by Kimberly Seals Allers
I always thought that the most powerful elements of breast milk were the unparalleled immunological and anti-inflammatory properties that protect against several illnesses and diseases for both mothers and children. This is what we tell women. This is what I have told women. I tell them that breast milk is preventive medicine and that extensive research provides compelling evidence that breastfeeding reduces the incidence of asthma, pneumonia, acute ear infections and obesity in children.
Yet too many infants, particularly those in vulnerable communities, don’t receive the best food possible, not because their mothers don’t want to breastfeed, but because that choice is suffocated by complex cultural barriers and thwarted by unsupportive environments that can be aptly described as “first food deserts.” While a desert may be a thriving ecosystem, I use the term in recognition of the severe sense of “lack” present in many communities. Just as a desert’s lack of moisture results in extremely limited vegetation and food options, far too many vulnerable communities have seen a systemic failure to provide the resources and social support mothers need to successfully breastfeed. I’m referring to areas without easily accessible breastfeeding support groups or culturally relevant lactation specialists, where public places which mothers frequent like shopping malls and libraries lack nursing mother facilities. I’m referring to communities where breastfeeding is invisible, perpetuating cultural myths about who actually breastfeeds and deepening socioeconomic disparities in breastfeeding rates. I’m referring to places with child care facilities that haven’t been properly trained in handling human milk, and with employers who lack a nursing mothers policy – both critical supports for breastfeeding mothers returning to work.
- August 11-17: Hospitals / Health Care **TAKE ACTION NOW**
- Save the date for the MomsRising #WellnessWed Twitter chat on August 13 from 2-3 p.m. ET
- August 18-24: Communities
- Save the date for the MomsRising #WellnessWed Twitter chat on August 20 from 2-3 p.m. ET
- August 25-31 (Black Breastfeeding Week): Families
- Save the date for MomsRising #WellnessWed Twitter chat on August 27, from 2-3 p.m. ET