Monday, August 13, 2012

August 2012 Breastfeeding Mother of Color of the Month: Nzinga Speller

August is designated Breastfeeding awareness month.  So, we thought it would be appropriate to have someone we know who is on the path of working with Mothers and Children and promotes Breastfeeding all of the time.  Nzinga Speller a.k.a. Mama Nzinga is someone who Vanessa and I look up to even though *ahem* she is younger than us.  She has more passion about maternal-child health than most well-knowledgeable professionals we know.  Her path is made of gold with her Zen energy and vibrant spirit.  It is our pleasure to introduce to you...

Nzinga Speller

Academic Director & Breastfeeding Peer Counselor

Child & Age
Sundiata Muhammad age 5

How long did you breastfeed?
We breastfed until he was a month or two past 2yrs old.

How did you know to breastfeed?
That’s what my mother did and what nature provided me.

Please explain to us your overall breastfeeding experience. 
My breastfeeding experience was awesome!

How were you inspired by your breastfeeding experience? 
It really showed me that we have all that we need to be excellent. I truly respect and honor my body more and its ability to do some amazing things.

Were there any obstacles you had to overcome during your breastfeeding experience? 
Just the initial adjustment to nursing. The slight discomfort of not being used to having my nipples sucked for sustenance. Oooh, and clogged milk ducts……not cool at all! But nothing that was not to be expected and easily overcome.

How do you think being a Mother of Color effects your breastfeeding experience? 
It has a huge impact on my experience, mainly because it is resurfacing within my communities, that it is okay to bond with and nurse your child from your very own breast. Every time another woman or young girl saw me breastfeeding my son, if they had not seen it before, they had now been exposed to a new reality, a new possibility. It was my chance to affect change in the mindsets of sooo many women of color that we do breastfeed our children and with absolutely no shame.

What are some of the ways you inspire other mothers to breastfeed and get the word of encouragement out in the community? 
I love to share information! I am always speaking with women about pregnancy, birth, and child rearing. Also, sharing the benefits of breastfeeding and the stories of myself and other women of color’s successes. I strongly believe that we have to begin to encourage and inspire our communities long before the women and girls become pregnant. That way, when the wonderful journey of bringing forth and raising a life begins, whether or not she will breastfeed is not even a question.

Nzinga Speller is a twenty-nine year young mother of one spectacular 5 yrs young son who lives in Chicago!  She is an educator and is forever a student.  She believes in the genius of every child and works to bring as much of it forth as possible.  Nzinga is a breastfeeding peer counselor whose mission is to get that mom to, “Put that baby on the breast and let nature do the rest (with a little help from me if needed)!”  Her journey is to become a Doula, Birth Educator, and a Certified Professional Midwife.  Nzinga is also a dancer, martial artist, art lover, bookworm, dreamer, natural hair enthusiast and stylist, motivator, science geek, and lover of life.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May 2012 Breastfeeding Mother of Color of the Month: Rita "Mu Shemsu-t" Stewart

Since May is the month of honoring Mothers and the Maternal figures in our lives we decided a great Mom to honor as May 2012 Breastfeeding Mother of Color of the Month would be a very special "Mom" to us here at The Abiyamo Omo Society, Rita "Mu Shemsu-t" Stewart.  She has been our guiding force and strong advocate throughout our journey and, of course, she is a huge breastfeeding advocate.  We thank her for her love, advice, guidance and embrace of our work and organization. She is not only a blessing in our lives but the lives of so many as a Life Coach and community activist.  Read her story and you'll be surrounded by inspiration.

Rita "Mu Shemsu-t" Stewart

Executive Life Coach - Owner Master Force, Inc - Specializing in Leadership and Community Education

Your children and their ages
Rute' 34, Tia 28 and Zekur 16

How long did you breastfeed?  
I breastfed the youngest child until he was 2.5, the  oldest until he was 14 months and my daughter until she was 18 months.

How did you know to breastfeed? 
I lived in LeMars, Iowa when my older two children were born.  During my prenatal care I was introduced to an organization called La Leche League.  They provided information on what I needed to nurture my breast while I was pregnant and then later coming to the hospital and my home supporting me with lactation.

Please explain to us your overall breastfeeding experience. 
Breastfeeding was an instinctive choice for me because I wanted to provide my children with the best possible immune system as well as insure they didn't struggle with obesity which was a huge issue in my family.  I used breastfeeding as a time for me to bond with my children while at the same time practicing breathing and relaxation for myself.   My older two children did not use bottles or pacifiers, while my youngest only took one bottle a day when I returned to work when he was 3 months old.  At the time, his father was an at-home-Dad for the first 3 years of his life.

How were you inspired by your breastfeeding experience? 
I am still inspired by my breastfeeding experience because, for the most part, my children have stayed healthy their entire life.  We had no emergency room experiences when they were growing up because their immune systems were high.  We also did not do vaccinations for them either.  They were raised as vegetarians with all of them having about 5% body fat to contend with.  They are physically beautiful and healthy.  And all three (3) of my grandchildren have also been breastfed by their mothers.

Were there any obstacles you had to overcome during your breastfeeding experience?  
The obstacles that I had to overcome mainly tended to be with my Chicago family when I came home to visit.  There were always people teasing me whether it was with my family or from observers in public.  LeMars was a child friendly community where breastfeeding was part of the norm, so I became rather comfortable whipping out my breast anywhere to nurse my children.  When I would visit Chicago there was always a bit of a to-do with folks asking me to step into another room or turn away.  But I didn't let that deter me very much.  I would throw a blanket over my shoulder and keep nursing.  However, I became very aware that the culture of family and children was not incorporated into the mainstream thinkers in Chicago.

How do you think being a Mother of Color effects your breastfeeding experience? 
Medical school teaches from the prospective that most patients are of Caucasian matter, therefore very little is studied or applied to the existence of melanin in our bodies.  Subsequently, the darker you are the more melanin you possess.  A lot of the medication and vaccines given to our children run counter to the melanin we have in our bodies causing many adverse affects.  This is now part of the genocide we are experiencing in our communities.  It therefore becomes my responsibility to be very authoritative about the well being of myself, my children and my family because Western Medicine is not designed to forward our wellness.  Breastfeeding then becomes the first approach to implementing this theory, the second is high quality nutrition and water.  As mothers we must get back to the establishment of well being in the home.  We are the first ones to loose in the battle of life, just like the depiction in the movies.

What are some of the ways you inspire other mothers to breastfeed and get the word of encouragement out in the community?  
I inspire others from the mini blogging that I do on my Facebook page.  I also teach a class called, "The Spiritual Path of Parenting" which discussions many of the practices I spoke of above.  In my own family, I have advocated breastfeeding consistently and many of the mothers did choose to do so even if were only for the first 6 months.  I will do more with this as time moves on.

Rita "Mu Shemsu-t" Stewart lives in Chicago but works with people all over the world as a Life Coach.  Her passion is working with teenagers and healing communities through meditation, workshops and motivational speeches.  Mu Shemsu-t has a blog radio show and an eBook called "Patiently Waiting for Nothing".  You can also follow her on Twitter @mushemsut.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Having Our Nipple Confusion

In our work we see so often a baby having nipple confusion.  It happens so much we have had conversations for hours boasting about our own way of tackling the evils of NC.  We nod our heads in agreement and nod it acknowledging a new method that worked for one of us.  When we walk into a hospital room or home as a mother is holding her newborn who's having difficulty latching and there are synthetic nipples all around her we put on our mighty LC suit and take on our plan of action, sometimes sweating to get a baby to understand their mommy's nipple is what they really need not the rubbery, tough plastic.  There are so many successes and, we must admit, there are some failures.  In the end, we look at all of them as successes because we always, always learn from that particular experience.

Vanessa and I for the past twenty months have worked our butts off and much of the time for FREE.  We have such a passion for our calling that not receiving money is a minor technicality for us.  We never turn down a phone call and never tell a mother, when she asks us to come to her home, no.  We ask for whatever she can give; $100, $40, $25 and one time I was even handed a $10 bill and walked out totally grateful for it thinking I could put a little over two gallons of gas in my car.  I was excited not only for adding gasoline to my car but for meeting a Mom who told me she was so determined to exclusively breastfeed even while going to school and working full-time as a young Mom.

Then, there's reality.

Vanessa and I live in a capitalist society that fuels itself with that green machine, money.  We need to update our website.  We need to go from house to house, meeting to meeting.  We need to pay our mobile phone bills.  We need to feed and clothe our families.  We need to feed and clothe ourselves.  We need to stop draining our savings.  We are not rich and definitely not wealthy.  So, we have without a doubt accepted the reality of living in a capitalist, money-driven society.  Now, for the dirty business.

We have given presentation after presentation to hospitals, clinics, corporations, venture capitalists, rich family and friends, organizations, politicians and foundations.  We have applied for grants and have been denied.  I know, twenty months is not a long time and there have been plenty of businesses that have struggled for years before they even made their first dollar.  We are grateful for the money we have earned.  Thank you!  We just don't know where to turn next to keep our business thriving and growing.  It pains me to put our struggle on blast like this because I know there are people who are basking in the glory of our struggle and have added to it.  Let's be real.  Times are changing, vastly, and we can't hold on to what a few women think about us which causes us to keep our mouths closed.  There are new methods of achieving success.  We open ourselves to those alternative avenues of opportunity.

Our lack of funds have caused us to suspend airing our weekly radio show, not respond to some business phone calls and requests, not keep promises, added family stresses and deny our children some necessities.  Through it all we never deny a Mother service.  Never.  We always return a phone call and make a late night home visit, making sure our husbands are taken care of and our children are safe.

We want to work on this craft all the time while being Mothers, wives, daughters, a sister, cousins and friends.  We need to work with Moms and babies and hospitals and clinics and corporations and politicians and investors.  There is a HUGE need.  The more we work the more we realize there are so many issues that must be addressed and solved immediately.  So, we go to bed at night with a list of what to do the next day and wake up the next morning with a goal of scratching off all the items on our To-Do list.  We do...sometimes.  Why sometimes?  Well, 1) we are human, 2) there are some things you can't accomplish in a day and 3) our money is running out, fast.

So, we have a case of nipple confusion.

We want our business to latch on to projects and other businesses but because of the intervention of the synthetic need of money to thrive in this society we can't latch on to our business goals and basics.  We had a wonderful phone conversation with a Sistah in lactation last week and she told us we couldn't quit.  She became our mighty LC, sweating while helping us to latch on to our business plans and acknowledge our current successes.  She told us we couldn't stop working in lactation and couldn't end our business.  Vanessa agreed and assured her we were never going to stop.  I cried.  I cried because, frankly, it hurts to see the presence of a few screwing up the health of so many women and children.  At this point, it is clear to us it is purposeful.  There is a system setting women and children up to fail, no doubt.  Vanessa and I work ALL THE TIME.  We do it all for not just Black women but ALL women.  So, when you see people receiving checks and they do the barely the bare minimum  for their personal gain and ego it hurts.  They know what's going on with our women and children. They know the "set up to fail" methods that are being used on Moms and they choose to keep doing nothing, not even the bare minimum much of the time..

What is next for The Monolatry Group and The Abiyamo Omo Society?  In the last three weeks, we have developed a serious plan of action and started on it.  We have brought on Women who are working for us for no pay.  They are dedicating themselves to this plan of action.  These Moms have been working on finding us funding, resources and meet with us often to talk about our next steps.  We need more though.  I know this is asking for a lot but Vanessa and I have given so much of ourselves we need to stand up for ourselves by asking for help...lots of help.

Who do you know who can invest in our company and non-profit?  Do you have time to help us?  What we are about to do will be on a national level.  Yes, it's a lot for two Black Women on the South Side of Chicago but it can be done with your help and the help of others.  Whatever you can offer, invest and share will be very much appreciated.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

You can call us at 847-502-0053 and e-mail us at  Peace & Blessings!

Monday, April 2, 2012

April 2012 Breastfeeding Mother of Color of the Month: Maria Galvan-Briseno

The month of April is very dear to us because one of our founders has a birthday this month and the other founder's mother's birthday is in the month of April as well. So, it is pure coincidence the breastfeeding mother we are highlighting this month is celebrating another year of life this month as well, Maria Galvan-Briseno.  We pick her this month for all the work she is doing on the South Side of Chicago in the Latino Community.  She is a powerful force who is making so much positive, uplifting change we had to share her story with the world. We thank you, Maria, for all you do and the lactivist in you. Ladies and Gentlemen, I introduce to you...

Name Maria Galvan-Briseno

Profession Certified Breastfeeding Counselor at Chicago Family Health Center

Children  Emmanuel 16, Pedro 9, and Daniel 7

How long did you breastfeed?  
With Emmanuel, I pumped my milk for a year.  With Pedro, I nursed at the breast for sixteen months and Daniel I breastfed him for thirty-two months.

How did you know to breastfeed?  
I didn't know about breastfeeding.  My mother made me do it. I was upset at her for making me but as time went on I learned how convenient it was.

Please explain to us your overall breastfeeding experience. 
I was eighteen when Emmanuel was born.  The hospital staff did not support me nor educated me on breastfeeding.  Emmanuel was jaundice and stayed in the hospital for two weeks.  I was clueless about jaundice.  I did not know what to do.  During our visits at the hospital the nurses did not mention breastfeeding to me.  I started pumping my milk for him.  He never latched on and  it made me cry knowing my baby did not want my breast.  Thankfully, my mother educated me and my husband about breastfeeding.  My middle son, Pedro, nursed for sixteen months, even during my pregnancy with my third.  Pedro was on strike for a while since my milk transitioned to colostrum.  My youngest son, Daniel, was the perfect nurser.

How are you inspired by your breastfeeding experience?
Breastfeeding has taught me to listen to my children and respect their individuality.  Each of my sons have their own unique personality, special in their own way.

Were there any obstacles you had to overcome during your breastfeeding experience? 
When Pedro was born my husband was on sick leave due to angina.  I was running around to Doctor visits and the hospital.  My stress level was decreasing my supply.  Luckily, I had support to help me continue to nurse.

How do you think being a Mother of Color effects your breastfeeding experience?
Sadly, growing up I did not see any breastfeeding mothers, just my mother.  Hispanic women come to America wanting to be the American woman so they think formula is being American.  It would have been nice to see Hispanic women breastfeed in my community.

What are some of the ways you inspire other mothers to breastfeed and get the word of encouragement out in the community?
I always ask pregnant women, "Are you breastfeeding?"  If I get, "No, I have not thought about it."  I give them a basic breastfeeding class right there.

Feel free to share anything else about your breastfeeding experience and maternal story of growth.
Breastfeeding gave me the knowledge to be good mother.  Reading books was helpful but I quickly learned that my sons had a story to teach me. I listen to them everyday and I'm still learning from them.

Maria Galvan-Briseno is the oldest of six children and the only girl.  She is a Certified Breastfeeding Peer Counselor at Federally Qualified Health Center and hospital on the South Side of Chicago.  She lives in Northwest Indiana with her loving husband and three boys who keep her very busy.  She is a lactivist who enjoys sharing her knowledge of breastfeeding to as many women as possible in the Latino and Black Communities.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March 2012 Breastfeeding Mother of Color of the Month: Chanel Grayson-Strong

Yes, it is March and we are so happy to introduce to you our MARCH BREASTFEEDING MOTHER OF COLOR OF THE MONTH!  She is another mother of multiples and we chose her because she is still breastfeeding while teaching full-time.  Many times we hear how difficult it is to pump working as an educator especially in public schools where your time is constantly demanded.  Chanel Grayson-Strong still finds the time and energy to work through all of that and provide her twins with enough breastmilk everyday.  She has a very stressful job and runs home to nurse and cuddle with them.  We salute Chanel in her breastfeeding endeavors and thank her for her dedication to providing her babies the nourishment they need.  Let's give a round of applause to...

Name  Chanel Grayson-Strong
Profession  High School Teacher

Children & Ages  Boy/Girl Twins (7 months)

How long have you been breastfeeding?  7 months and still going STRONG!!

How did you know to breastfeed?  I family and friends that breastfed and insisted that I did as well.  I was explained the benefits by my doctors, family members, and friends.

Please explain to us your overall breastfeeding experience.  My overall breastfeeding experience has been positive.  I set realistic expectations and I knew that it was an experience with benefits for both myself and my children that I wanted to provide.

How are you inspired by your breastfeeding experience?  I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed.  I was really adamant about it.  When I make up my mind that I want to do something because it’s most beneficial for my family’s well being, I stop at nothing until it is accomplished.  So even though I was met with some breastfeeding challenges early on, I enlisted the help of two lactation specialists, a host of friends that breastfeed, and I made a schedule, got into a routine, positioned the babies so that we were all comfortable, and just set my mind to do it.  It has been a wonderful bonding experience for us all.

Were there any obstacles you had to overcome during your breastfeeding experience?   Yes, in the very beginning, my son had issues with latching, sucking, and reflux.  Also, my milk did not fully come in until 10 days after delivery.  This was my biggest challenge, but with a little patience and persistence, everything worked out and both babies are avid nursers.

How do you think being a Mother of Color affects your breastfeeding experience?   I think that most people don’t expect to see a mother of color breastfeeding.  People automatically assume that you will give your baby formula.  Especially in my case, since I had two, but I knew a mother who exclusively breastfeed her twins, so I knew that it was possible and I wanted to do it.  On the flip side, I know that women of color all around the world, especially in third world countries, have no other options but to breastfeed so it really shouldn’t be a stigma that is placed based on race.

What are some of the ways you inspire other mothers to breastfeed and get the word of encouragement out in the community?   First, I always ask and respect a mother’s choice.  I share the advantages/benefits of breastfeeding and my own personal experience.  I always give breastfeeding gifts at baby showers, such as a nursing pillow and mother’s milk tea.

Chanel Grayson-Strong lives in Chicago with her very supportive husband and their STRONG 7 month old twins.  She is a very passionate high school English teacher that finds time to pump enough milk for her babies while educating inner-city teenagers.  Chanel is a graduate of the University of Iowa and received her Master's degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She is also an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February 2012 Breastfeeding Mother of Color of the Month: Elita Kalma

We are so excited to have one of our closest lactavist friends as our February Breastfeeding Mother of Color of the Month, Elita Kalma.  Elita is very influential in the breastfeeding/lactavist world, especially among us Black Mommies.  Her nationally known and followed blog, Blacktating inspires so many women across racial and cultural lines.  For many of us, she has given us a voice and a social media outlet to express our concerns, questions, thoughts and loves.  The Abiyamo Omo Society is so happy to announce Elita as our BMOCOTM for February because this is the month Black skin is highlighted and our culture is celebrated.  She is the perfect person to applaud this month.  So, without further ado we honor you, Elita, for your strength, voice and passion in the world of maternal-child health. We thank you.

Name: Elita Kalma

Profession: Librarian

Children & Ages: Miles, 4 & Aminah, 4 months

How long did/are you breastfeed(ing)? Miles was breastfed for 3 years and Aminah is still happily nursing.

How did you know to breastfeed? My mom breastfed me until I was about 18 months old so I always knew if I had children that I would breastfeed them.

Please explain to us your overall breastfeeding experience. Both of my kids were tongue-tied so breastfeeding was very tough in the beginning. With Miles, my pediatrician said his frenulum looked “a little tight” but that it was “no big deal.” I suffered through sore nipples, poor milk transfer and slow weight gain and no one ever told me the “slightly tight frenulum” might be to blame. Somehow we managed but Miles had to nurse every hour on the hour in order to get enough milk and keep my supply up. I tried to wean him as gently and slowly as possible but when I knew I wanted to try for another baby I just weaned him cold turkey on his 3rd birthday (we were down to about once a week at that point anyway) and I got pregnant with Aminah a few weeks later. Her tongue tie was noticed and clipped right away and we’ve enjoyed a very easy breastfeeding relationship since, with plenty of milk and steady weight gain!

How are you inspired by your breastfeeding experience? I would not be a blogger or activist today if I had not breastfed. It is no exaggeration to say breastfeeding has been life changing for me. It has made me a more patient, better mother and a crusader to get every woman to be open to the idea of breastfeeding and to support her throughout her journey.

Are there any obstacles you have to overcome during your breastfeeding experience? Besides the two tongue ties, the toughest thing for me has been working. I’m one of those women who just doesn’t let down easily for a pump and I have found it incredibly difficult to maintain a supply while working out of the home full-time.

How do you think being a Mother of Color effects your breastfeeding experience? Definitely some health care workers I’ve encountered have been surprised that I was breastfeeding because I am a black woman. I’ve also gotten the benefit of being able to be a role model of sorts for other women of color who breastfeed. I get a lot of emails from women who have no support for breastfeeding in their real, day-to-day lives and are so grateful to know there is another mother out there who does things the way they do.

What are some of the ways you inspire other mothers to breastfeed and get the word of encouragement out in the community? Between my blog and Twitter feed (@Blacktating) I try to encourage and support women in our community to breastfeed. In addition I make myself available to friends and family members and their friends and family members. People have come to think of me as someone with breastfeeding knowledge and will contact me if they have questions, which is very cool!

Feel free to share anything else about your breastfeeding experience and maternal story of growth.
I wish every woman could experience breastfeeding as total bliss, bonding and love. Yes, it can be tough at the beginning, but everything you’ve been through in your pregnancy, labor and delivery to get that baby wasn't easy either. The idea that you can build and grow a perfect little person with your body and then feed and nurture her with your breasts is absolutely awesome and amazing.

Elita Kalma is the mom to Miles, a preschooler, and newborn baby girl Aminah. She is a librarian by day and a lactivist all of the time. She started her blog, Blacktating, in 2008 as a side project while on maternity leave and it is now her third baby. When she's not reading, writing and tweeting about breastfeeding, Elita enjoys celebrity gossip, cooking, wine and traveling.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

January 2012 Breastfeeding Mother of Color of the Month: Andrea Joiner Oliver

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!  We are starting 2012 on a super high note with this January Breastfeeding Mother of Color of the Month, Andrea Joiner Oliver.  Andrea is so kind, focused and knowledgeable about breastfeeding.  She should be by now.  She breastfed her first set of twins and is currently breastfeeding her second set of twins.  Yes, two sets of twins!  So, you see why we chose her to start 2012 off on a strong note.  We congratulate you, Andrea, and honor you for all you've done in the name of Motherhood.

Introducing...Andrea Joiner Oliver

Profession:   Secretary/Treasurer of Joiner Fire SprinklerCo., Inc.

Child(ren) & Age(s):   Daryl Jr. "DJ" & John Robert "JR" 2 years / Aidan & Averi 11months

How long did/are you breastfeed(ing)?  I breastfed DJ & JR for 1 year and Aidan & Averi are still breastfeeding.

How did you know to breastfeed?  I was told by doctors and friends that it was best for my kids.

Please explain to us your overall breastfeeding experience.  My overall experience with breastfeeding has been great.  I enjoyed the process and knowing I was giving my children the very best of me.

How are you inspired by your breastfeeding experience?  I am inspired because I know I am doing what is best for my children.  I have asthma and allergies and know by breastfeeding my children it reduces the risk of them having those same ailments.

Were there any obstacles you had to overcome during your breastfeeding experience?  With DJ and JR I was disappointed because I had to supplement formula with breastfeeding.  That made me feel like a bad mom since I did not produce enough milk.  With Averi and Aidan I have not had to supplement and that has made me really happy knowing I am giving them the very best at all times.  It allowed me to see that I can produce enough milk and supply my children’s needs.

How do you think being a Mother of Color effects your breastfeeding experience?  It really hasn’t affected my experience.  It moreso amazes me how breastfeeding is not as popular with women of color.  Breastfeeding should be encouraged more to women of color so its popularity increases and women know to give the very best to their children.

What are some of the ways you inspire other mothers to breastfeed and get the word of encouragement out in the community?  I encourage mothers to breastfeed and share with them, if I can breastfeed twins twice, I know they can too.

Andrea Joiner Oliver, a graduate of Hampton University and member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., is a proud wife and mother.  She has been married to Daryl L. Oliver since June 2, 2007. They are the proud parents of two sets of twins.  The oldest set, Daryl Jr. "DJ" and John Robert "JR", are 2 years old and the youngest set, Aidan and Averi, are 11 months old.  The Olivers currently reside in Alabaster, Alabama.