This is part of a series we are doing to highlight our inspirational Milk Magic Educators. To learn more about the program including about how to sign up, visit Nurturely.org/milkmagic. Next up: Sartteka!
How did you hear about the Milk Magic Educator Program? What made you want to join the community?
I first heard of the Milk Magic Educators Program through an email sent out to For the Village. I had actually been looking into lactation education options because I wanted to better assist the birthing folks that I serve. Plus, I like to do everything with this (w)holistic mindset, looking at everything full circle. For example, when I decided to focus my undergraduate on Psychology and Human Sexuality, I took every class that had to do with anything about sex or sexuality from all different disciplines and departments, including Infant & Child Development, Women’s Studies, LGBT Studies, Africana Studies, Child and Family Development, Public Health, Psychology and more. It’s better to have a well-rounded understanding of things that affect or are affected by the topic at hand, in my opinion.
To bring it back to birthwork, I was with a birthing mom (my first official doula parent) and the birth center staff was telling her they had to see baby nurse from both sides before she could be released. She was tired and feeling a little stressed by the number of staff the birth center had coming and going through her room. I tried my best to talk her through tickling the baby nose to chin with her nipple and even though I doubted my own knowledge of lactation, one of the nurses said I was doing a great job. I wasn’t confident because I had received minimal lactation education with my doula training and I didn’t even breastfeed my son for as long as I wanted due to pain and my belief at the time that he wasn’t getting enough milk. So, I really wanted to become more educated so I can be confident sharing information with the families I serve.
What is your background in human milk education, if any?
I have no previous background in human milk education other than the information and misinformation picked up through various academic courses. When I had my son twelve years ago, I was naive to the importance of human milk consumption both on a physiological/biological level but also on a relationship level between parent and child. Even now, as I work to educate folks about illnesses associated with the consumption of cow milk, I recognize this shift from human milk consumption to cow milk and remember years ago how quickly myself and some of my family members transitioned our infants from breastfeeding to formula to formula with rice and cereals to whole milk. It is my hope that through this program I will become a more knowledgeable and more fierce lactation advocate.
Describe the community you serve and the community you belong to.
To describe the communities in which I serve, I would say we are resilient and strong birth warriors, because we must battle iatrogenetic medical apartheid and obstetric violence and continue to be dependent on the system that turns a blind eye to our mistreatment especially with regard to medical care. We suffer the highest statistical rates of three of the top five annual preventable killers here in the U.S. (Heart disease, diabetes & cancer) and we suffer the highest statistics for infant mortality and maternal mortality as well. There are so many disparities that interact in the lives of the families I serve such as, initiation of breast/chestfeeding and duration of continued breast/chestfeeding, poverty/financial burdens, food insecurity, job insecurity, stress, psychological trauma as well as other environmental, economic and social disparities that are highly racialized, but also affect other marginalized communities such as LGBTQIA folks, differently-abled families, non-nuclear families and immigrant & refugee families. The communities that I serve are those that are most affected by discrimination and those least likely to receive the equitable support and care they need and deserve.
Why are you passionate about human milk feeding equity?
The more I learn and challenge myself to consider sovereignty as a people, the more I delve into sustainable ways to care for ourselves, our families and our communities. I have been a major advocate of growing our own food to address food insecurity in our neighborhoods and discussing the nutritional aspects of local organic produce. As I finished up the Milk Magic Educator curriculum, it started to really dawn on me, how much more local can one get than from the source of their own origin? In terms of organic, ultimately whatever the birthing parent consumes so too does baby, but if we first understand that our primary source of nourishment from conception until full transition to whole foods is through breast/chestfeeding, by design then we can address healthier eating for lactating parents as connected rather than separate issues.When we consider food insecurity, breast/chestfeeding can help to mitigate hunger at least for younger children, although this is far from a comprehensive plan to address food insecurity because the breast/chestfeeding parent would still need proper nutrition to continue to support breast/chestfeeding children. With regards to the discrepancies in breast/chestfeeding among the communities that I serve, we need more education, advocacy and support coming from compassionate and caring educators who are aware of the disparities these families face and who the families themselves trust or have built rapport with. Cultural competence and understanding are also important factors for support persons to serve families in a more equitable and holistic way.
What has been the best part of the program?
I have yet to begin offering Milk Magic Education classes in my practice, so at this point for me, the best part of this program has been reading through the curriculum and learning the amazing information that is within the Milk Magic teaching slides. Learning that human milk is tailored to the baby’s individual needs was the most profound for me. It makes so much sense on a biological level but also on a micro level, for example, when people purchase honey especially for making medicine it is suggested that you buy local honey as it will expose you to the local pollens and (potential allergens) in the community where you reside. That human milk would also contain antigens for bacteria and viruses present both inside of the baby & surrounding them is another amazingly complex function our bodies do without our conscious attention.
How has the pandemic affected your work? How have you adapted?
Prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic, I was a full time teaching assistant, substitute teacher, librarian, gardener, basketball coach and testing administrator for the small charter school where I worked. I rarely ever had time to take on birthwork clients, and was afraid that if I did, they would go into labor during school hours making it difficult for me to leave. I knew that I would eventually transition out of academia and into birthwork full time and had already begun a program to be certified as a Childbirth Educator to supplement my Doula education. But my job was providing financial security for my family, something that we haven’t seen often, so I couldn’t just leave without a comparable alternative. Two weeks into the closure of the school where I worked, I began responding to our Doula emails about new clients coming in and within no time I was supporting birthing families both virtually and in person in the birthing centers that were allowing birth advocates to attend the births. I went from zero clients served (in an official capacity) to ten families served from June to October. The time this quarantine has provided me, has allowed me to focus on the requirements for my doula certification and my childbirth educator certification and to build my birthwork business as well, I created my own logo and chose a name and began to imagine what it would be like to become a Midwife and to open a holistic birthing center that honors traditional ceremonies and practices surrounding pregnancy, birth and postpartum support and healing. This has been the silver lining in the cloud of financial burdens, job and food insecurity and general feelings of instability caused by the pandemic and subsequent global quarantine.