MOM Art Annex: Exhibition & Education Center

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MAMA: Issue 42 BLM, COVID, Afrooist, and A Body Other Than My Own

Sunshine Negyesi alias Afrooist
“This is a time of grieving but also a time of great change. Covid and the emergence of the BLM movement, served as a reminder that anything is possible. Never in a million years could we have predicted such unprecedented change. So as I watch the old structures crumble I am  reminded this is a period of infinite possibilities. The question now, is what world, what legacy, what vision I would I like to plant for the next generation.”

MAMA ISSUE 42 BLM

The most recent work of London based artist Afrooist, is a candid investigation into generational trauma. Her work reflects a personal journey of inquiry into her own family history, addressing the traumas which were entangled with the legacy of Colonialism .

Her work is fragmentary, working from big things which are edited down through various processes. These fragments relate to a bigger unseen picture, a remnant of something which has happened. Her art is the product of a performance where the unseen act of making is testified by her pieces.

She works across different media, ranging from live performances, painting and sculpture- using the poetry of hammering, beating, pulling, teasing and breaking, to express how her life has been lived and soaked in contrast. Her earlier works try to understand her black identity as it has been interpreted by society embracing the conflict revealed within the final pieces reflect the beautiful ugly of existence, that which is both attractive and repulsive, disquieting and squeamish, setting the viewer in an entanglement of something mucky, gritty yet sublime.

More about Afrooist
Born in London 1983 , Afrooist was raised in a biracial family in Tooting, South London. Her mother is Filipino and father from Guyana . She studied classical studies at Warwick University ( 2005 ) and trained as an early years teacher at Greenwich University ( 2016 ). Artist and singer, she began as a self taught painter, and developed the ability to deconstruct and reflect on her practice whilst studying Fine arts at City Lit London (2018). During the Summer of 2019 Afrooist made her debut solo exhibition at The Ritzy Brixton which included a live art performance ritual framed around a character she named Black Persephone in musical collaboration with Tanc Newbury and Siemy Di.  A mother of 2 children, she strives to be the change she wants to see in the world. She is Co-founder with Dirish Shaktidas of a project called Futureseeds and is currently residing in South West London.

MAMA Essay: A Body Other Than My Own

by Wendy Carolina Franco, PhD

(She Her Hers)

*This essay talks about the video of the murder of George Floyd.

When the day’s headlines about Covid-19’s devastating impact on the Black community were replaced with images of Black youth screaming next to burning cars, I reacted with fear. I was in full support of the protests but scared for the protestors. My 13-year-old twin sons felt that watching the video of George Floyd’s death was necessary for me to understand the rage in the streets. P said, “If you don’t see how he was killed, you are being a coward.” I replied that decades of seeing black people suffer changed nothing and only normalized seeing black bodies being abused. They chewed on that for a minute. My teenagers have plenty of complaints about me, but they respect my opinions on social and political issues. 

I am a Dominican woman with a history of serial migration, meaning that my mother immigrated first, we reunited when I was twelve, and one year later, she was imprisoned for eight years for a drug-related crime a white person would have barely done time for and was later deported. I grew up alone in New York City, dropped out of school. I eventually earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Now I specialize in trauma, counseling mostly minoritized people. 

“Look,” I told the boys, “watching someone being murdered can be traumatizing to the viewer, and for young people of color, like you, it is particularly harmful to witness racially motivated violence.” Such videos reduce a person’s life to the day they were murdered, I argued. I suggested they focus instead on studying the origins of systemic racism, and—this part is really painful as a mother–on learning how to behave to stay safe. P and F told me they had seen many people of color die, and that their bubble of racially diverse kids had also seen all the viral videos. F said: “I don’t know if it’s good or bad for me to watch these videos, but this is the worst one I have ever seen.”

Still trying to protect my mental health, I asked them to describe it to me. I don’t know about all twins, but my boys talk at the same time and always contradict each other–it’s infuriating. This time, there were zero contradictions. P noted that the police and Mr. Floyd looked so calm that he thought it was fake, then he suddenly got scared for George Floyd. F spoke of moments he thought someone was going to intervene but were stopped.  They both described a slow realization that no one was going to help. The killer stayed on top of Mr. Floyd long after his body had gone limp. P concluded that if the officer had just gotten up, Mr. Floyd would have lived. 

My face awash in tears, I had a knot in my throat. Avoiding the specifics had been a way of distancing myself from George Floyd’s murder. I still think that watching black people die is traumatizing for Black people and desensitizes non-Black people to their suffering. But the reality is that children are watching. 

After my sons brought Mr. Floyd’s death to life, I looked for photos of him. A beautiful vibrant

trio in a park summer outing came up. Wow, he was so tall and serious. He looked like a guy who kept his word. That little girl in his arms must have felt like God himself was carrying her. There was enough arm and chest for her to kick back and watch the world from up high. His partner was beaming, enjoying the circle they had created. It looked like a magnetic field, impenetrable and safe.

I decided to watch the video, once. 

From watching the video of George Floyd’s death I learned that he was a survivor. Even in the most frightening and compromised state, Mr. Floyd had the wherewithal to control the instincts we all have. He did not fight, or attempt to run, or freeze. These responses to danger come from the most ancient parts of our brain. He mustered the focus to try to de-escalate the situation by reminding the man intent on taking his life that they are both human. 

George Floyd said he was in pain, that he couldn’t breathe, communicating that he is human and like all of us will die without oxygen. He tried to calm the officers’ fears. He said he would comply with orders. He tried to adjust his body. He called out “Momma.” This dying man claimed his personhood by calling for his mother. He had profound attachments and a mother who loved him, and there is nothing more human than that. I don’t need to know how Mr. Floyd lived his life. The video of his murder showed his fighting spirit, his focus on surviving for his family, his humility, his dignity. He did not give up, but clearly understood what he was up against.

F knows what it’s like to not be able to breathe. He had pneumonia when he was eleven years old, and a young white doctor refused to take his complaints of difficulty breathing seriously. She said his lungs were clear and sent us home twice. I called my dentist, an old school Peruvian MD, who said, “GET OFF THE PHONE AND CALL 911.” My son was too weak to walk. He was rushed to the ICU where he remained for a whole week. They told me that he would have been dead in one day.  

For the local protest, F made a sign that said, “I CAN’T BREATHE.”  I was flooded with sadness. He was not copying the rallying cry this sentence has become, he does not know how Eric Garner died, and he was not thinking of the countless COVID-19 patients who suffocated to death, or of the air pollution our way of living creates. As much as he understands, he has no idea.

The pain of Black people only seems to bring about more pain. The Brooklyn protests we went to were completely peaceful and about 50% white, but Black and Brown protesters risk a lot more. They will be arrested and penalized more harshly than their white counterparts. Protesting also poses uneven health risks. Clueless celebrities and people who do not understand systemic racism claimed the coronavirus would be the ‘great equalizer’; instead we learned that racial privilege extends to levels of exposure to the virus and the body’s ability to fight the illness. The data on mortality shows that Black people die at three times the rate of white peers. Why do we accept so much black death?

Being the target of injustice creates a double bind, or a lose/lose situation. If you do nothing,

you suffer psychologically and emotionally, and if you fight back you risk further harm. Yet, I have to be hopeful. I see solidarity for Black people and a focus on action. I too come from pain. I can relate with feeling invisible, unimportant, and forgotten. But I will never know what is like to live in a body other than my own.

We naively think that our shared humanity is enough to experience empathy, but it isn’t, because of antiblack racism. We live in a society that assigns value to people’s lives depending on their identity. In this case, we have seen the repeated dehumanization and abuse of Black bodies, and for generations, we have labored to rationalize a world wherein skin color, gender and sexual identity, religion, place of birth and physical ability are risk factors for suffering and death. The human brain will distort reality to protect us from the idea that bad things happen to good people. As an example, victims of abuse, even in the most extreme cases, find ways to blame themselves. On a psychological level, having provoked the abuse preferable to the idea that something out of your control, like your body, can make you a target of violence. We make sense of systemic oppression by blaming the victims.

To undo lifetimes of mind-bending justifications of a racist system, we need action. Laws force people to adjust their belief systems. But we can go further and explore the barriers that keep us from seeing ourselves and our loved ones in the faces of Black victims of racist violence. Those barriers are constructs like “us and them or good and bad,” that keep us focused on our own suffering and desensitize us to the pain of others.

The Museum of Motherhood, the ProCreate Project, the Mom Egg Review, and the Mother Magazine are pleased to announce the launch of a monthly international exchange of ideas and art. M.A.M.A. will celebrate the notion of being “pregnant with ideas” in new ways. This scholarly discourse intersects with the artistic to explore the wonder and the challenges of motherhood. Using words and art to connect new pathways between the creative, the academic, the para-academic, the digital, and the real, as well as the everyday: wherever you live, work, and play, the Art of Motherhood is made manifest. Download the Press Release here or read about updated initiatives#JoinMAMA @ProcreateProj  @MOMmuseum @TheMomEgg

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Childless By Choice?

Written by Annika Tornatore (Edited by M. Joy Rose)

According to a recent article in Psychology Today, American mothers are challenged to balance work struggles and their home lives with increasing levels of stress. At the same time, cultural messaging about parenthood often glorifies motherhood and does not reflect the inherent conflicts between the personal and professional. Some studies show that young women are questioning whether motherhood is something to aspire to. In this blog post, I question whether having children leads to more happy and successful outcomes? I do this by sharing the perspectives of young women who are intent on changing contemporary narratives about childlessness by consciously choosing not to procreate.

Motherhood presents fresh challenges for every parent. Those challenges can include but are not limited to, increased financial burdens, new time constraints, and balancing work outside the home with childrearing duties. “The biggest issue for working mothers is the idea that they must be available around the clock both at home and the office” (Ferrante, Mary Beth). Unrealistic expectations chip away at maternal confidence as new mothers can be forced to confront impossible choices- work more or spend more time with the baby.

In addition to juggling multiple responsibilities, new mothers are confronted with dominant narratives that over-glorify motherhood. In the media, in subtle conversations, and in public discourse, impossible expectations can take a toll on women’s self-esteem: “Whether it’s a pregnant character on a TV show or a photo spread heralding a celebrity’s rapid recovery of her pre-pregnancy physique, media portrayals of pregnant and postpartum women tend to be unrealistic.” (“Media Portrayals of Pregnant Women, New Moms Unrealistic.”). These cultural imperatives are rarely achievable, resulting in negative emotions including depression and anxiety. A shift on behalf of media portrayals of perfect motherhood might lead to a more balanced perspective on pregnancy and post-natal realities. Perhaps mothers might experience less stress and more confidence?

Lastly, I would like to share two perspectives from women who are childless by choice. A Time Magazine article titled “Why I have Zero Regrets About My Childless Life,” by Stephanie Zacharek, chronicles her inability to conceive children. She has come to believe that she was okay without having kids. Stephanie writes, “My job these days, as a movie critic-is immensely satisfying, but it’s that much more so because of the freedom I have.” Her decision to accept childlessness has brought her unexpected happiness. It gave her a chance to explore what she was capable of without worrying about taking care of children. Additionally, the website, Cup of Joe recently published stories about women who determined motherhood was not for them. Wudan, a first-generation American, felt intense familial pressure to start a family. She shares her revelations: “I got to a point where I realized that having kids would throw my career for a curve. I’m a journalist who travels all the time, and I truly love my job.” Wudan was motivated to keep moving her career forwards. She determined that having children would cause her to expend energy on other things, and not on her career (Miller, Kelly).

I think it takes a lot of courage and strength for women to go against the norms of becoming a mother. My mother worked two jobs to help pay the bills. I have seen the struggle my mom endured to make sure that I have thrived. Women who decide to go against the norms should know that they can have successful lives without children. This may not be something people think about, but it is an option and it may well indeed lead some to personal happiness.

About Annika:

Hi everyone! My name is Annika Tornatore. I am a Biomedical Sciences major at the University of South Florida. After attending USF, my next goal in life will be to attend medical school. I aim to be an Anesthesiologist or a Pathologist. Although medicine interested in me for a short period, my passion for science and learning will carry me to encounter new discoveries. Besides medicine, I am an avid bookworm. Some of my favorite books tend to focus on a mixture of fantasy and science fiction. Dance and music are some of my other favorite hobbies. Dance has been a consistent passion and shaped me who I am. My favorite styles of dance are hip hop and tap. Furthermore, I aspire to travel the world. I yearn to explore and experience various cultures. I desire to learn from the people around me and hope to implement what I learn in my life.

I came in contact with the Museum of Motherhood, MOM, through an honors class at the university. This class pertains to the issues that arise infertility, motherhood, and reproductive justice. One of the aspects of this class was to partake in a Service Learning Project. This ranged from assisting in research to volunteering to writing blogs. For my service-learning, I chose an internship with the Museum of Motherhood. MOM has several goals that align with what I hope to do. The Museum of Motherhood aims to spread its messages about motherhood and family through art exhibits and blogs. I hope that through this internship, I could also attain some of their goals and spread their mission.

Work Cited:

Ferrante, Mary Beth. “The Pressure Is Real For Working Mothers.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 27 Aug. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/marybethferrante/2018/08/27/the-pressure-is-real-for-working-mothers/#40090a582b8f.

“Media Portrayals of Pregnant Women, New Moms Unrealistic.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 7 Aug. 2017, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170807152604.htm.

Miller, Kelsey. “8 Women on Choosing Not to Have Kids.” A Cup of Jo, 18 Dec. 2018, cupofjo.com/2018/12/childless-by-choice/.

“Mothers Are Drowning in Stress.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 6 Mar. 2019, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shouldstorm/201903/mothers-are-drowning-in-stress?amp.

Zacharek, Stephanie. “Why I Have Zero Regrets About My Childless Life.” Time, Time, 3 Jan. 2019, time.com/5492622/stephanie-zacharek-childless-life/.

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The Founding Mothers: Women in Herstory

This month marks the International celebration of Women’s Day (Sunday, March 8) and Women’s History Month.

Both of these acknowledgments demonstrate an earnest desire to understand and honor the contributions of women. Wednesday, March 11th will mark the opening event for a new exhibit at USF, Women’s and Gender Studies Dept., curated by Martha Joy Rose.

Panels featuring the four waves of feminism flank the entrance to the exhibit titled The Founding Mothers: Women in Herstory. Also on exhibit are a myriad of art pieces including works by Rose, Christen Clifford, and Kim Alderman. This timely installation brings together feminist voices throughout herstory who have challenged conventional attitudes about gendered performance and motherhood through their writing, activism, and art. A multi-media interactive exhibit encourages participants to think critically about evolving family narratives and womyn’s place in society.

Please do come visit. See the impact Mother Studies can have on your life, perspective, and the future. Write INFO@MOMmuseum.org for more info. Flyer for the opening event is here. The exhibit will be up through May 8, 2020.

See more panels here online at the Museum of Motherhood: LINK

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M.A.M.A. 41 Featuring Michele Landel and Ann E. Wallace

MAMA with MOM Museum, Procreate Project and Mom Egg Review featuring Michelle Landel

Bio: Michele Landel creates intensely textured and airy collages using burned, quilted, and embroidered photographs and paper to explore the themes of exposure, absence, and memory. She manually manipulates digital photographs to highlight the way images hide and filter the truth. She then sews layers of paper together to create bandages and veils and to transform images into fragile maps.

Michele is an American artist. She holds degrees in Fine Arts and Art History. Her work has been exhibited in Europe, the UK, and the US and she is extremely proud to have been in the 2017 Mother Art Prize group show. She was awarded the 2018 Innovative Technique Award by the Surface Design Association and is represented by the Jen Tough Gallery in Santa Fe, NM and the Muriel Guepin Gallery in NYC, NY. Her upcoming art events include Imagining Identity: Contemporary Textiles at the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation in Palo Alto, CA and the Hankyu Paris Art Fair in Osaka, Japan. Michele has lived in France for over 15 years. She has three school-age children and works out of her art studio in the Paris 9th arrondissement.

Project Descriptions :

1) Who’s Afraid is intended to capture the tension between men’s anxiety of being unreasonably accused of inappropriate behavior and women’s fear of sexual harassment and assault. It is referencing the play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and the inherent tension between actors and audience that is part of theater performance and in this play the volatile and complicated relationship between men and women. To capture this, Michele started with the gaze. Specifically, the ‘male gaze’ as defined by the feminist film theorist, Laura Mulvey. She began with a photograph of an anonymous woman from a clothing catalog. The photograph fits interestingly within Mulvey’s three phases of the ‘male gaze’: How men look at women, how women look at themselves, and how women look at other women. She enlarged the photograph, divided it into small rectangles, and then printed the image on secondhand bed sheets. She pieced the photograph back together and painted, using machine embroidery, the woman onto a second bed sheet – covering her skin, hair, and clothes with thread. She cut out the woman’s eyes to make the viewer uncomfortable and scared. Deliberately referencing childhood ghost costumes made by cutting out eyeholes from old bed sheets, she is engaging with the idea of spectator and specter both of which have the Latin root word ‘spect’ meaning to ‘see.’ From a distance, the embroidered figure on the sheet appears three-dimensional. The embroidered figure appears to ‘see’ the viewer when in fact the gaze is empty. The vacant gaze causes anxiety and feels powerful. Blog Link I Instagram @michelelandel  I www.michelelandel.com

1) Michele Landel

For There She Was, comes from the last line of Virginia Woolf ‘s “Mrs. Dalloway” and includes over a hundred embroidered, burned, dyed and collaged images. The series emerged from thinking about all the women who are currently speaking out about their pain and trauma and are refusing to go away. To summarize this moment, Michele brewed natural dyes in her kitchen using organic materials and then dyed small scraps of fabric (a cloth baby diaper, an antique tablecloth, a stained tea towel…) to represent the physicality of womanhood and gender roles. She matched the fabrics with small paper dolls that are digitally edited photographs from clothing catalogs to show the commodification and manipulation of women’s stories. To deliberately erase the women, she burned holes in the photographs and repeatedly stitched over their faces and bodies. Yet the women are still there. Their presence is even stronger.

Closed

By Ann E. Wallace

Close the door.
She looks at me like I am ridiculous.
But I only left it open for a minute.
A girl raised by a father has not
had to think much about the reasons
a family of girls keeps the door closed
and locked.
A family of girls knows
the unwanted will enter
closed doors, will penetrate locks
uninvited.
We do not need to leave
the door open for them.

Ann E. Wallace writes of life with illness, motherhood, and other everyday realities. Her poetry collection is Counting by Sevens, from Main Street Rag, and her published work, featured in journals such as Wordgathering, The Literary Nest, Rogue Agent, Mothers Always Write, and Juniper, can be found on her website AnnWallacePhD.com. She lives in Jersey City, NJ and is on Twitter @annwlace409.

The Museum of Motherhood, the ProCreate Project, the Mom Egg Review, and the Mother Magazine are pleased to announce the launch of a bi-monthly international exchange of ideas and art. M.A.M.A. will celebrate the notion of being “pregnant with ideas” in new ways. This scholarly discourse intersects with the artistic to explore the wonder and the challenges of motherhood. Using words and art to connect new pathways between the creative, the academic, the para-academic, the digital, and the real, as well as the everyday: wherever you live, work, and play, the Art of Motherhood is made manifest. Download the Press Release here or read about updated initiatives#JoinMAMA  @ProcreateProj  @MOMmuseum @TheMomEgg

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Muttererde & The Language of Class

Jessica Lauren Elizabeth Taylor Muttererde (2017) Video

Muttererde profiles conversations with five black femmes on the knowledge and non-knowledge of their mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers and as far back as the knowledge carries them to create a rich and powerful archive on ancestry.  They explore themes of motherhood, migration, cultural differences, beauty standards, queerness, kinship, death and rebirth. Their stories, although from five different countries, intertwine to weave a tapestry of herstory through the African diaspora. Through their testimonies, the viewer discovers that ritual, memory and oral history can challenge the status quo.

This work, made in collaboration with filmmaker Astrid Gleichmann, features the stories of Camalo Gaskin, Tobi Ayedadjou, Niv Acosta, Natalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro and Fannie Sosa. It has been supported by the Decentralized Cultural Work Tempelhof-Schöneberg, District Kunst und Kulturforderung Berlin and A Prima Vista Filmproduktion. Posted in partnership with the Museum of Motherhood, Procreate Project and the Mom Egg Review.

 Artist Biography

Jessica Lauren Elizabeth Taylor (b. 1984, Florida) is a multidisciplinary artist and community organizer. Her roots are in the Southern United States, born in Mississippi and raised in Florida. Taylor’s work manifests through performance, text, dialogue, dance and community building for Black People and People of Colour. She is chiefly concerned with ways to dismantle oppressive institutions and the creation of racial equity in art and cultural institutions. She has performed and presented at the Barbican Centre of Art (London, UK); Chisenhale Gallery (London, UK); Hebbel Am Ufer (Berlin, Germany); Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art (Berlin, Germany); Sophiensaele Theater (Berlin, Germany);  The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art (Oslo, Norway); Rogaland Kunstsenter (Stavanger, Norway); and the Irish Museum for Modern Art (Dublin, Ireland). She is currently undergoing a Master of Art in Black British Literature at Goldsmiths University of London.

VIDEO TRAILER

LANGUAGE CLASS

Kimberly L. Becker, (written on Qualla Boundary; for C.M.)

Little by little

we are reclaiming the words

Just as the land was once large,

so, too, our voice

Some words lost on the Trail

have been found

They lived hidden in baskets,

in pockets, in the very tassels of corn

(Selu, Selu)

Now the words live again

See? When I say nogwo it is now,

both the now of then and the now

of not yet

The words work secret medicine

and strong, forming us

from the inside out

Language is our Magic Lake–

we walk in limping with loss

and emerge wholly ourselves

When Cecilia speaks

she bears with her

the future of these sounds

Listen: her voice is soft, but sure

Originally published in The Mom Egg Vol. 8 Lessons, 2010

The Museum of Motherhood, the ProCreate Project, the Mom Egg Review, and the Mother Magazine are pleased to announce the launch of a bi-monthly international exchange of ideas and art. M.A.M.A. will celebrate the notion of being “pregnant with ideas” in new ways. This scholarly discourse intersects with the artistic to explore the wonder and the challenges of motherhood. Using words and art to connect new pathways between the creative, the academic, the para-academic, the digital, and the real, as well as the everyday: wherever you live, work, and play, the Art of Motherhood is made manifest. Download the Press Release here or read about updated initiatives#JoinMAMA  @ProcreateProj  @MOMmuseum @TheMomEgg

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How Income and Insurance Can Affect Breastfeeding Support For New Mothers

By Deann Shaffner

According to the CDC among the infants born in the United States, 83.8% start to breastfeed and by 12 months the amount of breastfed babies is down to 36.2%.

“A more recent study that used costs adjusted to 2007 dollars and evaluated costs associated with additional illnesses and diseases (sudden infant death syndrome, hospitalization for lower respiratory tract infection in infancy, atopic dermatitis, childhood leukemia, childhood obesity, childhood asthma, and type 1 diabetes mellitus) found that if 90 percent of U.S. families followed guidelines to breastfeed exclusively for six months, the United States would save $13 billion annually from reduced direct medical and indirect costs and the cost of premature death. If 80 percent of U.S. families complied, $10.5 billion per year would be saved. (Economic Effects).”

There are a variety of reasons mothers stop breastfeeding by 6 months including, concerns of milk supply, baby’s weight, issues with latching, unsupportive work policies, lack of prenatal leave, cultural norms, and lack of family support. So, what is a mother to do if she desires to breastfeed? In my previous post I gave an overview of the importance of seeking an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC); because they have received thorough lactation education. IBCLCs can be found in many areas, but many of them are employed in Hospitals, WIC offices, and Private Practice.

In Hospitals where an IBCLC or a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) are present, a visit to assist mom with a correct latch with baby, as well as address any breastfeeding concerns, is done during the mothers’ hospital stay. As the baby grows each week after his/her birth the breastfeeding experience can continue to change; bringing new questions on how to know if you’re doing this whole breastfeeding thing correctly! Most Hospitals will assist you during the entire course of your breastfeeding journey. However, some mothers forget that they can receive help from the hospitals IBCLC or CLC staff beyond the newborn stage.

Anna Kell Artwork Nursing_Install; MOM museum online exhibit

WIC participants benefit greatly from having the ability to contact breastfeeding support during pregnancy, after birth and up to the child turning 5. Many WIC offices have IBCLC, CLCs and Breastfeeding Peer Specialists; these specialists are experienced breastfeeding mothers that have undergone some training to assist mothers. At WIC, a parent could work with these available sources with the continued visits required at WIC for nutritional help. Although WIC is income-based and not available to every parent. As well as the fact, that some mothers report it is easier to access baby formula through WIC than breastfeeding help. (Source- Breastfeeding in the Public Arena Pg. 153 MJR).

Private Practice IBCLCs may face more of a challenge with assisting clients due to a conflicting relationship with insurance companies. Insurance providers have a variety of policy plans available to their customers. It may be in your best interest to call your insurance company during your pregnancy to see what is covered with breastfeeding supplies, (like a breast pump) or lactation visits, what documentation will be required, and the time frame you may face while waiting for coverage, if you have any, with your insurance. The information provided by your insurance company based on your plan, which can easily differ from other individuals’ plans, may help give you a better understanding of what you need to prepare for. Many insurance plans require an “in-network” provider, this means the lactation consultant has an agreement with the health plan to provide services. For some private practices, this may be easier said than done. An e-mail survey of U.S. IBCLCs in March of 2011 conclusion recorded that, “IBCLCs provide key care to a vulnerable population. However, we found that these services are not consistently reimbursed. IBCLCs poorly communicate their health care activities to insurance providers, but insurance providers also inconsistently recognize and reimburse IBCLC care.”

I recently interviewed IBCLC Heather Gansky, her practice is The Tree of Life Lactation located in South Carolina. She has also been a La Leche League Leader since August of 2016.

Question: Have you come across mothers experiencing difficulties nursing their baby and insurance companies denying coverage for Private Practice appointments with a Lactation Specialist?

Heather: Yes there are a ton of denials from insurance companies. Most moms do have to resubmit with different codes because each insurance seems to have it own way they like to do things.

Question: If a mother does not qualify for WIC, and is unable to attend La Leche League meetings, where do you suggest she go for assistance?

Heather: If I run into a parent who doesn’t have WIC or can not come to meetings I will either refer her to an IBCLC in our area, myself being one of them on a list about 3 others. Also, there are hospitals that have support groups, and some areas have baby cafés that anyone can drop into for help they need. It really depends on the situation and if she needs one on one help or peer to peer support.

Question: From your experience, how often do you think mothers seek breastfeeding help? Where is the best source for them to turn to address breastfeeding concerns? (Newborn stage, 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, 2 +years.)

Heather: I find mothers sometimes wait too long to seek help for breastfeeding issues. It’s only until they are able to throw in the towel due to pain or poor weight gain in their baby that they actually seek help, and sometimes that’s much too late. Generally, we see babies in the newborn stage-1 month; then again around 3 months when babies really need to be good and suckling and using their tongues and mouths correctly to actively get milk out. If we didn’t see a baby in the early days but see them in the 3-month range it is typically due to mouth abnormalities which went undiagnosed either due to moms oversupply/ overactive letdown and the baby was riding the huge letdown portion of the feeding session.

Question: Do you think insurance companies are helpful to mothers seeking breastfeeding help? Or does the process of waiting for approval leave moms in a position of crisis where they turn to formula feeding, even though breastfeeding was their first choice in how they wanted their baby fed?

Heather: Some insurance companies have staff on hand to help with common issues/questions over the phone. There are some IBCLCs that are in-network for some insurance companies, but most work in offices and don’t do home visits. Most parents need help right away and aren’t waiting for insurance approval. In the case where parents don’t have money to pay for a consultation out of pocket they sometimes can go back to the hospital they delivered at however they are put back in the same situation with the same providers who are time-constrained and didn’t help them, to begin with. Many parents just don’t want to go back to those providers.

Question: Do you think that if health insurance companies were more supportive on coverage for visits with a lactation specialist that there could be a possible increase in breastfeeding rates?

Heather: Oh I’m sure of it. Most families are living paycheck to paycheck. They can’t afford a lactation visit… especially when one or both parents are out of work for the birth of the baby.

Question: Do you think families would benefit from visiting with an IBCLC before baby is born?

Heather: Yes. Education before birth is one of the key factors in initiation as well as the duration of breastfeeding.

The cost of breastmilk itself can be free. However, breastfeeding may have some additional costs. A mother could get around not having a breast pump and could choose to hand express, but meeting with an IBCLC or other lactation specialists may be more beneficial in helping you reach your breastfeeding goals. A visit with a consultant may range in price from $100.00-$300.00 depending on your location, but this is still a very low cost compared to a months’ worth of formula which can cost up to $243.00 per month, or you can use this Formula cost calculator to determine costs. If you plan to breastfeed, and during pregnancy you read the books, attend the breastfeeding classes, you may still want to be prepared to visit with a lactation specialist after the birth of your baby. Requesting funds as a baby shower gift, holiday or birthday, to visit with a lactation consultant would be an amazing gift to receive if you feel you may need help with affording the cost to visit with a consultant. You may be lucky enough to even be reimbursed by your insurance company after these visits, but it is best to save up on your own for a visit to avoid a feeding crisis, then waiting for the insurance to get everything in order. Either way, if you want to breastfeed, that is your choice. Income and Insurance coverage should not be left to chance.

More on education:

Please see the Free Webinars offered through the United States Breastfeeding Committee. The next 11/20 Session: Building Relationships: a Key to the Rise of our Indigenous Breastfeeding Communities
will be presented by Amber Kapuamakamaeokalani Wong Granite, Breastfeeding Hawai’i Coalition.

O ke kahua ma mua ma hope ke kūkulu: First the foundation, then the structure can be built.
This Hawaiian proverb teaches us the importance of building relationships in order to ensure the rise of our people.

Whether we seek to influence fellow learners, patients, or customers, we must get to know them before we can ask them to make a change. Once we seek and understand where they come from, what is truly important to them, and then help them unpack their stories, the real work can truly begin. During this session, we will hear an oli, Nā ʻAumakua. This oli acknowledges our ancestors, our land, and our nation. It invites strength, knowledge, and power into our space. MOM founder and director, Martha Joy Rose has participated in these and found them educational and helpful. (See the certificate at the bottom of the page)

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/index.htm

https://mommuseum.org/2019/10/31/breastfeeding-education-might-not-be-what-you-think-it-is/

http://www.babycafeusa.org/

https://www.treelifelactation.com/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK52687/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23962773

https://kellymom.com/pregnancy/bf-prep/bfcostbenefits/

https://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/wic-eligibility-requirements

New Maternalisms, “Breastfeeding in the Public Arena”, Martha Joy Rose (Demeter Press 2016)

Deann’s Other Blogs at MOM: 

Breastfeeding Education Might Not Be What You Think It Is

Gender Disappointment