Dozens of pregnant and breastfeeding moms and their partners gathered yesterday at the Compton WIC Center to celebrate Black Breastfeeding Week.
Most of these parents participate monthly in the Compton WIC African American Breastfeeding Family Group. The group was formed by Janice Ahana to encourage African American women to breastfeed and to improve the breastfeeding rates of African American women at the Compton WIC Center, where a large number of African American women are enrolled.
Janice Ahana, a registered dietitian nutritionist and lactation expert, facilitates this family group.
Members of with two other Black breastfeeding advocacy groups, Lactation Lioness and Soul Food for Your Baby. joined Compton WIC families in the joyous celebration.
“Our Compton breastfeeding mothers and pregnant women were able to surround themselves with women from other groups who are like them, create a bond, build confidence and show solidarity,” Ahana said. She believes the celebration motivated mothers who had experienced setbacks with breastfeeding.
The national awareness event Black Breastfeeding Week was created by three women to help reduce the racial disparities in breastfeeding rates among African American women. The week falls within National Breastfeeding Month and runs from Aug. 25 to 31.
Ahana aims to reverse the misconception that Black women don’t breastfeed. “Black women do breastfeed,” she said.
An important problem is continuing resentment dating back to the days of slavery, when Black women often served as wet nurses to White women. This has created stigma and lack of family support.
Ahana is working to counter these challenges and make them problems of the past. Since inception of the Compton WIC African American Breastfeeding Family Group this past February, the group has grown from five members to 20. They meet the second Wednesday of each month from 11 a.m. to noon..
A wide variety of breastfeeding and parenting topics are discussed: questions to ask during hospital tours, the size of a baby’s stomach, colostrum, breast pumps, premature infants, minimizing a baby’s crying, how often to breastfeed, what to do about sore nipples, how to assist a baby latch correctly. And more.
Group members discuss the reasons for breastfeeding. “Breastfeeding is beneficial for both mother and baby, and extends beyond providing nutrition for the baby,” Ahana stated. “Breastmilk has antibodies and live cells to protect the infant against infections, for example.”
Breast milk is a natural preventative medicine that reduces the risk of diet-related diseases such as upper respiratory infections, Type II diabetes, asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and childhood obesity. Breastfeeding has reduced infant mortality rates by 50%, according to the CDC.
“It is very important that African American women breastfeed to give Black infants a healthy start in life through breastmilk,” Ahana said. “Research has shown that Black infants are twice and even three times as likely to die during their first year as other babies.”
If a premature infant is in a NICU, the mother needs to pump her breast milk to feed her baby as soon as she can, Ahana said. “Premature babies are susceptible to infections such as necrotizing enter colitis (NEC), sepsis, and viral infections.”
In addition to her role as a lactation consultant, Ahana is a registered dietitian nutritionist. She meets one-on-one with Compton WIC parents of all ethnicities to discuss various health issues that can be positively impacted by nutritious foods. She discusses special diets that can improve health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and others.
The Compton WIC Center and all South LA Health Projects’ 11 WIC centers provide an array of breastfeeding services. Among these are one-on-one counseling for: pregnant mothers, mothers who have already given birth, and their partners and others in their support systems. Also included are Mama’s Milk family support groups, group education, the assistance of breastfeeding peer counselors, consultation under special circumstances with lactation experts, the Breastfeeding Helpline, and assistance with breast pumps.
Members of the public can learn about WIC eligibility by phoning (310) 661-3080 or visiting https://www.wicforyou.org.
The Compton WIC Center is located at 130 E. Compton Blvd., in Compton.
Its hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. The center is also open one Saturday each month.