BIOMILQ is all about ‘cell’ebrating bad-ass women, especially those who embody our values: bravery, conscientiousness, resilience, determination, and authenticity. This Black History Month, we’re expressing our appreciation for black women whose contributions to biotech, agtech, women’s health, and breastfeeding must be ‘cell’ebrated (we’re big on puns at BIOMILQ).
Black maternal health matters
Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, a nurse representing Illinois’s 14th congressional district, is spearheading a historic piece of legislation, alongside Representative Alma Adams and Senator Cory Booker. The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 aims to: a) improve maternal health outcomes by addressing racial health disparities, and b) advocate for maternal health justice for all birthers of color.
Because Underwood, Adams, and Booker are advocating for a holistic approach to healthcare, this bill will make critical investments in social determinants of health, fund community-based organizations, study the unique maternal health risks of pregnant and postpartum veterans, improve maternal health care for incarcerated moms, promote innovative payment models, invest in telehealth, and promote equity. We’re thrilled to see much-needed attention and resources drawn to addressing the health disparities that black women continue to face.
Informed decision-making matters
We’d like to pay tribute to Henrietta Lacks (1920–1951), a mom of five who loved to make spaghetti, who was known to dance with one of her children in her arms, and whose cells continue to be used for medical research. Henrietta’s story is one that evokes many emotions: we’re grateful for the medical knowledge gained from using her immortalized cancer cells, we’re angry about the lack of consent prior to using her cells, and we’re sad that she nor her family were compensated for the use of the cells.
Henrietta’s story is one that acts as a cautionary tale within the scientific community, encouraging researchers to be more mindful of the ethical implications of their work and to be diligent with informed decision-making. Henrietta’s story also fuels BIOMILQ’s vision of the future of feeding: a world with more infant feeding options so that parents feel empowered to make informed decisions about what’s right for their family. As a part of next month’s team book club, we will watch “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” (2017), starring Oprah Winfrey, to expand our appreciation for Henrietta’s life.
Representation in lactation matters
In November, our team read “Skimmed,” which explores the systemic failures that lead to low breastfeeding rates among black women and policy changes that could build a more supportive ecosystem. Black women need advocates who can support their journey to motherhood by listening to their concerns and offering knowledge about the reality of breastfeeding. Krystal Nicole Duhaney, a nurse, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), founder of Milky Mama, and mom of two, is making a big difference by increasing access to lactation education. After Duhaney returned to work after her second child, she struggled with her milk supply. Through this oh-so-common problem, Duhaney quickly realized that there are far too few feeding resources available for new parents. Using her background in nursing, Duhaney came up with a cookie recipe that encourages milk-production — Milky Mamas was born.
Last August, Duhaney started the Milky Mama Scholarship Fund in hopes of “increasing diversity and representation in the lactation field by increasing the number of Black IBCLCs,” as noted on Milky Mama’s website. We love how this fund is increasing representation by covering the costs of certification courses and exams. By making lactation education more accessible, Duhaney and her team are increasing access to the lactation support every new breastfeeder needs.
Our ‘cell’ebration of Duhaney’s work wouldn’t be complete without ‘cell’ebrating improved inclusivity within the greater lactation space. AllBodies’s comprehensive list of breast/chestfeeding resources, which offers resources for LGBTQ+ parents and education on taking medication while feeding, pumping and milk storage, and pain and discomfort. These resources empower parents with greater lactation literacy so that they feel more prepared for feeding, in all it’s grit and glory.