EAST GREENSBORO, NC (March 18, 2022) – Breastfeeding mothers and families seeking advice and support now have a new resource: a new lactation clinic within Cone Health’s MedCenter for Women, a joint venture between North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Lactation Certificate Program. and Cone Health.
The clinic opened March 17 and is staffed primarily by students and graduates of the lactation certificate program, which is part of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Their target audience: families of color who want to breastfeed or breastfeed their infants.
“We want to normalize breastfeeding, which has lower rates among black women, so we can help improve health outcomes for their infants,” said Walidah Karim-Rhoades, director of the center. “This clinic will have a phenomenal impact because research shows that families are more likely to make the choice to breastfeed or breastfeed if they can see it.”
Research has long established that breast milk is the healthiest first food for babies. However, the lack of culturally appropriate guidance can be a barrier preventing black and brown families from widely adopting the practice.
“Over the past 50 years, African Americans have had lower rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration than other races. At the same time, black babies have higher infant mortality and infants Blacks have higher risks of obesity, SIDS and female cancers against which breast milk can protect than other races,” said Janiya Mitnaul Williams, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and Program Director of certificate in lactation “We need to challenge our cultural assumptions and break down barriers to breastfeeding so we can change these outcomes. A good way to start doing that is to train more lactation consultants who are like their families.” which they serve.”
The lactation certificate program clinic was a natural fit for Cone Health, which also has a strong lactation program and has sought to train and employ more lactation experts of color, Karim-Rhoades said.
“It was perfect for marrying the two programs,” she said. ““We want to set an example of how two different entities can work together. We also want to help students familiarize themselves with the healthcare system.
Through classroom instruction and over 300 supervised clinical hours, the program prepares students for the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant exam. Working at the MedCenter Clinic will give students the clinical experience they need while benefiting families in the area.
“By having the clinic attached to the educational program, we can attract people who want to join the profession as well as help families in the community who need additional lactation support,” said Williams, who has worked in the field both in clinical practice at Cone Health’s Alamance Regional Medical Center and now in academia.
One of only two lactation programs housed at historically black colleges and universities in the United States, A&T’s program trains students to work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, for public health organizations, in their own private and community practices in ways that support and encourage breastfeeding and breastfeeding, especially in marginalized communities.
“Breastfeeding is a culturally complicated topic for African-American families and families with marginalized voices,” says Williams, an Aggie alumnus who was Cone Health’s first black lactation consultant, who was also an unregistered nurse. “There are historical reasons, such as breastfeeding, and unconscious bias on the part of some medical professionals who assume black mothers are not interested.”
A&T’s program took a major step toward that goal last spring, when its first class of 11 students graduated, preparing to take the credentialing exam to become board-certified lactation consultants. international.
“We’re already making a difference,” Williams said. “This program is one of nine similar programs in the world and one of the few to require an undergraduate degree first. The program is taught face-to-face and emphasizes communication and cultural diversity in every course. Working in healthcare, I found that was the missing piece.
Health care providers have already started reaching out and are ready to start sending referrals, Williams said.
“Black Triad birth attendants have been talking about the need for this clinic for years, and now it is finally happening,” she said.