Implementing the possible

Gill Thomson presents at the International Breastfeeding and MAINN Conference.

When you hear Dr. Gill Thomson talk about birth trauma, or when you learn how poorly the U.S. scores on the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi) assessment, or when you witness maternal child health advocates reluctant to acknowledge the effects of racism, it’s easy to feel stunned and helpless; like the work we’re doing is taking us nowhere. But then there are the encouraging, triumphant moments like when the U.S. Senate introduced the Supporting Working Moms Act of 2017, when a breastfeeding emoji emerged, and when Camie Goldhammer breastfed her daughter healing the past, reclaiming her culture.

This year’s International Breastfeeding and MAINN Conference held both discouraging and uplifting moments sparking abundant energy. This week’s post is an attempt to channel that energy into actionable items.  “Don’t let the vision of the ideal prevent the implementation of the possible,”   Dr. Renée Flacking quoted Healthy Children Project (HCP) Executive Director Karin Cadwell reminding us all the importance of moving forward.

Jeni Stevens, George and Jess take a selfie at the conference.
  • Assess your state breastfeeding coalition. What are its priorities? Do those priorities reflect its focus? How is it serving your communities? HCP’s state by state WBTi assessment helps states pinpoint where they need to focus efforts. HCP faculty suggest connecting with other coalitions in states that scored high in areas where your state lacks. Use them as models. In places where conferences or licensure is the main focus, switch gears and do something with this report.

 

  • Self reflect. Generational trauma and racism undeniably and profoundly affect People of Color. Maybe we aren’t slave owners, maybe we don’t don white hoods, so it can be challenging to admit and accept that each day, we participate in systems that oppress. “It’s a sucky system to be in,” NAPPLSC’s Felisha Floyd acknowledged. “It was none of our choices to be in it.”  But without reflection and ownership of these inequities, we’ll never achieve equity for those who suffer most.  You can take Project Implicit’s social attitudes test which measures implicit associations about race, gender, sexual orientation, and other topics here.

 

  • In this light, call out racism when you see it. “Normalize uncomfortable conversations. You can’t grow from comfort. Be change agents,” Floyd suggested.

 

 

  • Help Nikki Lee make breastfeeding safe for mothers living in shelters. Provide feedback on her 10 Steps to a Breastfeeding Friendly Shelter (Scroll down for document). Email her at nleeguitar@aol.com.

 

 

 

 

  • Submit pieces about breastfeeding to media outlets. Breastfeeding is not often positively or accurately portrayed in mainstream media. Let’s change that! Write a piece about how breastfeeding is disease prevention, empowering, the epitome of eating local, etc. etc. etc.

 

  • Stop centering yourself in others’ narratives. Birth and lactation professionals are not heroines meant to save the day; we are “facilitators”, as Floyd puts it.

 

  • Seek out stakeholders. Infant feeding is at the core of… everything. Find parallel advocacy groups and join forces.

 

Nikki Lee’s draft of 10 Steps to a Breastfeeding-Friendly Shelter

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