Los Angeles, California (August 24, 2021) —The African American Infant and Maternal Mortality (AAIMM) Prevention Initiative announces the activation of a weeklong campaign geared toward spreading awareness of Black Breastfeeding Week, which was officially recognized by the LA County Board of Supervisors in June 2021. Co-sponsored by the South LA/South Bay Community Action Team (SLASB AAIMM CAT) and the LA County AAIMM Prevention Initiative,“Support/Protect/Welcome Black Breast/Chest Feeding Everywhere” is the theme for the week with supporting sub-themes around breastfeeding, chestfeeding, and pumping. This campaign is also made possible through the support, guidance, information, and resources provided by partners BreastfeedLA, CinnaMoms and March of Dimes.
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We connect, by sharing our stories:
On breast/chestfeeding at work:
“I had my daughter in 2017. After being on leave for 3 months, I returned to work. At the time, I was working as a Skills Lab Instructor/Clinical Nursing Instructor at a private college. My first day back, I brought all my pump parts, and I was ready to pump for my baby. I asked my colleague who had been exclusively breastfeeding for 2 years, where she pumped. She casually said... the bathroom. I was shocked, but I was engorged by this time and desperate to get this milk out. I took a can of Lysol, my pump bag, and a chair with me to our unisex bathroom and pumped. I was disgusted. I went to the director of nursing and I told her I needed somewhere else to pump immediately. Both my baby and I deserved better. Fast forward; by the end of the day, I had a key to an empty office that was available to me at any time. We must use our voices and advocate for ourselves.” — Shamiesha Ebhotemen, RN, CLE (IBCLC candidate), Founder/Owner NURSEMilk, LLC (Nursemilk.com and @thenursemilk)
“Yes I breastfeed in public, I breastfeed on Zoom, or breastfeed at work! All have been pleasant experiences this time around with my third child because I am comfortable in myself and my mission. I AM DIVINE CREATOR that is able to provide Divine substance to my children and future grandchildren. I understand the importance of breastfeeding for my child's health as well as my own and I do it in reverence and honor for my ancestors that had to be wet nurses and not provide their golden milk to their children and their lineage. With my first two children I had them while I was in the military and had to stop breastfeeding them because there was no support or space or respect for me and my children during that time! My babies were robbed of the opportunity of their golden milk and health!” — Jalisa Burton, Project Joy
What are the current laws regarding breast/chestfeeding at work and/or school and accommodations made for lactating individuals?
Senate Bill 143 (SB-142) went into effect on January 1, 2020. In summary, it requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide lactating employees a safe, clean place to express milk (not a restroom). These accommodations must be in close proximity to your workspace, have at least a chair, electrical outlets, table for use, sink with running water, and refrigerator to store milk. If a refrigerator cannot be provided an employer may provide another cooling device suitable for storing milk, such as an employer-provided cooler. In addition to these accommodations, employers must include a lactation policy into their employee handbook. Companies with less than 50 employees can apply for exemption but are strongly encouraged to provide accommodations. Employers are also required to provide unpaid break periods to express milk; preferably coinciding with paid break times. Any business who violates any one of these is subject to a fine $100/day.
On being harassed for public breast/chestfeeding:
“I was breastfeeding my daughter in a restaurant a few years ago and was yelled about not being fully covered. I literally felt like I did something wrong and cried. Then I remembered that people can be ignorant so I made a promise to myself to never feel bad for feeding my babies. This is what my body is made for.” — Sarah Collier
On advice for someone hesitant to breast/chestfeed in public:
“Just do it! Unapologetically breastfeed. It's practically a life or death situation. You are the lifeline for your baby. Other people's looks, stares, non-verbal gestures, and words are not warranted. It's not about making people feel comfortable. Breastfeeding in public is liberating. If you are not going to breastfeed your baby, then who will? You could be that change that could dismantle stereotypes and break the cycle just by you modeling breastfeeding in public. Focus on you and your baby. Be present. Notice your breathing and heart rate. Have pleasant thoughts. Each time you are breastfeeding you are pouring life into your baby.” — Kacie Blackman
“My advice for mothers that are apprehensive to breastfeed in public is: Be YOU. Be Bold and Breastfeed. Do not allow others to take away your joy to breastfeed. Search your area for breastfeeding friendly public spaces. Invite another mother to join you in a public space where you feel comfortable. If you're still nervous, figure out what it is about breastfeeding that makes you feel uncomfortable. Work from there first.” — Jacinta Elijah
What are the current laws around public breast/chestfeeding? Is it illegal?
Public and private breast/chestfeeding is legal in all 50 states, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. While breast/chestfeeding is legal everywhere, it is our wish to also have it celebrated, supported, and welcomed everywhere.
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