Ileana Berrios, CLC is a mother, doula and Philadelphia WIC Breastfeeding Manager. Berrios praises Philadelphia as a breastfeeding-friendly city with Baby-Friendly Hospitals, organizations dedicated to maternal child health like Maternity Care Coalition, and a sisterhood among women of color.
“Women in the community are now breastfeeding openly in public, engage more on social media, serve as mentors for one another, and proudly promote breastfeeding,” she explains.
Still, Berrios recognizes racial disparities among lactation professionals in her area. She created the group Breastfeeding Latinas to address these disparities, call for culturally appropriate and culturally safe care, and to provide a resource to women of color in her community.
Inspired by the National First Food Racial Equity Cohort, Berrios, through her group, created a scholarship program that will award one person from a network of community doulas tuition to attend the Lactation Counselor Training Course.
Members of the community doula network have been provided with instructions on how to apply for the scholarship. At present, a board of current CLCs is being established who will ultimately review the applications and choose a winner together. The scholarship recipient will be announced at The Global BIG Latch On in Philadelphia on August 5, 2017.
“[Members of] the Community Doula Network have expressed their excitement towards this opportunity,” Berrios says. “Many doulas have already shared their interest and desire to become a CLC or breastfeeding peer counselor. Doulas are beginning to see this opportunity as a way to engage with more women in the community.”
Next year, Breastfeeding Latinas will extend multiple scholarship opportunities to other networks of women who work with the mother baby dyad, Berrios reports.
Berrios completed the Lactation Counselor Training Course in 2013 while working with WIC.
“I was amazed at the amount of clinical information the CLC training provided,” she says. “I consider this training to be the necessary step towards any human lactation profession.”
Because the information was “entirely new” to her, Berrios admits feeling overwhelmed during her training. Not discouraged though, Berrios continues her journey as an IBCLC candidate.
Going forward, Berrios hopes to see the emergence of accessible, culturally appropriate maternity and lactation care and less restrictive insurance policies.
“Healthy People 2020 has high expectations for breastfeeding rates and Breastfeeding Latinas wishes to add fuel to the fire when it comes to improving initiation and duration rates,” Berrios begins. “But we first must start by providing high-quality support which can be accessible to any woman of any color from all socioeconomic backgrounds.”
Finally, she sees the need for insurance companies to cover doula care and care provided by CLCs.
In her community, she has found that more CLCs provide support than IBCLCs, but only IBCLCs can bill insurance. It’s vital that the work of CLCs is recognized and rewarded for improving maternal child health outcomes, she says.