Once upon a time, in 2016, members of the Vital Village Network launched the Boston Breastfeeding Coalition. The Coalition aims to reduce breastfeeding inequities by increasing opportunities for breastfeeding and social support for parents all over Boston using three primary strategies: cultivating strategic partnerships; developing opportunities for leadership pathways for lactation education and civic engagement; and coordinating drop-in support groups and baby cafes that reduce social isolation and support child and family wellbeing.
Vital Village staff, Rachel Sullivan, Risa Brudney, and Erica Pike were pivotal in working to ensure that a team of leaders could represent the Boston Breastfeeding Coalition at the 2018 MIT Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon. These leaders would bring their skills, knowledge, and strengths to the discussion around innovatively hacking breastfeeding equity. Little did they know that this invitation to gather would become the catalyst for the formation of BreastPowered!
Boston's 1st Black Breastfeeding Week, 2017
During this fateful weekend, Rachel, an Americorp Vista and aspiring midwife, served as the glue providing our technological and note-taking needs, while helping to keep us on track as our vision at the Hackathon expanded and expanded. Jenny Weaver, the remarkable nurse, certified IBCLC, long-time advocate for breastfeeding moms in the greater Boston area, and leader of several Baby Cafes was at the table. There was also Dominique, the multilingual certified lactation counselor, long-time WIC Breastfeeding Peer Advocate, and community builder extraordinaire. There was also a lawyer from Las Vegas, Fortune, who upon hearing our pitch for a way to support more women of color in breastfeeding support and lactation education, lent every fiber of her being and advocacy experience to help push the engine forward. And there was me, Waetie Sanaa, creative lead, family advocate and recruitment specialist, and ROSE Community Transformer who had begun writing about maternal health and breastfeeding issues for Vital Village, but wanted to expand that effort and find a way to center the images and stories of breastfeeding families of color.
We all entered with so many strengths and a curiosity about how we could use our time together to push forward our joint interest in empowering women of color to take charge of their bodies, their births, and their own maternal health outcomes. We knew that we did not want to keep waiting for women to die before our stories and struggles could be fully heard. And, after a weekend of toiling, brainstorming, and seeking unity, we agreed that it was our breastfeeding stories, themselves, that unified us and that we all agreed would be the power, the skill, and the inspiration for our organization: BreastPowered!
The reality that our pitch at the Hackathon to launch a campaign to grow an organization that would both assist women of color to tell our parenting, birth, and breastfeeding stories while using that creativity to fund the increase of more certified women of color in the lactation field was so well received by so many is a fairy tale still being written. The fact that the pitch won the Community Connections award by Ameda has propelled our ideas into reality faster than we could have ever imagined. In this tale, we are our own saviors and heroines. We show up to learn, to explore, to expand, to fall down and get back up, but, most of all, to support one another in meeting our own breastfeeding and lactation goals. We are teachers and students all at once in learning how best to mother and birth our dreams.
We are laboring and growing this organization project by project, with numerous events planned throughout the month of August, National Breastfeeding Awareness Month! Our first major event for moms is aimed at gathering over 100 women of color (and their families) at the Boston Public Garden for a Photo Event and Breastfeeding Celebration on August 11th, 2018. We are having major growing pains as we birth this big baby and we invite you-- no, we implore you-- to join us in this effort!
We are explicitly seeking people of all backgrounds to join us as volunteers, photo participants, grant writers, donors, and resident experts as we seek to make Boston’s Black Breastfeeding Week (at the end of August) an annual opportunity to celebrate all of our efforts to love and parent our children as best we can. We further want our events to be an opportunity for our entire community to share resources, make calls, stage interventions, and reach out to those who may not yet see the fullness of our vision. We are eager to learn more about you and possibilities for all kinds of partnerships as we grow this movement!!!!
Please feel free to register at the appropriate link below to be a part of this unfolding fairy tale!!!
Do you want to be a volunteer? Click here!
Do you want to participate in the group photo? Register here!
The BreastPowered Team