Page 6 - Scene Magazine 45-03 March 2020
P. 6

  Did You Know?
   Did you know that a barrier to breastfeeding can be generational? I recently talked with Rickeshia Williams and Stephanie Freeman to learn about their passion
heard a speaker that changed her mind. “The woman asked us to hold up our hands if there was anyone in the audience who saved others. After numerous people raised their hand she went on to say, ‘I have news for you. You don’t have to
save us, because we can save ourselves.’ That was the most humbling moment I’d ever had,” Rickeshia told me. She came home, and within a week they had a name, Milk Like Mine!, a mission statement, and a logo. It took a bit longer to find a meeting place and by the last week in August 2019, which coincidentally is Black Breastfeeding Week, they debuted, Milk Like Mine! Their goals: attacking disparities through teaching, reaching out to hospitals where mothers are, outreach to the public, and funding to continue the work. Milk Like Mine! also had members ready to spread the word to other mothers.
Rickeshia Williams and Stephanie Freeman
   Rickeshia Willians & Stephanie Freeman
for assisting African American mothers in the Battle Creek area about barriers to breastfeeding their newborns.
“I was hired as a pediatric reception- ist [at Grace Health] but they knew me from the breastfeeding peer groups I ran for WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) that met in the basement of Grace Health. They asked me if I wanted to study for certification,” Rickeshia told me. “Within a year of working I became a Certified Lactation Specialist.”
stories that breastfeeding him at the same time would cause me to miscarry. No one taught me that it was OK to do that. There was so much more that I wish that I had known.”
Stephanie and Rickeshia met at those peer group breastfeeding meetings. She too works for Grace and studied and received her certification as a Certified Lactation Counselor.
As the two women talked they realized their passions for assisting other women were alike. They both worked at Grace Health when they heard the stories from mothers about barriers African American women face that kept them from starting or continuing breastfeeding. “The women see the wedding ring on my finger and say, ‘You don’t understand the struggles I have,’ ” says Rickeshia. “I tell them about the time I was a single mother... we’ve lived those struggles ourselves.” Then those same mothers would say, “You get me. I can’t tell them that.” The ‘them’ are the medical staff in the doctors’ offices and hospitals.
“It’s the ‘each one, teach one’ ap- proach,” explained Stephanie. “We have designed a system that has levels of edu- cation. We send members for breastfeed- ing basics and once they receive that, they are eligible for certification. We sponsor them financially for travel, certification, and exams. We see that finances are yet another barrier.”
“I was in my senior year at Oakland University when I became pregnant with my daughter,” Stephanie told me. “The dorm room wouldn’t fit me, my dorm roommate, and a newborn so I came home to Battle Creek where my family helped me.”
And speaking of barriers, remember the generational barrier mentioned before? Neither Rickeshia’s nor Stephanie’s moth- er breastfed their children, so they didn’t learn from family about breastfeeding. Their mothers weren’t against breast feed- ing, they simply weren’t encouraged to do it. “I watched YouTube videos or asked Google when I had questions,” Stephanie told me. “I wouldn’t want another mother to ever have to depend on Google or You- Tube videos to answer questions when she could turn to someone else to get the right information.”
Both women understand the barriers others face when they have a newborn and the idea of breastfeeding is raised.
“I ended up being a single mother, breast- feeding my daughter,” Rickeshia told
Stephanie asked Rickeshia if she was ready to start their own organization de- signed to help African American mothers in the Battle Creek area to understand the barriers that keep mothers from breast- feeding. Rickeshia was on the fence... until she attended her first National Breastfeeding Conference where she
me. “She [her daughter] taught me about breastfeeding through barriers. I stopped breastfeeding my son when I became pregnant with her because I heard the
T. R. Shaw Jr. Co-Founder / CEO / 269-209-5555 cell / Kathy Shaw Co-Founder / President / 269-209-9719 cell /
Rickeisha’s husband Mark, son Lamar, and daughter Nyla keep her pretty busy year round. She describes her family as “...foodies... and Mark and Lamar spend a lot of time playing video games,” Rickei- sha laughs. Stephanie also has a daughter, Alayia, and a son Ari and when she isn’t working, volunteering, or breastfeeding Ari, she too describes her family as food- ies and travelers, visiting family in the Detroit area and in Ohio.
You can visit their website: www.milk- or contact them at milklike-

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