Mishael Freeman, 2-years-old and 7 months; Clara Freeman, 11-years-old; Daro Freeman, 8-years-old; Iris Freeman 17 months and their mother, Claretta Duckett-Freeman and Vickie Freeman, 9-years-old on the Capitol . All of the children have been breastfed.
LANSING, MI -- Claretta Duckett-Freeman is a breastfeeding mother. She said that breastfeeding was not something that she ever considered doing while growing up.
She said, “The first time I saw a woman breastfeed I thought she must be poor. No one told me that but everyone I knew had formula. It never occurred to me that it is better to give a human child, human milk. Most formula is made from cows milk. Our children are not cows.”
Education regarding breastfeeding was the most important factor while Claretta was pregnant with her first child. She learned how amazing women's bodies are and that breast milk is the best food for human babies.
Claretta said, “Formula feeding has been linked to obesity, asthma and diabetes. Exclusively breastfeeding lowers our children's risks of those diseases. Even when children struggle with those sicknesses, they would have been worse if they were fed formula. Black children have these diseases more than other children and die more because of racial disparity in healthcare. Breastfeeding literally saves babies lives.”
According to the Ingham County Health Department, nearly three out of every four new mothers try breastfeeding their babies, but in the weeks and months that follow, many stop. Only twenty-three percent of mothers and babies are meeting national targets and breastfeeding their babies until age twelve months, but local programs are working to improve those rates.
The health department is promoting breastfeeding support programs during through the month of August in honor of Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Efforts in the health department to improve local breastfeeding rates include training home visitors as Certified Lactation Counselors, education through the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and a new campaign that has drawn international attention, the Get Real About Breastfeeding campaign, first launched in April. The Ingham County Health Department is the first local health department in Michigan to train home visitors as Certified Lactation Counselors.
“The data tells us that most mothers want to breastfeed, but there are obstacles. Moms and babies need to be set up for success from the beginning, and they need support along the way,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda S. Vail.
Claretta said that mothers who are considering breastfeeding need family support. She has had a lot of challenges over the years but believes that breastfeeding her children has been one of the best decisions that she has ever made.
“I wasn't quite as brave as I am now when I breastfed my older three children for one year each. My family and friends told me if my children can ask for it then they are too old to breastfeed. They made comments that often made me feel embarrassed and I stopped breastfeeding after one year”, she lamented.
However, Claretta had the support of Daro Freeman, her husband of fourteen years, he told her to breastfeed as long as she wanted. He changed diapers so she could sleep and he brought the babies to her so she could rest and make milk.
Claretta said, “My younger two are still breastfeeding and they are toddlers. I love seeing how healthy they are and I always have a snack ready when they get cranky.”
Today Claretta has taken her advocacy a step further and is a Certified Lactation Counselor and she co-facilitates the Black Breastfeeding Sisterhood at the Willow Tree Family Center located at 3333 S. Pennsylvania on the first and third Mondays from 3-5pm. The meetings are inclusive and during the meetings they discuss issues that impact breastfeeding mothers.
Most recently in the news, there have been several stories shared where women have been berated or belittled for breastfeeding in public.
Claretta said, “No one should be made to feel uncomfortable for what we are naturally given. Breastfeeding in public is important so people know that breastfeeding is normal and that breasts are not solely for pleasure. Their primary purpose that was designed by nature is to provide nourishment for children.”
The World Health Organization recommends only breast milk for babies for six months and then continuing at least to the age of two years or until the mother and/or baby want to stop.
The Get Real About Breastfeeding campaign was initiated through the health department’s Strong Start, Healthy Start program and is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It was developed in partnership with Willow Tree Family Center, the Capital Area Breastfeeding Coalition, the Expectant Parent Organization and Redhead Design Studio.
For more information, visit getrealaboutbreastfeeding.org and www.strongstarthealthystart.org.
Printed in the August 21, 2016 - September 3, 2016 edition