Illinois Public Health Institute partners with other health organizations to host listening sessions to combat racism in breastfeeding support

CHICAGO-The Illinois Public Health Institute (IPHI) partnered with Health Connect One, Lioness Lactation LLC, the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the University of Illinois at Chicago's Office of Community Engagement and Neighborhood Health Partnerships to host two virtual listening sessions related to experiences with breastfeeding support. IPHI received a $30,000 grant from Healing Illinois. The listening sessions centered the stories and concerns of mothers and healthcare providers.

Mothers had the opportunity to discuss and learn about how implicit bias and racism impacted their breastfeeding experiences. Healthcare providers spoke about and learned how these factors impact their ability to support breastfeeding families. Among participating providers were lactation counselors, birth workers, nurses, and physicians.

In the listening sessions, mothers voiced their concerns about limited resources for breastfeeding support and a lack of respectful engagement about breastfeeding in a clinical setting. Healthcare providers expressed the need for more education in diversity and equity in birthing and breastfeeding. Both groups expressed a need for education and awareness on the basics of breastfeeding.

The research in this area was validated by the participants' stories, said Janna Simon, program director of IPHI. With confirmation in hand, IPHI can look at ways to "increase support and reduce bias [that] will help shape how we implement breastfeeding support initiatives." In the process, the organization will play its part in "addressing the historic impacts of oppression on families of color," she said.

Nekisha Killings is a consultant and perinatal equity strategist. She complimented IPHI's decision to partner with Health Connect One and her organization, Lioness Lactation LLC. "It was really thoughtful of them to engage organizations that are trusted by the community (and to) provide a setting where things could be shared," said Killings, who helped facilitate the listening sessions.

Education is the first priority for these organizations. Since the listening sessions concluded, Killings has been working with IPHI and partners to create infographics that address the needs of parents and healthcare providers concerning breastfeeding. One infographic will guide clinicians on raising the topic of breastfeeding with expecting families. Other infographics will provide fundamental information about breastfeeding. These tools will not only help inform parents' decision making and confidence building, but will also inform clinicians on guiding, supporting and advising new and expecting parents.

The educational tools will be tested with providers and families later this year. A training about racism and implicit bias for healthcare providers is being planned as well. To learn more, visit the IPHI website. Click the following link to learn more at the Lioness Lactation LLC website.


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