on the joys of breastfeeding.

One joyous moment that sticks out for me occurred while working for a local WIC office. I encountered a mother who was determined to breastfeed her first baby. Mom came into the office wanting a Latch Assessment because she felt the baby was not latching right and he was constantly crying whenever feeding took place. When the Mom came for a visit, I asked for her opinion and thoughts, followed by an observation of a feeding to get an idea of what was happening when baby tried to nurse. Through my training, I recognized that the baby had a tight frenulum and as a result, he could not latch properly. I worked with the Mom to have the Pediatrician verify what I thought was occurring. After some back and forth conversation with the Pediatrician to refer baby to an ENT Specialist for the frenulum to be clipped, baby was able to properly latch. Mom felt good about her decision not to give up and baby began to gain weight as needed. As for me, I felt as if I empowered this Mom to care for her baby the way she had planned and this confirmed my decision to become a full-time Lactation Counselor.

An area of breastfeeding support that is being overlooked is providing Moms with the mental tools needed to survive the first four weeks postpartum. Any previously breastfeeding Mom will tell you how difficult the first four weeks are when breastfeeding. Those first four weeks will test a Mom’s character and strength. A Mom needs support to handle the emotions of being a new mother, add the physical changes that she is experiencing, and she needs help to keep her support people supportive of her feeding decision.

My go-to education for Moms would be the Improving Latch by Improving Positioning videos by Jessica Barton, available on YouTube. Her series of videos demonstrates how making babies comfortable in their positions will get the most effective and accurate latch needed for successful feeding.

If you are interested in helping a Mom and Baby successfully breastfeed, try these simple tips:

  1. Make Moms feel at ease and offer up assistance if needed.
  2. Empower Moms to feed, regardless of location.
  3. Offer encouraging words of support.
  4. Post “Breastfeeding Welcome” signs, so that everyone knows breastfeeding is welcome in your facilities.
  5. Support your local Breastfeeding Task Force, Groups, Clubs or Organizations.

Thank you!

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Dana Posley is a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) and Breastfeeding Peer Counselor (PC) working with the wonderful mothers in the City of Chicago. She is the proud wife of 15 years to Rev. Gregory Posley, Sr. and mother to four beautiful children, all breastfed between 2 ½ years and 3 years-1 week! She is also past Chairperson for the Chicago Region Breastfeeding Task Force, in 2013 and 2014.

 

 Now we want to hear from you! 

Please comment below, or tweet your thoughts with the hashtag #BlkBFing.

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On Infant Feeding: Research, Support and Community

For Black History Month, HealthConnect One is partnering with Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE), MomsRising, and National Association of Professional and Peer Lactation Supporters of Color (NAPPLSC) to celebrate the work of people, organizations and institutions who make a positive impact on breastfeeding in African-American communities.

This is the third guest post in our Black History Month blog series.

by Ifeyinwa V. Asiodu, PhD, RN, IBCLC
Postdoctoral Research Associate, UIC College of Nursing
Board Member, California Breastfeeding Coalition


Can you talk about your commitment to breastfeeding support, and how you began?

My interest and commitment to infant feeding support developed out of my clinical, graduate, and personal experiences.  As a public health nurse working with pregnant and parenting African American women and their families, I observed infant feeding disparities within our client population.  At intake, the majority of our clients would state an intention to exclusively breastfeed; however many clients encountered challenges (e.g. lack of support and limited resources) and were unable to successfully initiate or maintain breastfeeding for a significant amount of time.  Subsequently, I often dealt with the emotional ramifications of unsuccessful breastfeeding as clients would blame themselves or their bodies.  I became an IBCLC in an effort to better support my clients, their families, and the community.


What is an area of breastfeeding support that is being overlooked and what should be done about it?

One area currently being overlooked is the amount of funding allocated to infant feeding research.  In a perfect world, this area of research would be funded at the same level as other important public health initiatives.  There are a number of excellent researchers and graduate students working in this area right now.  Additional funding and support would assist in the development and implementation of evidence-based programs and systemic changes.


What is an area of breastfeeding support you find encouraging or powerful?

The mobilization of women, families and communities is very encouraging.  There are a number of community based organizations and coalitions throughout the country doing such wonderful work — e.g. A More Excellent Way, West Oakland Health Council, Soul Food for Your Baby, Black Breastfeeding 360, Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE), Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association, African American Breastfeeding Network, HealthConnect One, and Uzazi Village, to name a few.

I am equally encouraged by the local, state and national discourse around infant feeding inequities and the lack of diversity within the lactation profession.  More and more organizations are committing themselves to help marginalized communities overcome the historical, social, cultural and structural barriers associated with infant feeding.

In addition, the breastfeeding support being provided through different social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) is very powerful.  Pages such as Black Women Do Breastfeed, Normalize Breastfeeding.Org, and The African American Breastfeeding Project are engaging women and communities on a whole new level, while the Teach Me How to Breastfeed YouTube video reinforced the importance of utilizing different forms of media.


What’s your favorite breastfeeding resource (i.e., article, blog post, video, website)?

There are so many great breastfeeding resources available right now; however my favorite resource would have to be The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding (2011) issued by Dr. Regina M. Benjamin.  This pivotal document outlined critical issues concerning infant feeding and provided strategies to improve breastfeeding initiation and duration rates by focusing on a number of key areas (e.g. mothers and families, communities, health care system, employment, research and surveillance, and public health infrastructure).


What is one thing the person reading this can do to support breastfeeding moms in African-American communities? Or to support your work/research/projects specifically?

One thing any person can do to support breastfeeding moms in African American communities is…Ask Open-Ended Questions.  Instead of making assumptions (e.g. this person or group is not going to breastfeed or only wants to use formula), have a conversation with your client(s).  Ask, “How are you planning on feeding your baby?” or “Have you thought about your infant feeding options?”  Also, inquire about future plans (e.g. “How long would you like to breastfeed for?” or “What is your goal?”) and if applicable “When are you planning on returning to work or school?” and “How can I support you during your infant feeding or breastfeeding journey?”  Other areas to inquire about include: previous infant feeding experiences with family and friends, identified support persons (e.g. partners, grandmothers, friends, church members, etc.), and knowledge of local infant feeding resources.


Any other thoughts or comments?

Infant feeding, specifically breastfeeding is such an important public health issue.  I am honored to be part of this community.  Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts on this subject.

 

Dr. Asiodu earned her PhD in Nursing from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Nursing in 2014.  She is also a graduate of UCSF’s Master of Science in Nursing program, in addition to receiving her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Southern California.  Dr. Asiodu has been a Registered Nurse since 2003 and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) since 2011.  Dr. Asiodu’s clinical expertise is in Public Health, specifically Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health programs.  Her research is focused on identifying barriers and facilitators to breastfeeding initiation and continuation in the African American community.

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Please comment below… AND please join us for a Twitter Chat TODAY: Wednesday, February 18th at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (1:00 p.m. Central), by using the hashtags #BlkBFing and #WellnessWed.

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