In September last year I embarked on a course in breastfeeding cultural safety (for those who don’t know, I’ve been a volunteer breastfeeding supporter for nearly 5 years), which took me through the history of racism and colonialism in the US & UK, the current state of racism, inequalities in maternal and infant mortality and how best to support black and brown women with breastfeeding.
It has been a rollercoaster to say the least. I had to put it down in October as my trauma bucket was full. And most of it wasn’t my own trauma, it was learning about the appalling way black and brown people have been treated by white people over the centuries, and how this legacy still affects them, and is still perpetrated, today.
And then I had a word with myself at the beginning of this year, as I realised it was my white privilege that enabled me to put it down, to put it off, to not have to deal with it. How could I support these women, reach out to them and include them in the support I give, with my biases in check, my white saviour hat off and my comprehension of cultural differences without doing the work?
As I am nearing the end of the course, I am realising just how much there is left to do. That this isn’t a get the certificate, never look at the content again course, but that this work is a continual process of awareness, understanding, reflecting, refining and developing. That I will never be done with this work, that I will always be uncovering racism within myself and the people and organisations I am part of. I have to keep challenging what I find and calling myself and others out on it.
It has given me more confidence in being able to support black and brown women with breastfeeding, and the unique challenges they face. It has given me an awareness of the language I use when offering support and how to change my language so that it is inclusive and not assumptive, nor biased. It has given me the prompts I needed to reflect on my behaviour & attitudes and to keep myself accountable in all that I do.
Thank you to Ruth Dennison, of 1-2-1 Doula, for putting this course together. It is something that should be integrated in the learning of every health professional and breastfeeding supporter, be they hospital consultants, GPs, infant feeding leads, midwives, maternity assistants or volunteers.