Danica Davis is a doula and certified lactation consultant who co-founded Baobab Birth Collective in Birmingham, Alabama. Through Baobab, she provides support to the mothers and families in her community. Danica discussed the Families and Communities Action Areas of the Surgeon General's Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding during the August 23 virtual town hall meeting. Below is a transcript of her responses:
What accomplishments from the five years since the SGCTA are you most excited about? Did these efforts target or affect disproportionately impacted populations, i.e., those with the greatest disparities in breastfeeding rates? If so, how?
I’m really excited about attention being brought to breastfeeding. As a doula, I see breastfeeding as very connected to birthing and parenting. We're bringing attention and looking at the different areas where we can work together and bring information. Especially, as a doula to my clients, I’m really excited to see the number of toolkits that are now provided, PSA videos by state and federal agencies, the use of social media to really share evidence-based birthing practices.
I think a number of funders are seriously looking at charting the success that we’re seeing at the grassroots levels for community breastfeeding support. And then, it’s encouraging to see the number of people who are taking that evidence-based information and sharing it within Facebook groups and other social media platforms.
Considering the focus of the USBC and the field on advancing equity in breastfeeding support, what is missing from the SGCTA that you see as an important priority for the next five years?
What I’ve learned at the grassroots level is—we kind of take it for granted when we’re talking about breastfeeding, but that isn’t always the overarching term that we might intend it to be. I’m thinking about instances where we are encouraging moms to attend our community breastfeeding support group and they say, “Well, I’m pumping my milk. I don’t see myself as a ‘breastfeeder’.” And so, we’re really trying to tweak our language so that we’re more intentional of women who are pumping their milk.
Also, I am growing in my awareness of the inclusion of gender-neutral language. So, knowing that not just women are breastfeeding, but we have chestfeeders as well. Just looking at the diversity and the nuances within people who are providing human milk for human babies, and really being intentional for allowing them to included, giving them the space and acknowledgment and support within this overarching support of breastfeeding.
Looking at the whole (both existing action areas and any new ones suggested), which three implementation strategies do you think would have the greatest impact if prioritized over the next five years? How could these strategies best apply an equity approach?
These are great priorities. Where I feel like we could do a better job is thinking about who intersects with moms and really using a cross-collaboration approach to wherever moms are interacting with us—whether it’s during her prenatal time, whether it’s girls who are learning about menstrual cycles. We want to begin to give this breastfeeding information and these self-management kinds of lessons, saying “Hey, breastfeeding is important at every level, at every point,” so that it isn’t only the mom’s responsibility, but that different people who are interacting with her at different points, either of her care will also be reaching out to her to provide that information. So, the diversity of providers are also thought about and who’s interacting with her.
Coalitions—our coalition in Alabama, as we’ve brought more people on board, we’ve got doulas, we’ve got community IBCLCs and lactation consultants, just really thinking about who are the people that moms will come in contact with. People who will be providing human milk for human babies, how do we get them to the table and encourage them to move this agenda forward? It’s not just within our closed community. We might be thinking from either a public health professional or a WIC perspective, or even from a hospital lactation counselor perspective. We’ve got lots of different ways to reach out to moms, We should definitely acknowledge that and extend that reach by reaching out and creating that net to bring moms closer to this information that’s vital for them and their babies.