The New York Post reports that Latch On NYC is hiring a manager to oversee the implementation of “The Breastfeeding Empowerment Zone (BFEZ) Project.” According to the listing in Idealist, the project will go a little something like this:
The Breastfeeding Empowerment Zone (BFEZ) Project will target specific geographic areas within North/Central Brooklyn (Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville) to provide comprehensive, multi-level initiatives to encourage and support breastfeeding, addressing both gaps in breastfeeding education and practice as well as broader social determinants of health. The BFEZ Project will focus on male involvement in breastfeeding, local capacity building and economic development, community mobilization, community education and media, and direct services comprised of breastfeeding consultations, home visits, and support groups.
The aforementioned neighborhoods are primarily low-income neighborhoods of color.
This hypothetical program manager will not only be responsible for developing more — most likely — formula-shamey ads but also “engage with core local organizations and community groups.” So essentially, someone who reminds said low-income women time and time again that their parenting choices suck.
But as one of my own writers, Maria Guido, succinctly put, “My Parenting Choices Aren’t Choices Because I’m Broke.” She writes that her “parental behavior is determined by my paycheck,” which for mothers of newborns is very closely linked to American maternity leave.
Since we fail to have a legitimate maternity leave in this country, specifically for women who aren’t privileged enough to advocate for themselves, our national breastfeeding rates suffer. That’s why women who have a maternity leave that extends longer than six weeks tend to stick with breastfeeding longer.
Breastfeeding education, which I dare extend to lactivism, is admirable. It’s perhaps why our breastfeeding rates have jumped from 74.6% to just under 77% in just one year. But even giving birth at a Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) hospital in which women are being specifically schooled about the benefits of breastfeeding doesn’t always increase breastfeeding rates. Sometimes it even does the opposite.
While breastfeeding education might be effective, such efforts only tackle part of the problem regarding the wellness of infants. The other half being that many, many women in our country don’t have the time or the resources to make these lofty parenting choices. Lindsay Cross echoed the following when discussing why she ultimately had to switch to formula:
Returning to work three weeks after giving birth wasn’t a choice I made because I was super dedicated to my job. I wish that I could’ve spent more time at home with my little one. But as a single mother who was trying to support a new daughter, I didn’t have a lot of options. Returning to work was a necessity. And it’s also part of the reason that I had to start using formula when my daughter was 3 months old and I just wasn’t providing enough breastmilk. I kept nursing for three more months, but I also supplemented so that my daughter was getting as much nutrition as she needed.
In my circumstance, I believe that a paid maternity leave would’ve helped me to breastfeed through the first year of my daughter’s life.
Consider also the never-ending dialogue over women needing pumping breaks at their jobs — a situation that famously got one Colorado teacher fired. The EU has mandated two-hour pumping breaks. But only 15 states in this nation (and D.C) protect the rights of women to breastfeed on the job. New York, I’m proud to say, is one of them. Obamacare covering breast pumps for new mothers is also applaudable.
But with the average American woman still expected to get back to the job three months after delivery (if she’s lucky), many ladies still can’t afford the luxury of nursing — no matter how much education some program manager is giving them.