If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

In preparation for our National Action Summit this fall, we asked Tamela Milan, longtime community health worker and a member of our Board of Directors, to share a few words on this year’s theme, “Shared Voices for Equity in Birth and Breastfeeding.”

Tamela Milan at U.S. Congressional Briefing, February 2015

Tamela Milan at U.S. Congressional Briefing ~ February 2015

Can you talk about your commitment to birth and breastfeeding support, and how you began? I began as a first time mom and as part of a team.

Where do you see inequities in the birth and breastfeeding experience? Stigma mostly in the African American communities that breastfeeding is not acceptable.

What can (or should) be done about these inequities? Start talking early with school age children about the importance and significance of breastfeeding and other maternal and child health issues.

What is an area of the birth or breastfeeding experience you find encouraging or powerful? How mom and baby bond is the fondest part of the process.

Can you share an experience that let you know you were in the right field? I had a client who was scared and actually was embarrassed to try breastfeeding in front of her friends and family. We made sure that the baby latched on and explained in our home visits that the good was much more worthy than the newest dance sensation in the streets, so I told her, “If you can learn that, you can definitely learn this.”

What’s your favorite birth or breastfeeding resource? Case Management and Doulas

What is one thing the person reading this can do to support equity in birth and breastfeeding? Support the services aimed to help our underserved and underfunded programs!

Any other thoughts or comments? No matter your background or where you come from, just remember that you will always be the best thing your baby ever has so give them a healthy start.


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Fire, Glass, Art and Relationships

HealthConnect One is gearing up for our annual cocktail party and fundraiser in Chicago and we are planning for one HOT night. Fired Up! is the name of this popular, fun event on June 11, 2015 and it will feature music, dancing, delicious foods and for the first time ever — an artist who will create art using fire and glass.

I See YouPearl Dick has been working with glass for 15 years and is represented in galleries and private collections nationally and worldwide. She has worked with youth from Chicago’s South and West sides, teaching glassblowing and art making since 2006 and is the director of the Glassworks Program, an after-school glass art program funded by After School Matters that combines art-making with community art projects and public works.

Pearl is currently studying art therapy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is partnering with the University of Chicago, Comer Children’s Hospital, Healing Hurt People Chicago, and Ignition Community Glass on a research project exploring the therapeutic benefits of working with glass for youth who have been victims of violence on Chicago’s South side. 

HC One: Relationships are the cornerstone of HealthConnect One’s community-based work and I understand that relationships have a strong role in your art. Can you tell about that?

Pearl: The connections we form with each other throughout our lives have always been fascinating to me. I choose to celebrate our human relationships in my art because I feel like we can better understand ourselves and our own place in the world through these interactions.

HC One: What is the most challenging aspect of working with the medium of glass?

Pearl: Glass is a technically challenging medium — no matter how naturally inclined you are, it just takes time to gain the proficiency to express yourself accurately. Working with glass is very physical and requires teamwork and communication, so unlike other art forms where you may be able to work alone, with complicated glass sculptures, you’re always interacting, planning, and directing your team. Also, it’s extremely hot — you’re sculpting a material that is 2000 degrees F. So, yeah, glass is challenging, but rewarding — overcoming these challenges is also what I love about working with glass.

HC One: What about doing a live event like this one do you enjoy?

Pearl: So many people have never seen glassblowing up close — I love to turn people on to this art form that I have so much passion for. It’s like a performance art piece when you’re sculpting glass in front of a crowd — I pick up on their energy and they become part of the artwork.

HC One: Our event is also a kick-off to summer. Is there something you’re really looking forward to this summer?

Pearl: I work with youth in underserved communities teaching glass and have applied to a scholarship program offered through the Corning Museum of Glass in NY on behalf of a very talented young artist to attend a week-long workshop in July with a mentor. It’s an amazing opportunity and if we get it, it will be the first time she will have traveled outside of Chicago — I’m really proud of the work that she has done and hoping we get this opportunity — fingers crossed!

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Don’t be left out, get your tickets today:



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Maria Briseño, on Why She is Running for USBC Midwest Regional Representative

by Maria Briseño, Breastfeeding Peer Counselor and Candidate for Midwest Regional Representative to the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC)

Maria BrisenoMy name is Maria Briseño. I’m from Mexico and was raised in the United States. Culturally, I identify myself as a woman, wife and mother — then lastly, as a Mexican.

In my community, I have served as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor for 17 years and as an advocate for mothers and babies. I have been involved with the local breastfeeding task force for 12 years and now participate in the State Breastfeeding calls for Illinois. I’m keeping up with what is happening at the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) by reading any new updates on the website.

I’m interested in running as a candidate for USBC Midwest Regional Representative because I started noticing that my community in Southeast Chicago is forgotten when it comes to breastfeeding support.

Mothers believe that our community does not care about them and their babies so they travel to hospitals outside their community to seek what is often perceived as better healthcare for themselves and children. They travel to communities where hospitals offer prenatal classes and breastfeeding support groups and where families can afford to pay for lactation services. Sadly, once they go home, they do not have access to support or resources in our community. Why? It’s a different culture. Due to acculturation in our community, we have lost our rich tradition and we are not often exposed to nursing babies, mothers walking around wearing their babies, and attachment parenting. Our breastfeeding rates are low. Our local delivering hospital is in the process of becoming Baby-Friendly, but that is not enough.

I felt as a native of Southeast Chicago, being an advocate for those mothers and babies I serve, it was time to stand up and wave to get attention on my community — and let my community know that I care, and other people care about our community.

As a woman of color, I feel that my community needs to see more people that represent them by not just a feeding method, but they need to see someone they can identify with, who supports their culture. Some mothers stay home to successfully breastfeed and to raise a family. I understand them, support them with the barriers they face, and empower them to set up small goals and reach them.

Breastfeeding equity does not exist in minority mothers due to their daily struggles.

Minds can change if you listen, affirm and support moms on the first reason they share for choosing not to breastfeed. Why? It’s not always understanding how breastfeeding works. It can be the stories people told them on the reason you should not breastfeed. The media portrays minority mothers in so many bad ways that they associate it by saying nursing is for the poor.

We need to see minority mothers nurse their babies, by providing available support in their language and sharing how it can be a true breastfeeding success for mom and baby. They learn to understand themselves and make that connection. It empowers a mom to give her baby the best start by breastfeeding.


 HealthConnect One is committed to sharing a variety of perspectives on pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting, and we deeply appreciate each guest for sharing her/his own experience.

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Mother’s Day 2015

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms, the moms-to-be, and mom-supporters from every walk of life!

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How has Breastfeeding Changed My Life? #ThrowbackThursday 2001

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 a story from Summer 2001’s Natural Times, our Peer Counselor, Doula and Teen Peer Leader Newsletter.

How has Breastfeeding Changed My Life?

by Latasha Sandoval, Teen Peer Leader (2001)

Breastfeeding has encouraged my heart to search out more health benefits for my family. It has really improved my relationship with my family and others. It helps my self-esteem and I feel more confident as a woman. It promotes social conversations and there are less hospital trips. I can say that breastfeeding has made me more conscious of the type of clothing I purchase or wear. It really encourages me to eat healthier and feed my whole family healthier foods.

TBT 5 7 2015
Has breastfeeding changed your life, too?


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Filed under Breastfeeding, CHW Voices, Throwback Thursday