When all is said and done I luckily and wholeheartedly enjoyed the 15 months of my breastfeeding experience, especially that I did it past the recommended 6 months and truly bonded with my baby. It wasn't all easy in the beginning. I struggled with formula feeding my son from 5 months while still nursing and thought I was a failure for it. I believed I could not make "enough" milk and that the milk I had was not sufficient for his sustenance. No family member had any advice to give me as I was one of the first among my generation to have a baby and the elders who were in close proximity did not have experience with breastfeeding, I was not breastfed. All of this was during the time I returned to my graduate studies and work after taking off one semester, but I was determined to continue nursing at night and throughout the day when I was home.
At the point of separation to continue my education and earn a living to feed my family, I still was grateful that my son was nursing at all though disappoinment that formula had been incorporated existed. It was blissful and, seemingly, a blessing to have made it all the way from my very doubtful initiation upon delivering at the hospital. I was in great doubt then of a guaranteed latch after being, I say this again and will continue to say it, robbed of my one hour skin to skin and breast crawl experience because resident physicians and my assigned physician insisted that my son get cleaned up and needed to be administered vitamin K and eye ointment, the latter I would not consent to though the former was mandated. With no doula, a birth plan and family members who somewhat supported my voice, until the doctor trumped it because of their trust in them, I was too exhausted to fight any more than I already had throughout my labor against being reminded to keep my gown on, having my cervical membrane skipped, without my permission, and being denied the opportunity to squat when pushing. I was through the fighting and defense, my treasure was delivered and I was too tired to demand that I get my skin to skin and I did not even know what the breast crawl was at the time, nonetheless I'd been robbed. Robbed of an otherwise beautiful and natural experience. And I was alone. Surrounded by people, humans, but separated from my baby that I gave birth to and denied the skin to skin that I did request in my birth plan (hyperlink) that I had my physician sign off on during my prenatal visit. With one hour skin to skin the baby naturally makes its way to its mother's breast in order to self latch by crawling from the stomach area where they would be placed and helping the mother deliver her placenta by applying pressure with their brand new feet. I was not given the understanding, patience, or even education about breast crawl.
I want to hear from you. What was your birth experience like? Did you have all the liberty as you wished, well informed or felt restricted? Did you choose to breastfeed. If so upon delivery?
"I am a conduit advocating for women and children empowering them to know their true selves, and identify their purpose by way of education, love, and understanding."
By Jen McGuire
It's probably safe to say that the most satisfied kind of mother out there is a happy, healthy mother. Someone who has options, community support, and is able to make educated choices about how she would like to raise her baby. In 21st century America, one would think this description encapsulates most groups of parents. Unfortunately, a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that was not the case. Specifically, the report uncovered several alarming reasons why black mothers can't breastfeed as much as other women.
The CDC looked at racial and geographical breastfeeding trends over a four year period, from 2011 to 2015. Researchers considered women in 34 states and tracked their breastfeeding statistics through the National Immunization Survey (NIS), specifically looking at breastfeeding initialization, exclusive breastfeeding until the age of 6 months, and whether or not mothers were continuing to breastfeed until 12 months. The study found a significant difference in the number of black women who were exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months in comparison to white women (a full 10 percent difference) who were doing the same. The reason for the disparity? According to the CDC:
Certain barriers are disproportionately experienced by black women (e.g., earlier return to work, inadequate receipt of breastfeeding information from providers, and lack of access to professional breastfeeding support) .
The report also noted that the lack of support for black mothers begins at the hospital. Zip codes with a higher black population were less likely to "meet five indicators for supportive breastfeeding practices (early initiation of breastfeeding, limited use of breastfeeding supplements, rooming-in, limited use of pacifiers, and post-discharge support), than those located in areas with lower percentages of black residents," the report concluded.
To increase rate of breastfeeding among black infants, interventions are needed to address barriers faced by black mothers https://t.co/53lVFzxLRl— Dr. EFleming (@DrEFleming7) July 13, 2017
This is a serious problem, not just for babies but for their mothers. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life. Breastfeeding is hugely beneficial to both mother and baby, when possible. It protects babies from potential infection, reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancer for mothers later on in life, and also aids in less postpartum bleeding. Not to mention the emotional benefits of bonding with your baby through breastfeeding and the fact that it is environmentally friendly (zero waste, of course). The fact that black mothers are disproportionately less able to breastfeed their babies because of socio-economic factors and lack of postpartum support is unconscionable.
So how do we go about effecting change, and supporting black mothers who want to breastfeed their babies? Several organizations are already in existence to combat the disparity between black and white mothers and their breastfeeding support. EMPower Breastfeeding: Enhancing Maternity Practices, is an organization supported by 93 hospitals across the country. It is funded by the CDC, and works at the hospital level to encourage breastfeeding support. Another organization, Black Mothers Breastfeeding, is a not-for-profit dedicated to "making a national impact on the reduction of racial disparities in breastfeeding success for black families." The organization provides education, resources, and continued support to black families who would like the opportunity to breastfeed.
Because parenting is supposed to be about making informed, supported choices. Not trying to parent your way around external limitations.
Breastfeeding While Working
of women stop breastfeeding earlier than they would like.
of new mothers report that their plans for employment had an impact on their baby-feeding decisions
of nursing moms have access to both adequate break time and a private space to express breast milk while at work
New York Nursing Moms Rights At Work
While at work you will need to pump breast milk during the day. That way you can keep your milk from drying up before you and your baby are ready to stop nursing. And you will be able to save milk for your baby to drink when you are not there.
Even the state of NY thinks it's a good idea to breastfeed your baby. That's why there are very string laws that give you the right to express or pump breast milk at work.
Many employees are also entitled to a non-restroom private space and time to pump under federal law
What must my employer do if I want to express milk at work?
- They must give you time to express milk for your baby. New York Law says your employer MUST give you:
- Unpaid break time to express breast milk at work or allow you to pump during regularly scheduled paid breaks.
- A break once very 3 hours or as needed
- At least a 20 minute break (or 30 minutes, if you need extra time to get the space where you can express milk).
Your employer can ask you to wait, and take your scheduled break later than planned if they need you, or can't find someone to cover for you. But they cannot ask you to wait more than 30 minutes past your scheduled break time.
2. They must try to give you space to express
Your employer must try its best to give you a clean, private space, other than a bathroom, where you can express milk with no interruption. Some employers many not have to do this, if finding a private space would be too expensive, or would be too difficult because of their size, layout, hours of operation, cost, or nature of their work.
3. They must give you information and support
- Under New York law your employer must give you written information about your rights.
Your healthcare provider should also give you information on your right to breastfeed in the workplace and at the hospital, the benefits of breastfeeding and how to get help if you are having trouble feeding your baby
Your employer may not discriminate against you or punish you in any way because you choose to express breast milk at work. If you need help using your rights, or would like more information, call 212-430-5982 for free and confidential legal guidance.
Paid Family Leave in New York State Benefits start on January 1, 2018.
Percentage of US mothers who return to work within less than 2 weeks of giving birth
Number of countries that do not guarantee paid maternity leave (the United States, Suriname and Papua New Guinea)
Percentage of private sector workers in the US who have access to paid family leave in the event of a new child or a family health emergency
What does the paid family leave law do?
The law guarantees workers time off to bond with a new child (including adopted and foster children); care for a seriously ill family member (child,parent,parent-in-law,spouse, domestic partner. grandchild, or grandparent); or address certain military family needs
Am I covered?
If you're employed outside the government in New York State, either full-time or part-time, you're probably covered under the law, regardless of how many people work for your employer
How much paid family can I take?
In 2018, you will be able to take up to eight weeks of family leave. Each year after that, the number of weeks available will be increased
How much of my paycheck can I get while I am on paid family leave?
In 2018, you will receive half (50%) of your average weekly pay, up to about $650 per week. Each year after that, you'll be eligible to receive a greater percentage of your pay while on leave
Will my job be protected while I am on leave?
Yes. You have the right to return to work. If you receive coverage through your employer, you also have the right to keep your healthcare coverage under its current conditions
When can I begin taking paid family leave?
If you've worked for your employer for at least six months, you can start receiving benefits on January 1, 2018. Otherwise, you may start receiving benefits six months after your start date
Paid Family and Medical Leave in the States
Since 2004, three states in addition to New York—California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island—have enacted programs to provide partial pay to workers taking time off to bond with a new child or care for a seriously ill relative. These laws build upon existing programs to provide partial pay for a worker’s own serious health condition. Washington, D.C.’s City Council also recently passed a strong paid family and medical leave law. Still other states are lining up to pass their own paid family and medical leave plans.
Visit ABB Federal and Local Laws resources to learn more
New York City Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
Estimated pregnant workers every year who are denied requests for accommodations, and even more don’t bother asking, for fear of retaliation
Of Americans have personally seen pregnancy discrimination in the workplace
What does the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) do?
The PWFA protects pregnant women and mother who have recently given birth from workplace discrimination. Employers have to allow pregnant employees to make changes to their work duties or schedule so they can stay healthy and satisfy the "essential requisites" of their job (e.g. help with heavy lifting, breaks to drink water or rest,etc.) These changes are called "reasonable accommodations."
Am I covered?
If you are pregnant, recovering from childbirth, nursing or have a related medical condition and work for an employer in New York City (Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island or Queens) who has at least 4 employees, then you are covered.
What are my rights?
You are entitles to a reasonable accommodation at work as long as it does not cause an "undue hardship" for your employer. A resolvable accommodation could include temporary transfer to a less physically demanding position or a modified work schedule.
Do I have to be disabled to get an accommodation?
No. Even women with healthy pregnancies can get a reasonable accommodation if they need one, such as light duty to prevent injury.
What should I do if my employer refuses to grant me a reasonable accommodation or punishes me for being pregnant or for asking for an accommodation?
Call A Better Balance work legal clinic hotline for help and advice at 212-430-5982. ABB is a not for profit legal center that works with New Yorkers who are facing unfair treatment at work because they are pregnant or have family care responsibilities. All of their services are free.
In this video, you will learn why black women and babies in America are dying at higher rates in childbirth than white women.
Learning Outcomes: Describe disparities in birth outcomes for women of color and other vulnerable populations .
Discuss systemic racism/oppression and the effects on birthing women of color References and Resources: This lecture is part of a larger continuing education course on evidence based care called "How to Help Families get Evidence Based Care," found at www.evidencebasedbirth.com/classes
March of Dimes summary of racial disparity statistics: http://www.marchofdimes.org/materials... Most recent maternal mortality rates in the U.S.:
“Conquering racial disparities in perinatal outcomes.” Clin Perinatol 41: 847-75. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2...
White Privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack, by Peggy McIntosh http://hd.ingham.org/Portals/HD/White...
By Rose Eveleth
After spending 25 hours on research and testing 18 different cups from nine different manufacturers, we found that the MeLuna Classic is the best cup for first-time users. It’s the cup that comes in the biggest variety of sizes to accommodate people of different heights, athletic backgrounds, or vaginal birth histories. The MeLuna is also available in a firmer version and with different handles. Its design can be folded the most ways, yet it popped open easily, so it was the easiest to insert, remove, and clean.
Should you get this?
If you are a person who gets a period, you can probably use a menstrual cup. Unlike products that absorb your flow, you insert a menstrual cup into your vagina to hold all the blood, and empty it a few times a day. Like most things that are period-related, this will all come down to your own personal comfort. Die-hard cup lovers love the eco-friendly and wallet-friendly aspects of the cup. But cups do come with a learning curve, and not everybody wants to go through all that.
The most convincing argument in favor of switching to a menstrual cup is the fact that it’s reusable. That’s a plus for your wallet, and for the environment. The average person who menstruates spends between $40 and $70 a year on pads or tampons, and those pads and tampons often wind up in landfills. (Before you feel any additional and unnecessary period shame, know that in the grand scheme of your personal waste, menstrual products are just a small sliver.) Menstrual cups can be used again and again for years, eliminating that waste and ultimately saving you money.
An additional advantage of the menstrual cup over pads and tampons is that you need to carry only one with you, not a handful. This makes cups popular among backpackers and other travelers who worry about carrying too much weight. Instead of having to keep a handful of pads and tampons around, you need just one cup. Plus, menstrual cups can hold up to an ounce of fluid at a time, which means they can handle far more than even the heaviest-duty tampons.
Menstrual cups can hold up to an ounce of fluid at a time, which means they can handle far more than even the heaviest-duty tampons.
Lots of menstrual cup advocates also claim that using a cup eliminates the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. That is not true, and there was at least one confirmed case of TSS in a woman using a menstrual cup. But it’s nearly impossible to study the true risk of menstrual cups because they are still used by a relatively tiny slice of people and TSS is so rare. “There’s no reason to think that the risk would be lower or higher than with tampons, and unless we get a lot of case reports we’ll never know,” said Dr. Gunter. Think about it this way: Less than one percent of people use a menstrual cup. And the chances of getting TSS is less than one in 100,000. Which means that trying to study TSS in menstrual cup use is incredibly hard because you’re trying to study something that could show up only in a tiny sliver of the population. So if you’re switching to cups purely out of fear of TSS, don’t. That said, just like with a tampon, it’s important not to leave a menstrual cup in for too long. You shouldn’t leave any cup in for more than eight hours.
The dealbreaker for most people when it comes to menstrual cups is the learning curve. “The first few times you change it you might want to do that where you don’t worry about leaving it like there was a serial killer in there,” said Dr. Gunter. “I’m good at taking things in and out of vaginas, and the first time it was like WHOA!” It takes a while to get used to inserting and removing the cups, and even for pros, using a cup involves handling your menses more than pads or tampons. The cup catches and contains menstrual fluid, so using it means removing the cup and pouring out the fluid, then washing the cup. Some women I talked to said they came to really appreciate and enjoy this part as a way to better understand their own bodies, but that might not be something you’re into. So if the idea of closely interacting with your own menses grosses you out, the menstrual cup isn’t for you.
Expectant mothers in the United States have plenty to worry about, from concerns about medical costs and childcare expenses to wondering what, if any, parental leave they'll get. What millions of American mothers-to-be may notknow, however, is that one of the big worries is actually about their own health. Fusion's new documentary, Death By Delivery, which airs Wednesday night at 9pm, demonstrates why maternal mortality should be a real and pressing concern for thousands of women per year. Even more alarming, Black women face the biggest risks of all.
Most American women probably don't spend much time worrying about the medical complications they may face during childbirth. It's the same reason you don't worry about polio, scurvy, or malaria — these are all, supposedly, medical traumas that only affect women without access to modern healthcare. Yet, as Death By Delivery documentarian Nelufar Hedayat discovered, maternal mortality rates are higher today than they were in 1987. Black women, moreover, are nearly four times more likely to die during childbirth than their white counterparts. This statistic is all the more stunning because, according to the documentary, the discrepancies persist even when researchers controlled for socioeconomic status and education.
"You can be a college-educated black woman and you will have, in probability, a worse birth outcome than if you were a high school-educated, nonworking white woman," Hedayat tells Bustle. "This is not an issue about poverty," she adds, "but about racial discrimination."
If controlling for poverty doesn't eliminate the difference, what could be the cause of the maternity health gap between black and white women? Hedayat tells Bustle that the most compelling explanation reveals a story about the cumulative effects of growing up black in the United States. "This idea that the minute you're born as a young black woman, you're already at the bottom of the political capital pile ... you're not a middle-class white man, so already society is geared to not listen to you," she explains.
The double jeopardy of being black and female.
Simply being listened to can make an enormous difference in the healthcare system, and it explains at least part of why marginalized groups experience worse health outcomes. A University of Maryland study demonstrated that women's pain is not taken as seriously as men's by healthcare providers; consequently, women are less likely to be adequately treated for pain. Similarly, The Boston Globe reported that black pain patients are less likely to receive pain medication than their white peers — and even when black patients are given pain medicine, they receive less.
Black women, of course, are at the intersection of each of these areas of disparate treatment. It's what Dr. Fleda Jackson, a health researcher interviewed in Death By Delivery, calls "the double jeopardy of being black and female."
Watch full documentary here.
When it came down to it, I just couldn’t stand the fact that it would take more than five minutes of googling to find a beautiful image of a brown-skinned pregnant person on a good-looking birth education flyer/poster/print-out/anything. And it didn’t just take five minutes — long after five minutes had passed, I gave up on the search. I frowned. Fumed a little. Sat back. And then I started to sketch. Before I tell you about The Educated Birth, let me tell you a little more about me.
I started my Doula journey in early 2016. For three years I had been working for a nonprofit I loved (and still do). I’d spent all that time and more as one of the few people of color working at this beautiful, community-driven, visionary nonprofit that mostly served the young Black people of this mostly Black (and quickly gentrifying) neighborhood in Richmond, VA. I had spent all these years studying the impact that racism and economic injustice — on both personal and structural levels — had had on my city, the young people we worked with, and the work we did day to day.
I was struggling to figure out where my creativity fit in the world of meaningful work that I wanted to contribute to. I was struggling to balance my desire to do hands-on educational work (that let me actually get to know the kids we worked with) with all the administrative work I needed to do. I was struggling to figure out exactly where/how I fit as a young light-skin Black woman at this mostly white organization. My challenges, my privileges, what I could say, what I couldn’t, how I could push, how pushing pushed me back. I wanted to use my creativity. I wanted to have a meaningful, caring, educational role in peoples’ lives (like others had had in mine). I wanted a break from spaces dominated by White/American culture — however well-intentioned and sincere this place was —I was still struggling, still just tired. Tired of being the “only one” or “one of the few left.”
When I entered the birth world, I saw a lot of the same things that disappointed me when I began my nonprofit communications and marketing role. The first thing that struck me was that Black people seemed mostly invisible, except in the conversation of how terrible it was to be a Black woman birthing. The truth is the truth. To say that yes, this is the challenge, this is the obstacle, this is the problem we have to deal with — that’s one thing. And an important, necessary thing. But the truth is always larger than one story. When all you’re ever hearing about a group of people is the problem(s) they have — “problem” is their story.
When I started creating info graphics, I was just thinking, I want the people I work with to have images that reflect them, and are beautiful, and are helpful. But I hope now for much more. My vision is to produce work that tells the other stories. The story, “I am here.” The story, “I am beautiful.” The story, “I am capable.” The story, “I have power.” The story, “I know.” This is the point of The Educated Birth. The Educated Birth is a collection of childbirth education materials I’ve made to equip parents for well-informed and empowering birth by equipping birth educators and doulas with them. I really don’t want parents having to purchase these materials because I think they have to spend enough when preparing for a child. I just want them to have access to the education. And I really don’t want education to be so difficult to find.
The way I look at it, education gives people the power they may not know they have yet. If you don’t know what you can say “no” to, especially in a setting like a hospital, especially in a vulnerable moment like labor — how’re you going to say “no”? If you don’t know what to expect, how’re you going to know what’s going to help? For a pregnant person, looking for info about birth shouldn’t feel like a scavenger hunt! It should just be there! Not hidden away in huge paragraphs of long, hard-to-read books. Easy to access. Easy to read. Enjoyable even! And now, because of so many beautiful people who have supported and educated me (shout out to all my Etsy and Instagram peeps) I’m not just focused on Black women anymore. I don’t want anyone to feel like the birth world doesn’t see them, doesn’t respect them, doesn’t think they’re “[anything] enough” to be a part of their intended audience.
So I just work to be really thoughtful — to stay intentional about inclusive language, multi-cultural presence, showing the full spectrum of gender and sexuality, and making this available in different languages. The different languages part I have barely begun to tackle yet. But it’s coming, just wait.
So, yes, that’s the story. My story and The Educated Birth’s story. It is honestly my favorite thing to work on and I’m so so grateful.