Some time ago — about a year, at least, when I first contacted breastfeeding coalitions here about Black breastfeeding advocacy, I was told by one of the managers that she couldn’t think of any Black IBCLCs in the area — or in the entire state — of Washington. I have written about this before and the Seattle Breastfeeding Examiner even asked the question: “Are there really no Black Lactation Consultants in Washington State?” Even though it was pretty devastating, I wasn’t all that surprised, since Washington State’s primary ethnic group consists of white people. In fact, I believe it’s around 80%. Shortly after that email, I received another telling me that there was in fact one, and more recently I learned of another, and they are both in Western Washington.
The first is Delores Baccus. Delores has been an IBCLC for five years and a Registered Nurse for two. She works for King County Public Health, and is co-founder of an up and coming non-profit, focused on increasing Black women’s healthy birth outcomes and breastfeeding initiatives, and is involved in various other projects, including summit planning and anti-racism committees, among others. She recently attended the ROSE Summit in Atlanta, focusing on ways to improve Black women’s access to breastfeeding, and is helping to plan the upcoming racism, power and white privilege summit. If you’d like to contact her, you can do so here, but also make sure you keep an eye out for Mahogany Moms — the organization in the works.
The second, Nisha, is founder of Mother Rites, which provides doula and lactation services for King and Kitsap Counties. According to her website, she has been practicing since 1999 and has a number of accomplishments under her belt, including being a Certified Nurses Assistant, a birth and postpartum doula, promotes the health of parent relationships, specializes in infant mental health, is CPR certified, has critical care experience and she studied cultural anthropology at the University of Washington. Woot! She’ll also do henna artwork on your baby belly, too — which can last up to two weeks. You can contact Nisha here.
Even though I’ve shared my thoughts on what I’ve felt is the increasing commercialization of breastfeeding and have been concerned with the many layers of intervention, I had a conversation last week with a very prominent figure in breastfeeding advocacy, who helped me to see things just a bit differently. When I told her I think there are just too many people with their ‘hands on’ women and their breasts, she said that the tradition of breastfeeding among our community is largely lost and has been for the past number of years and throughout generations and we’ve got to get that back. Once that is regained and we receive a firmer foundation, what I refer to as ‘commercial intervention’ may not be all that necessary, but right now it is. That makes more sense to me.
The significance of these women who are lactation consultants goes much deeper than I will in this short post. I cannot stress enough the importance of Black women being around other Black women who we can identify and feel comfortable with. We need to be able to be in the presence of someone who understands us on various levels, and around those who can address what is specific to our community. We need safe spaces. We also need to see others who look like us and have those people be accessible in order to work on that foundation and inspire more community members across the board. This is what changes things and what will help combat disparities. I’m definitely excited about this because the reality is when there is a more diverse group of health care professionals and clinical practitioners who are able to address what concerns us, meet with and connect with us in that necessary safe space, there is a more diverse group of people who are getting the proper care and treatment they need and deserve. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for other Consultants of Color here in Washington State, but for now I’m really glad to at least find these.
If you are in Washington state and identify as a Black IBCLC and would like to be linked to this post, please use the contact form to get in touch with me and let me know.