Blind spots in breastfeeding support

Black Breastfeeding Week is well under way. This year, there are several local and online events to attend to celebrate Black families. Acquanda Stanford offers an upcoming webinar that will focus on the “blind spots” in breastfeeding support. skinHeader

Acquanda Stanford is a critical Black feminist anthropologist, ICTC Full Circle Doula and Certified Lactation Educator working to understand the gaping racial disparity in breastfeeding rates. She is also a PhD student of Sociocultural Anthropology, researching breastfeeding among people of African descent in the US. [Retrieved from: http://acquandastanford.com/ibclcs-new-infant-formula-webinar-video-2/]

Stanford stopped pursuing her goal to become an IBCLC when she realized that clinical work is not where her passion lies. Also while on her journey to become an IBCLC, she found that “beneath the surface the institution of breastfeeding itself [is] much more problematic.” Stanford regularly shares her work on her Lactation Journey Blog.

Last fall, Stanford published excerpts from an essay she wrote in an anthropology theory course. Stanford will examine the issues detailed in Are IBCLCs The ‘New’ Infant Formula?: A look at biopower, global sovereignty and the Proliferation of Breastfeeding Professionals in her upcoming webinar scheduled for August 31, 2014.  

“I’m looking to start a conversation – among breastfeeding professionals, among advocates, among birth professionals and birth advocates, and among anyone who is interested in examining what I believe are blind spots in breastfeeding support, and overlooked areas of what my favorite theorist, bell hooks terms ‘imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy,’ that constructs the framework of the culture we live in that seeks domination,” Stanford says of the upcoming webinar. “I believe that there are too many areas within breastfeeding professionalism that need a more in-depth examination – that need a more complicated lens, to examine the impact this can and does have on a local, national and global context.”

Below in Question & Answer (Q&A) format, Stanford expounds on her concerns, critiques and commentary here on Our Milky Way. Stay tuned for the second installment of Blind spots in breastfeeding support this Sunday.

Q: You have made it clear that you are not pinpointing any one, 10 or 100 lactation consultants in your critique of lactation professionalism. You also acknowledge an individual’s good intentions. 

“Yet good intentions don’t always lead us to a path of social justice, equity or healing. It sometimes causes a cycle of violence that is too easily overlooked, because it manifests under the guise of ‘nurturing,’ without allowing us to see the operation of the overarching structure.” 

Still, it seems that many lactation professionals respond to your ideas on the defense. What other feedback have you received from your post Are IBCLCs The ‘New’ Infant Formula?: A look at biopower, global sovereignty and the Proliferation of Breastfeeding Professionals

A: To be completely honest with you I am not all that sure what folks are saying about my post or my upcoming webinar exactly. I do know that they have each received attention from both sides of the argument – those in favor and those who are not. I’ve received some interesting emails through the contact tab of my website, that’s for sure. But it wouldn’t be realistic of me to have not expected pushback. I don’t color things up when I’m addressing racism, injustice, social domination, and whiteness, and I think it is normal for folks to go on the defensive, since the article is a straightforward critique of an area many have dedicated their efforts, and some, their lives to, and to have this area critiqued in this way is something, I’m certain, people weren’t expecting. My point is not a criticism of IBCLCs at the individual level; I know in some places the article had been referred to as an ‘attack’ on IBCLCs. And like I have said in the article I believe that at the individual level everyone wants the best. But like I mentioned in my blurb about the webinar – I’m looking for blind spots – of white supremacy, imperialism, hegemony, depoliticization and other overlooked areas of injustice that can operate via this biological site, that no one really pays attention to in this way.

Q: This is powerful: “There is a truth here about being charged to feed a baby from your own body. Our instinct is usurped by the overarching entity, whose knowledge is produced via a linear scope, and women are made to pay for this through the various fees charged by hospitals and private sector firms – underscoring the primary tenets of an economic system that is controlled by private owners for profit, and selling our bodies back to us!!

How might you suggest we begin to take back our bodies in the true sense and not simply transfer ownership?

A: Well, it’s not an individual idea. I think this means different things for different people and groups and in different contexts. I can’t say that what I know about the history of Black people in this country and what I could add to the conversation would be the same for Native communities, for example. It’s true that we share similarities when it comes to a history of social domination, and facing the brunt of the impact of colonialism, yet there are quite a number of differences in how we could address these and what ‘taking back our bodies’ really means to our community and each other.

Q: You write: “We must place greater efforts at working towards breastfeeding sovereignty and create ways to increase our knowledge of the subject at hand in our community at the local level — by organizing, and making more people involved and aware, because we are all responsible. And should all be in the know. And then we can return the power to the people — which is where it belongs.”

Are there any breastfeeding advocacy organizations that you feel address the root of the issues you present, as opposed to taking a top down approach?

A: All of this is quite more complex than a simple answer to a question. So far, I think that peer support definitely seems to reflect a more egalitarian picture among the tradition. I think there are those out there who concentrate on breastfeeding who discuss the foundation of disparities, and who work to really return this tradition back to people and their communities. I have been inspired by people inside and outside of the breastfeeding realm by individuals and organizations, who range from ancestors and other folks in our contemporary times, who work on challenging injustice.

To read more from Stanford, visit: http://acquandastanford.com/lactationjourneyblog/

Don’t forget to sign up to participate in Are IBCLCs The ‘New’ Infant Formula? webinar. Space is limited. To register, visit: http://acquandastanford.com/ibclcs-new-infant-formula-webinar-video-2/

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