MIBFN and YOLO began collaborating in 2015 through the MIBFN 310 Connect Calhoun County project. Since then, the partnership has grown and evolved and YOLO has received MIBFN sub-awards for Village Model, Support Group, and Breastfeeding Spaces throughout Flint. In addition, YOLO served on the 2020 Community Conversations Advisory Council. MIBFN is honored to collaborate with YOLO Breastfeeding as they serve families in Flint and the greater Genesee County area.
Mission: Inclusively service families throughout Genesee County while centering Black and Indigenous families as they reach their birth and breastfeeding goals.
Vision: All families in Genesee County, regardless of economic status, will have access to skilled lactation services that are culturally competent and empower them to reach their breastfeeding goals.
Commitment to Community: YOLO Breastfeeding was founded in 2015 and was created to fill a gap in community-based lactation support in Genesee County and surrounding areas. YOLO partners with many organizations in Genesee County and, during the COVID-19 crisis, YOLO continues to provide in-person care as well as virtual consultations. As the only Black IBCLC in Genesee County, it has been a pleasure to serve the families in my community. As a skilled professional in the community, I know and center the importance of strong community collaboration and value the intentionality that goes into cultivating relationships with all of those that work in Maternal-Child Health in Genesee County. I am humbled to be a trusted resource for families and community partners. As I serve families and share my breastfeeding knowledge with them, I have mutually learned from families about their needs, concerns, and fears in birth and breastfeeding and how YOLO can help address those issues. Our work is rooted in amplifying the voices of the families in spaces where their voices may not be heard.
Addressing Racial Inequities and Black Breastfeeding Rates: Breastfeeding can help to address disparities in health outcomes especially in the face of persistent racial disparities for breastfeeding families. According to 2018 Michigan PRAMS data, there is a 15 percent difference between white and Black families’ breastfeeding rates in the state of Michigan. Breastfeeding is a racial equity issue and a powerful tool to promote health equity. In the communities where YOLO provides services there are particularly high infant mortality rates. The 2018 infant mortality rate in Genesee County was 6 per 1,000 live births and 11.3 percent in the city of Flint, one of the highest rates in Michigan. There are also significant disparities between white and Black infant mortality rates. The average infant mortality rate from 2016-2018 for white infants in Genesee County was 5.4 while the mortality rate for Black infants was over twice as much at 13.6 percent. During the same time frame in the City of Flint, infant mortality rates reflected this same trend. For white infants the mortality rate was 8.7 percent and almost two times higher for Black infants at 15 percent. Every year In Flint, 150 Black infant lives are lost before they reach 1 year old and the impact on these 150 families has a ripple effect on the entire community. Shining a light on breastfeeding and how it can help to reduce this risk and save infant lives is crucial in this community. Optimal breastfeeding initiation and duration helps to decrease mortality rates, improving life-long health outcomes and working to reduce inequities, especially for communities of color. Breastfeeding is a natural alternative to reversing the initial effects of poverty in Genesee County for underserved communities.
One systemic inequity that persists in Genesee County is the lack of diversity among lactation professionals. As the only Black IBCLC in Genesee County, Shonte’ provides culturally relevant skilled lactation care and reflects the community she serves. In order to have the most impact on the barriers that prevent breastfeeding success for Black families, representation matters. YOLO aims to educate, empower, and support families prenatally and during postpartum while addressing the barriers families oftentimes face on their breastfeeding journey.
- Shonte’ Terhune Smith – YOLO Proprietor and Genesee County Breastfeeding Coalition Chairperson
- Lorena Haber – Graphic Design Intern
- Hurley Midwifery
- Hurley Nurse Family Partnership (NFP)
- Metro-Detroit HypnoBirthing
- Michigan Breastfeeding Network
- Mi Milk Collective
- Michigan State University Extension Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program
- Mother Heart Birth Services
- Hurley Lactation Consultants
- ReImage Collective
- Southeast Michigan IBCLCs of Color
Current Service Model & Support Services:
- In-Home breastfeeding support
- Virtual breastfeeding support
- Breastfeeding in Color Curriculums for Providers & Community
- Village Model for Fourth Trimester Care
- Toolkit for Fourth Trimester Care for Families
- Our Health, Our Voice Campaign
- Birth Doula
- Postpartum Doula
- Childbirth Educator
- Quarterly breastfeeding classes at physician offices and faith-based organizations
- Free weekly virtual breastfeeding classes for women of color residing in Michigan
- Holding Space: Breastfeeding and Mental Health Support During a Pandemic for women of color residing in Michigan
- Mama’s Mobile Milk: Genesee County
Vision for the Future:
We envision that every Black family in Genesee County is surrounded by and has access to interconnected, trusted, Black-led community birth and breastfeeding support that is free from financial burden.
Immediate Next Steps:
- Develop DEI Strategic framework
- Creation and publishing of a documentary film: Birth and Breastfeeding in Flint
- Creating and publishing a photobook journey of Flint families throughout the water crisis to COVID-19, focusing on the stories of Black, breastfeeding families of images
- Development and implementation of a sustainable funding model to continue all the services in the YOLO Village Model
- Increasing paid staff positions to include a paid intern and full time administrator
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