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Too Many U.S. Communities Are 'First Food Deserts'
February 20, 2013, 2:01 pm

In some communities in America there are breastfeeding cafes, weekly support groups, robust La Leche League meetings, a solid representation of international board certified lactation consultants in the area and mothers who nurse in public without nary a second glance.

In far too many other communities though, sadly mostly vulnerable ones, there is absolutely none of that. A breastfeeding support group is hard to find. The La Leche League is not active. Breastfeeding in public is never seen. Child care facilities have not been properly trained in handling human milk. In contrast to other communities, these places are virtual deserts of breastfeeding supports.

So when I show up in my usual roles of consultant on reducing the racial disparities in breastfeeding rates or as a breastfeeding advocate, asking these mostly black and brown women to please breastfeed their babies, how can I in good conscience encourage them to sign up for such an unfair proposition? Is it reasonable to expect a woman to breastfeed successfully with only her own sheer determination and will (and if lucky, one good lactation consultant at the hospital) to support her? How can a working mother continue to breastfeed if she struggles to find a child care facility that's been trained in handling human milk?

This is the reality for far too many mothers who are living in what I call "first food deserts." These are communities with minimal to nonexistent breastfeeding resources and support mechanisms for the first food--breast milk.

Just as the food movement has come to understand that access to fruit and vegetables is vital for health, women need access to the resources necessary to breastfeed successfully. Without this the breastfeeding experience is severely compromised or will never begin.

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