In an effort to increase the duration of breastfeeding in tribal communities, 14 women from across the state participated in the Indigenous Breastfeeding Counselor Training held in Green Bay. Participants included home visitors, community members, peer counselors, and community health staff from Bad River, Red Cliff, Lac du Flambeau, Oneida Nation, Lac Courte Oreilles and Ho-Chunk Nation. This training was provided free of charge through Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council’s Breastfeeding: The Traditional Way Program.
The training, developed by Camie Jae Goldhammer, MSW, LICSW, IBCLC (Sisseton-Wahpeton) and Kimberly Moore-Salas, IBCLC (Navajo), was a Native-centered course seeking to provide participants with clinical skills to begin serving breastfeeding moms in tribal communities. Goldhammer has indicated she wants Native women to be able to have a training that addresses the specific historical and cultural implications of breastfeeding and parenting impacting Native families.
The five-day training covered the biological process of breastfeeding, the psychological, sociological, and cultural issues facing breastfeeding families and the public health impacts and implications of breastfeeding along with counseling and assessment skills.
“The information was given in multiple avenues; lecture, video, and group activities,” attendee Allie LeSieur of Lac du Flambeau said. “The presenters were culturally sensitive, respectful and provided many opportunities for clarity.”
As breastfeeding support often predicts the length of time a mother breastfeeds, participants were instructed on effective counseling skills specific to breastfeeding and working in communities with a complex trauma history. This included active listening, using open-ended questions, and validating thoughts and feelings.
“I am excited to be able to help our indigenous mothers who are already lacking the extra support,” LeSieur said.
The cultural aspect played heavily in the development of this training and was a component that resonated with participants.
“Breastfeeding is our tradition. Our ancestors did it and knew this was the best way to feed your child. I would love to help support our families for the optimal goal of healthy, strong, future generations,” participant Barb Baker-LaRush of Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe said.
The Indigenous Breastfeeding Counselor Training was the final initiative of the three-year grant funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
“We know that many women don’t meet their breastfeeding goals due to lack of support. By strengthening the support in tribal communities, we hope to see breastfeeding duration rates continue to climb,” said Cheri Nemec, Red Cliff tribal member and Breastfeeding: The Traditional Way coordinator.
For more information about the Indigenous Breastfeeding Counseling Training which took place in Wisconsin or for information on the Native Breastfeeding Coalition of Wisconsin, contact Cheri Nemec at 715-588-1020 or [email protected]