When Meah El, SFW, TCP, CBE, a Full-Spectrum Doula, Education Specialist, Doula Team Leader and Cribs for Kids Coordinator at The Foundation for Delaware County, was just eight years old, she landed her first job. On summer trips to New England, El would help her aunt in her in-home daycare. When her aunt gave birth to a premature baby in her late forties, El was the only one her aunt trusted in helping out with the baby.
“I always say that my career found me,” El reflects.
“I loved it ever since,” she says. “Birth work is the crème de la crème.”
El remembers one of her first clients, a 15-year-old mother, and struggles to put into words just how amazing it felt to help a birthing mother.
To enhance her ability to support lactating and breastfeeding clients, El took a breastfeeding course with Nikki Lee and now, she is one of the latest recipients to earn the Accessing the Milky Way scholarship which covers the Lactation Counselor Training Course (LCTC). A colleague of hers is also working through the LCTC, so they have scheduled a weekly meet up to review the course material together.
El is dedicated to helping BIPOC families reach their breastfeeding goals and dedicated to improving overall health within BIPOC communities through healthy infant feeding.
While Chester and Delaware counties have relatively high breastfeeding initiation rates, the overall infant feeding culture “hushes” breastfeeding, and BIPOC families are up against barriers to breastfeeding like lack of education, familial support, and skilled lactation care, as El explains.
During Black Breastfeeding Week (BBW) 2023, El facilitated a celebration complete with henna artists, reiki sessions, infant foot massage, aromatouch hand massages for parents, brunch and a breastfeeding photo shoot. El will curate the images from the photo shoot into an art installation during next year’s BBW celebration.
Moreover, El is working to establish a lactation cafe, a peer breastfeeding support group run by breastfeeding champions in the community, and mini trainings for staff at The Foundation.
In order to combat breastfeeding misinformation on social media, El will create social media “shorts” with practical breastfeeding information that will be disseminated through the organizations channels. El is also in the process of working with the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to recognize breastfeeding-friendly businesses.
All of these efforts are part of El’s goal to create a supportive environment around breastfeeding.
“If there’s no community support and no support at home, [the system] is built to fail,” El begins. “I want everyone to win.”
El encourages Our Milky Way readers to share their breastfeeding photos on social media and tag #delcobreastfeeds in order to normalize breastfeeding. She also reminds readers to explore the multitude of programs available at The Foundation for Delaware County. You can contact El directly for direction.