Camille Lester: Dr. TNT Alum and Guest Columnist for Biblical Counseling for Today's Christian Family

November 29, 2016

 

Biblical Counseling for Today’s Christian Family

By: Rev. Judith T. Lester, B.Min., M.Th.

 

 

The Joys of Chocolate Milk:

Demystifying Black Women Breastfeeding (Part 1)

 

Camille B. Lester

Guest Columnist

 

When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid. -Audre Lorde

 

This month, my daughter, Camille B. Lester, has been invited to share with us as a guest columnist for the next two weeks on the topic of: The Joys of Chocolate Milk.”

 

When examining the chronic stigma surrounding breastfeeding in the Black community it is imperative to give honor to the history that continues to inform our today. Black women and breastfeeding have an entangled, rich, and painful history.

 

During slavery, the bodies of Black women were used both for sexual and capitalistic gain. Habitually Black women were exploited as production machines for new Black working bodies (Wallace, 1979; Davis 1972). Thus, Black women were conditioned to feel powerless to the process of growing, sustaining, and welcoming life into the world. Furthermore, motherhood was not a joy Black women had the privilege to experience. One slave recounted:

 

“…women who had sucking children suffered much from their breasts becoming full of milk…the overseer beat them with raw hide so that the blood and milk flew mingled from their breasts” (Davis, 1979, p. 206).

 

Tending to motherhood was a right denied to Black women for centuries and this disconnected concept of “motherhood” continued post-slavery, due to the limited job opportunities for Black women. In fact, Black women often assumed occupations as “wet nurses,” a common practice that provided children with milk whose mothers were either unable or did not desire to breastfeed their own children. Riordan & Hopple (2001) recall: “White Americans practiced wet-nursing up until recent times…Southern women sometimes used Black women to wet-nurse their babies” (p. 220).

 

History tells us that some women were compensated for their nursing of white children, but at the cost of losing their ability to nourish and raise their own children often gone for weeks to months at a time. When examining the entangled relationship between Black women and breastfeeding, possibly we have listened to our grandmothers who still feel distressed remembering their wet-nursing days. Perhaps, we as Black women desire to finally feel as if we own our bodies, or perhaps, over the past few centuries, Black women have not been privileged to truly experience breastfeeding for their own children and subsequently do not consider it normal (Johnson, 2016).

 

Next week we will present the conclusion of this article connecting history to present disparity examining the impact of not breastfeeding on the psychosocial development of Black children.

 

 

 

Camille B. Lester received her Bachelors of Arts degree from DePaul University, Chicago, IL in Psychology and African & Black Studies. She is currently a Master’s student in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program at Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI. Camille has participated in research regarding community mental wellness and the integration of Black psychology and critical theory within the therapeutic context. She has presented on the impact of community violence on the wellbeing of African American youth along with the effects of historically violent images and the resulting impacts of emotion regulation strategies utilized by African Americans. Her life motto is “speak truth to power with love” and she demonstrates this in her passion and commitment to advocacy efforts to de-stigmatize mental health and accessibility to services in underserved marginalized populations. Upon graduation in the Spring 2017, Camille has hopes of continuing her education through doctoral work to further investigate and incorporate culturally sensitive interventions for minority communities and clients.

 

(Part II)

 

Camille B. Lester

Guest Columnist

When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid. -Audre Lorde

 

In this two part series on: “The Joys of Chocolate Milk: Demystifying Black Women Breastfeeding,” my daughter, Camille B. Lester, has been invited as the guest columnist for this series.

 

Last week she enlightened us as to the history of African American women and breastfeeding. This week she will connect the history to the present chronic disparity by examining the impact of not breastfeeding on the psychosocial development of Black children.

 

According to the CDC when compared to other ethnic groups, Black infants consistently have the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration. Breastfeeding has a huge impact on psychosocial development for infants; what is psychosocial development you ask? It includes key components of wellbeing (e.g. mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and cognitive). Breastfeeding is influential for all four components of wellbeing for both the baby and the mother. Additionally, Woodward and Liberty (2008) state that mothers who breastfeed have been found to “report lower levels of perceived stress and negative mood, and higher levels of maternal attachment than mothers who formula-feed.” (p. 13).

 

Along with prolonged intimate skin-to-skin contact and stronger maternal bonds persisting past childhood, mothers who breastfeed also report reductions in their negative mood compared to their mood levels prior to breastfeeding. These reductions in mood are likely due to one of my favorite hormones being released, oxytocin, or rather the “cuddle” and “love” hormone. Oxytocin is known as the hormone of attachment and actively promotes mother and child bonds due to the creation of calm and connectedness. In fact, research suggests, the higher the oxytocin levels in the first trimester of pregnancy, the more likely mothers are likely to engage in bonding behaviors such as singing to or bathing her baby (Feldman, 2007). Acts such as singing, holding, and bonding with infants have an influential and positive impact on later psychological, attachment, language, and emotional development. Thus: hold your baby, sing to your baby, bathe your baby, read to your baby, and most importantly be consistent with baby!

 

Furthermore, breast milk also has beneficial nutritional impacts on developing babies. Imagine if every single time you were hungry, you were served a sustaining meal that contained the perfect balance of nutrients, fats, and electrolytes for your body that you needed, at that particular time. Welcome to the world of breastfed babies! Breast milk is uniquely formulated for your unique baby and even undergoes changes when your baby is sick to assist in providing the necessary antibodies that are low or insufficient in their bodies further preventing your baby from becoming sick. In plainer terms, breast milk is the most amazingly free, superfood, and cold fighter jam-packed with handpicked nutrients for your little one; chocolate milk is the definition of #BlackGirlMagic!

 

The psychological, emotional, mental, and health benefits are overwhelming and yet Black women sadly chronically breastfeed less than any other ethnic group. The CDC is urging prolonged targeted education and support for Black women and breastfeeding.

 

What is your vision for your children, and your children’s children? We can stop historical cycles now. Will you dare to be powerful and conquer fear and truly experience the joys of chocolate milk?

____________________

 

Camille received her Bachelors of Arts degree from DePaul University, Chicago, IL in Psychology and African & Black Studies. She is currently a Master’s student in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program at Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI. Camille has participated in research regarding community mental wellness and the integration of Black psychology and critical theory within the therapeutic context. She has presented on the impact of community violence on the wellbeing of African American youth along with the effects of historically violent images and the resulting impacts of emotion regulation strategies utilized by African Americans. Her life motto is “speak truth to power with love” and she demonstrates this in her passion and commitment to advocacy efforts to de-stigmatize mental health and accessibility to services in underserved marginalized populations. Upon graduation in the Spring 2017, Camille has hopes of continuing her education through doctoral work to further investigate and incorporate culturally sensitive interventions for minority communities and clients.

___________________________________________________________

If you would like to contact Camille Lester to speak on this topic or other disparities involving mental health in the Black community, email her at: Camille.lester@marquette.edu.

 

Please reload

Featured Posts

Spotlight Student: Jonathan Morris

January 24, 2019

1/10
Please reload

Recent Posts
Please reload

Search By Tags
Please reload

Follow Us
  • Facebook Classic
  • Twitter Classic
  • Google Classic

© 2012 by HEALTHY START 2013 All rights reserved