Babies and mothers were born to breastfeed, to dance a primal dance. Booby Traps aside, mother infant dyads have a remarkable ability to form an intimate relationship without intervention. What happens while baby is at the breast, is far more than simply filling a belly.
Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE) held its 2014 Summit this summer– Black Health Matters: A Breastfeeding Movement where distinguished psychologist Dr. Edwin Nichols and others spoke about maternal infant health and achieving health equity.
Bugg reiterates Dr. Nichols’ conclusion that different ethnic groups exhibit different thought processes and structures.
“African Americans are [generally] relationship-[focused],” she explains. “If you disrespect us then we shut down and we don’t hear anything else you have to say.”
Bugg has found this phenomenon to be “amazingly accurate” as it “blatantly manifests itself” in much of her work.
Surveys as part of the Best Fed Beginnings project–a nationwide effort to make quality improvements to maternity care to better support mothers and babies to be able to breastfeed– reveal tension between predominantly white nursing staff and black mothers.
Bugg observes that medical staff often direct breastfeeding, rattling instructions rather than forming a relationship with mothers. When lactation professionals form positive relationships with mothers, mothers in turn form strong relationships with their babies.
“Let her know that you care about her,” Bugg reminds.
With this caring, mother-centered approach, mothers are receptive and generally leave the hospital breastfeeding.
Through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, ROSE is expanding its culturally proficient breastfeeding education programs.
One of those, the Black Breastfeeding Circle collaborative (BBC) is a national initiative to unite health care providers ranging from physicians to community health workers with a vested interest in black infant and maternal health through addressing breastfeeding disparities. (View the complete webcast from the BBC held in April.)
As a member of the United States Breastfeeding Committee’s (USBC) Board of Directors, Bugg observes that the majority of the representation is made up of older, white women.
“Because there are so few people of color, they don’t speak to the concerns of African American families,” Bugg says.
But BBCs were not created to build new coalitions. Instead, BBCs exist to immediately address the needs of the most vulnerable.
“…Once equity comes, we can just fold into the existing coalitions,” Bugg explains.
“No one is trying to be exclusive,” she continues. “We want to include everybody. We have this sense of urgency. Our babies are suffering and everyone is welcome [to help.]”
Another program, Breastfeeding League In a Kindred Setting or B-LINKS is a free breastfeeding club where mothers and expecting mothers can share experiences.
ROSE trains and nurtures mothers who have successfully breastfed into community transformers who then lead B-LINKS. These mothers come from all different walks of life and may or may not be WIC eligible.
Community transformers’ mission is to educate female family figures about breastfeeding and work to integrate evidence-based breastfeeding information into community places like churches, libraries and YMCAs.
Other expanding ROSE initiatives include Reaching Our Brothers Everywhere and Summit of the South.
Bugg says there is a tremendous need for more Community Transformers. The training application can be found here.
For more on ROSE, visit their website here.