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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