You can do this and more. As Franklin the Turtle would say, “I can count by twos and tie my shoes.” Life is limitless. Potential is endless. And my expectations are high for mothers and families. In my Barack Obama voice, “Yes I Can.” That’s the mantra that I want mothers to embrace when it comes to breastfeeding. I’m on a mission to reclaim an African tradition of breastfeeding. According to the CDC, only 54.4% of African-American babies born in the U.S. are breastfed. And by age 6 months, only 26.6% continue to receive breast milk. So what’s the big deal? Why is breast milk so important to African Americans? African Americans have the lowest breastfeeding rates in the U.S. Yet, we are hit hardest by health problems that breastfeeding protects against: diabetes, obesity, heart disease, asthma and allergies – just to name a few. Well, I believe that we can change all of that.
I started my mission in 2007 by founding a non-profit organization, Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association (BMBFA). BMBFA is a grassroots organization that works hand-in-hand with families to provide them with the support and information needed to curve breastfeeding rates. BMBFA has been my platform to act as a servant to my community. As the Founder and President of BMBFA, I have led the organization’s achievement of many accomplishments including; Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Club, annual seminars addressing cultural competence in breastfeeding support, breastfeeding advocacy in the community, and outreach initiatives. At times, I have been referred to as the national goto person for breastfeeding support for African Americans. From state-to-state, I have been asked to share the work that BMBFA is doing to improve breastfeeding rates. BMBFA’s work has been featured at many events including; the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine’s Annual Meeting, InterCare W.I.C.’s Annual Meeting, United States Breastfeeding Committee and Rush University Medical Center. I have also participated as a consultant for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health’s “Call to Action for Breastfeeding Expert Panel Discussion Meeting” and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Expert Panel Meeting to Address Black-White Disparities in Breastfeeding”. Both leading to BMBFA’s contribution to the U.S. Surgeon General’s “Call to Action on Breastfeeding”. BMBFA partners with the Michigan Department of Community Health’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity to create the Michigan Obesity Prevention Plan. BMBFA is currently part of the Breastfeeding Workgroup of Healthy Kids, Healthy Michigan (HKHM), a state-wide coalition whose primary focus is to reduce childhood obesity in the state of Michigan. Our work has also been featured in journals, news articles and magazines, including Breastfeeding Medicine, B.L.A.C. Magazine and Women’s eNews.
Most of all, I pride myself on the work that I do with families. We host an annual community baby shower, an annual family fun day and regular breastfeeding support groups. Recently, I was brought to tears as I listened to a mother share her appreciation of BMBFA. Theresa stated that without BMBFA, she probably wouldn’t have been able to breastfeed her fourth baby. Theresa had tried to breastfeed with her first three children. However, she didn’t have the support that she needed to be successful. She went on to say that she was grateful for the work that BMBFA is doing and she wishes that the organization was around when she had her first three children. She pledges to do her part to make sure that BMBFA sustains itself for future support to families, because only with the support of BMBFA was she was able to breastfeed her fourth child. In an outreach effort at a local community center, I presented information about breastfeeding to a group of everyday women at a Women’s Conference. During the Q&A, I was thanked by a mother for sharing the breastfeeding information and offering support. She stated that on that day, she had planned to discontinue nursing her 8-week old baby. However, after hearing the encouraging words that I shared with the group, she intends to continue nursing. The mothers that I encounter are dynamic.
Families are the heart of the organization, serving as volunteers for BMBFA’s committees, outreach endeavors and events. I owe my appreciation to the families that I serve, because they are what makes my work worthwhile. I have been blessed to be able to do all of this while breastfeeding two children, being a devoted wife, and working a full time job as an educator. #I’mAMomOnAMission
Originally posted at HealthyChild.org in May, 2012.