We are so grateful for the opportunity to hold crucial conversations with breastfeeding families and supporters across Michigan. Each of these conversations is key to our efforts, and we are incredibly humbled and motivated by the resilience of the people we meet. As we reflect back on the Community Conversations that have already happened in 2020, it is honestly difficult to even put into words what they have meant to MIBFN and to every individual member of our team. When we asked the Advisory Council members, staff members, board members, and expert families, we heard phrases like “paradigm-shifting,” “just what I needed,” “space to truly feel heard and valued,” and “crucial.”
There are five main groups of people who participate, directly and indirectly, through the process of implementing the Community Conversations:
1. Expert Families:
Families are the experts in their communities and know most about both the assets and barriers present in their birthing/breastfeeding journeys. When we had to pivot from meeting in-person to meeting online, it became central to our process that we figured out ways to make sure that every step of this process centered the families we serve and that they benefited beyond any measurable aspect of these efforts. The 2020 Community Conversations created an opportunity to bring together what we are now calling the “Virtual Village.” The first virtual communities formed in November 2020, during the difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the lack of in-person connection has been wearing on families seeking direct support. In this space, families connected and formed communities through the sharing of birth and breastfeeding stories, and seeing their own experiences reflected back to them.
2. Advisory Council & MIBFN Staff:
We endeavor to deepen trust and cultivate true sisterhood among the partnering organizations and MIBFN staff. In the process of planning these Community Conversations, we grow from collaborative partners to trusted colleagues and continue to work together on fund development, program planning, advocacy, and in many other ways. In the same way, the members of the Advisory Council will continue convening regularly with each other and MIBFN’s community-building project manager, Jennifer Day, to strengthen their collaborative efforts, to advance Black-led breastfeeding efforts throughout Michigan.
3. MIBFN Board of Directors:
The Community Conversations align with our core value of listening. One of the outcomes of the Community Conversations is the ability to provide direct guidance for our strategic planning and ongoing programming.
4. Breastfeeding Supporters & Breastfeeding Support Organizations:
The Community Conversation reports provide direct guidance for our ongoing breastfeeding support efforts and, with the families’ generous permission to share their knowledge, we share the reports at Local Breastfeeding Supporter Meetings so that breastfeeding supporters from across Michigan are able to learn from and make plans to take action and achieve outcomes based on the guidance provided during these crucial conversations.
5. Diverse Families with small children throughout Michigan:
We are committed to delivering on the guidance shared during the calls and ensuring a more just, equitable, and family-centered society that makes breastfeeding feasible for every family. In doing so, we can address systemic barriers that continually limit breastfeeding success in different communities throughout Michigan. We are so grateful to the expert families for all they share, and the ripple effect they can help to create with their bravery, in these crucial conversations.