AABN was founded by Angelia Wilks-Tate and Dalvery Blackwell who set out to address breastfeeding disparities through a community-led organization. Blackwell now serves as the organization’s first executive director and Wilks-Tate serves as the President of the Board Directors.
Yesterday, the organization and its partners hosted their ninth annual Lift Up Every Baby! Celebration. Lift Up Every Baby “is all about the blissful happiness we experience when our community comes together to celebrate, securing our collective power to help create spaces of health and wellness!” the organization shared with their social media followers. Pregnant people and young families were invited to experience a community-drive and “family-centered afternoon of festivities, celebrations, good food and positive vibes.”
In Western culture, we tend to trust the process of pregnancy and the capability of a human body to grow and nourish a fetus, but there’s a moment between then and the approaching birth of the baby and beyond when that confidence is lost. Among other reasons, loss of trust in the female body forces mostly unnecessary and often harmful interventions on the process of labor and birth. Thereafter, though the safest place for most newborns immediately after birth is skin-to-skin with their birthing parent, common maternity practices often strip the dyad of this sacred, critical transition diminishing the capability of the mother and the infant.
It’s an “excellent overview of the huge quantity of evidence supporting skin-to-skin contact after birth and give evidence-based guidelines, endorsing the recommendations of the World Health Organisation, that ‘immediate, continuous, uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact should be the standard of care for all mothers and all babies (from 1000 grams with experienced staff if assistance is needed), after all modes of birth,’” Andrew Whitelaw writes in this editorial.
In the review, the expert panel– representing all continents but Antarctica– sifted through roughly 8,000 articles and ultimately pared down to only include those with a clear definition of immediate, continuous, uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact.
The panel concluded that “delaying non-essential routine care in favour of uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact after birth has been shown to be safe and allows for the progression of newborns through their instinctive behaviours.”
The guideline includes the Pragmatic Implementation Guide for Skin-to-Skin Contact after Birth which serves as a how-to for staff, preparing them to facilitate skin-to-skin contact before and during the birth. The document is downloadable here: Appendix S1.
Brimdyr points out that none of the information presented is new; instead it’s consolidated in a way that hasn’t been done before.
“It takes the expertise of so many people and puts it in one place,” she explains.
Brimdyr says she believes it will give practitioners the confidence to make this practice work for moms and their infants.
“All of these babies, all of our mothers really deserve this opportunity,” Brimdyr advocates. “They deserve to have the best start. This research is so well established… the fact that we’re not doing it everywhere is absolutely upsetting.”
Also last month, Brimdyr released a new film, The 9 Stages of Premature Infants, which documents the nine stages as demonstrated by premature infants. The film brings to life the implementation of facilitating skin-to-skin for this population of infants and their parents.
“There is something absolutely magical seeing how capable babies are that really transforms any words on a page into reality,” Brimdyr says. “The research has been there to say premature babies can do this, but it’s so much more powerful to see premature infants do this.”
You can find a collection of skin-to-skin research here.
The amount of work that needs to be done to improve families’ lives can sometimes feel paralyzing. Over the next few weeks though, individuals and organizations will have the opportunity to engage with an important endeavor: submitting comments on the most recent World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative’s (WBTi) report for the United States and territories.
This year, the subject matter expert panel is calling on any individual with an interest in maternal child health to submit their comments on the next update by June 30. In order to include any initiative on the report, the information must be documented on a publicly available source.
It has been 10 years since we authored our first blog post here on Our Milky Way. Ten. Years. This milestone is accompanied by a myriad of emotions!
I’m so proud of our collection of publications, promoting fantastic work by fantastic people.
I am stunned by the elusiveness of time; I first took the Lactation Counselor Training Course (LCTC)– which propelled me into this work– when my first child was only a few months old and now she is 11.
I am deeply grateful for everything I’ve learned from our participants and my colleagues and mentors who have shaped this blog. It’s such a thrill to connect with people across the continent and across the oceans, and I consider it such a privilege to have spent time with all of the beautiful minds featured on this blog.
I am both discouraged and encouraged. Scrolling through a decade’s worth of stories leaves me inspired by maternal child health advocates’ tireless work and triumphs both big and small. Lactation spaces have been carved out and employers have adopted breastfeeding-friendly policies, breastfeeding murals have been painted, generous human milk donations have been made, babies have gone skin-to-skin in the operating room, World Breastfeeding Weeks have been celebrated, important research has been conducted and published, and the accomplishments go on and on!
I’m also disheartened by the darker spaces where negative forces are at play like conflict among care providers, our culture’s disconnect between birth and breastfeeding, systemic racism, no paid parental leave, and the pervasive industry influence in infant feeding and beyond. These, among other forces, leave the United States consistently dangling near the bottom of the WBTi World Ranking list.
Despite our country’s poor performance in supporting healthy beginnings, I still find myself with a sense of wonder and cautious optimism for what the next decade holds for familial, community and global health.
In celebration of Our Milky Way’s 10th birthday, we’re launching a series called “Breastfeeding is…” For ten weeks, we will revisit a topic that describes breastfeeding. This series was inspired specifically by our 2013 piece Breastfeeding is… where Healthy Children Project faculty emeritus Barbara O’Connor, RN, BSN, IBCLC, ANLC discusses what breastfeeding can be and the cultural forces at odds with positive health outcomes.
Join us in celebrating and honoring healthy infant feeding by sharing what breastfeeding means to you. You can post in the comments below, find us on social media @centerforbreastfeeding, or email us at email@example.com.
What’s more, I am so pleased to announce that we will be giving away an online learning module with contact hours each week of our 10 week celebration. Here’s how to enter into the drawings:
This week, in the body of the email, tell us what breastfeeding means to you. Subsequent weeks will have a different prompt in the blog post.
We will conduct a new drawing each week over the 10-week period. Please email separately each week to be entered in the drawing. You may only win once. If your name is drawn, we will email a link with access to the learning module. The winner of the final week will score a grand finale swag bag.
As a whole, our nation lacks support for fathers and male identifying partners to bond with their babies. The father–infant relationship should be honored “in its own framework rather than as an alternative to mother–infant theory.” (Cheng 2011)
“Infant massage is such a neglected modality, especially in the NICU, where it reduces both the risk of sepsis and bilirubin levels, and gets babies home sooner because their brains mature more quickly and they gain weight faster,” Nikki Lee points out.
Beyond its benefits to infants, Cheng and colleagues have found that “infant massage appears to be a viable option for teaching fathers caregiving sensitivity.” Their work showed that “fathers were helped by increasing their feelings of competence, role acceptance, spousal support, attachment, and health and by decreasing feelings of isolation and depression. Although not all fathers saw the direct benefit of infant massage instruction, they did note they enjoyed participating in an activity that gave them special time with their infants and appreciated the opportunity to meet other fathers.”
More broadly, skin-to-skin contact has a positive effect on paternal attachment.
Ontario artist Lindsay Foster’s viral image of fathers BJ Barone and Frankie Nelson meeting Baby Milo captures perfectly the flood of oxytocin that skin-to-skin affords fathers and male-identifying parents.
WABA suggests that fathers should be engaged and involved throughout the 1,000 days and health systems and care providers can provide knowledge on breastfeeding through antenatal visits, other breastfeeding classes and enabling their participation during labor and delivery and postnatally.
There is also “a need for greater vigilance against promotion and unethical marketing of breastmilk substitutes targeting fathers to ensure that they also get unbiased information.” [More here.]
In our national sphere of advocacy, last month, Foundations of Fatherhood Summit hosted Wide World of Fathering with a mission to advance fatherhood and families in Michigan communities and beyond. The speaker lineup was full of individuals passionate about fatherhood and working to shift the way we view males as parents.
Presenter Reginald Day, CLC for instance, hosts a podcast called Get At Me Dad which reveals the true narrative of BIPOC fathers–”present, connected and raising strong families.”
Reaching Our Brothers Everywhere (ROBE), an organization which seeks to educate, equip, and empower men to impact an increase in breastfeeding rates and a decrease in infant mortality rates within the African-American communities, hosts a monthly virtual call where males can discuss maternal child health related topics.
In partnership with Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE), ROBE will host the 11th Annual Breastfeeding and Equity Summit in New Orleans from August 25 to 27, 2022 where presentations center on equity in breastfeeding, maternal health, fathers and partners, and infant health initiatives.
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