LIBRARY FEATURES: The Big Let Down

By Violet Phillips

February is Black History Month! Here at MOM, we celebrate Black motherhood by kicking off our Library Features by highlighting the work of author and activist Kimberly  Seals Allers.

Kimberly is a graduate of Columbia  Graduate School of Journalism, executive director of Narrative Nation, inc., president and chief health communicator of  Shift Health Communication  Strategy and author Of “The Big Letdown—how Medicine, Business & Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding,” published in January 2017. [1] Recent accomplishments include a yelp-like app that fights racism from a public accountability perspective. Find out more here [LINK].

Kimberly Seals Allers is passionate about the ways motherhood intersects with race, class, and policy. [2] She had her first baby shortly after graduate school and was very anxious about birthing complications, that, as a black woman, she was statistically more likely to face. She felt her concerns were brushed off by the hospital workers, and then was inspired to invent strategies to improve birth and breastfeeding conditions in America.

 Since she kept hearing of more traumatic experiences from black and Latina women, she and her 13-year-old son decided to launch an app calledIrth , that helps people of color find prenatal doctors, birthing doctors, postpartum doctors and pediatricians, by showing reviews similar to Yelp. You can even search for reviews by the race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or income of the reviewer, allowing users to make sure the medical professionals will be inclusive of their needs. Although currently only available in New York City, New Orleans, Sacramento, Detroit, Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, she hopes it will eventually be launched nationwide. She also hopes it will grow to include fertility specialists and breast cancer doctors, and that it will inspire white women to take allyship.[3]

She also wrote The Big Letdown about how breastfeeding is stigmatized in ways that promote unhealthy baby formulas,  and how it relates to oversights in feminism and public policy. [4]

By the logic she uses, breastfeeding babies for the first six months of their lives has been proven to benefit their physical and mental health in many ways, including decreasing chances of disease and obesity. It is also proven to benefit the breastfeeder by lowering chances of past-partrum depression, increasing confidence, self-esteem and calmness, improve sense of connection with the child, and lower chances of cancer, diabetes and endometriosis. [5]

However, as women now work more than ever before, many mothers, especially black mothers, have been convinced that baby formulas are better, because they don’t take time away from work. Health care, daycare, and maternity leave have gotten less attention now that women can feed their babies through pumps and don’t need the time to breastfeed. [6]

In addition to the scheduling preference for formulas, breastfeeding in public is typically shamed, as most people have noticed. Even though breasts are commonly shown in advertising and media for straight men’s sexual interest, many people are uncomfortable seeing breasts used for an essential action. The association with sexuality causes anxiety, embarrassment and confliction about breastfeeding in public.

Studies  have proven that social status, level of education, and especially, amount of support from friends and family, all improve chances of making healthy infant-feeding decisions;but, even the majority of women who breastfeed still believe it’s wrong to do in front of men.[7] even in Australia, where there is a law banning discrimination against breast-feeding,  formula feeding is still more popular due to lack of knowledge on how to breastfeed properly, pressure to return to work, conflicting medical advice, isolation and lack of support. [9] Many argue that it’s a personal choice whether you breastfeed or formula feed, but I’m not sure it’s an informed choice, when so many people are unaware of the benefits of breastfeeding.

Feminism and sociology aim to change this by promoting normalization of female/reproductive body functions. Professionals in this field have aimed to show how much women and breasts are seen as sexual objects, designed to tempt men and boys, [11], and create changes towards breasts being seen as a simple body part. As they might argue, the stigma against breastfeeding is part of the issue of women, transgender people and children being seen as less “natural” and suitable for public exposure.

As Allers herself argues “[t]asking about breastfeeding means talking about women’s bodies, feminism, policy gaps, commercial interests and physician education.” [12] She, and others in similar fields, aim for breastfeeding parents to have support from their partners, family and friends, and eventually, improve birthing conditions, children being treated equally and adequate muttering leaves. [Tap on the image below to read more about Kimberly].

This project is made possible through the MOM Internship Project. To find out more about Violet Phillips or to read about our interns, go to our Internship Page here at MOM [LINK].

Citations

[1] LinkedIn. “Kimberly seals allers.” https://www.linkedin.com/in/kimberlysealsallers

[2] the riveter. “Kimberly seals allers: contributor.” https://theriveter.co/voice/author/kimberly-seals-allers/

[3] New York family. “Kimberly seals allers: fighting to lower black and brown maternal mortality rates.” October 1. 2020. Donna Duarte-Ladd.

[4] Amazon. “The big letdown: how medicine, business, and feminism undermine breastfeeding.” https://www.amazon.com/Big-Letdown-Medicine-Undermine-Breastfeeding/dp/1250026962

[5] Cleveland Clinic. “The benefits of breastfeeding for baby & for mom.” https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15274-the-benefits-of-breastfeeding-for-baby–for-mom

[6] the new republic. “The war over breastfeeding.” November 23, 2015. Kathryn Joyce.

https://newrepublic.com/article/124348/war-breastfeeding

[7] international breastfeeding journal. “It’s okay to breastfeed in public but….” June 11, 2019. Athena Sheehan, Karleen Gribble & Virginia Schmied.

[8] the pump. “A surprising number of people still find breastfeeding in public inappropriate, survey reveals.” June 2019. Stephanie grassullo.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.thebump.com/news/breastfeeding-in-public-aeroflow-survey/amp

[9] multicultural center for women’s health. “Why breastfeeding is a feminist issue.”

[10] feminist current. “Why are women being erased from breastfeeding advocacy?” August 21, 2019. Nicole Jameson.

[11] thought I. “Explaining cultural taboos on breastfeeding in public.” September 30,2018. Nicki Lisa cole, p.h.d.

https://www.thoughtco.com/why-breastfeeding-in-public-is-taboo-302623

[12] Facebook. “Kimberly seals allers.” November 8, 2018.

https://www.facebook.com/iamKSealsAllers

Photo credie: By Anton Nosik – TheKid, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15481910

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Published by MOM

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