FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: YOLO Breastfeeding and Michigan Breastfeeding Network have been awarded $115,000 by the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, Flint Kids Fund, to support a community-based initiative focused on improving the breastfeeding initiation and duration rates of Genesee County.
Shonte’ Terhune-Smith, BS, IBCLC, YOLO Breastfeeding Founder, Email: email@example.com; Phone: (810) 308-8787
Shannon McKenney Shubert, MPH, CLC, Michigan Breastfeeding Network Executive Director; Email firstname.lastname@example.org; Phone: (734) 365-6559
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breastfeeding is a public health imperative, central to achieving racial equity and a key strategy for combating the current maternal and infant mortality crisis. (1) Addressing racial inequities helps to uncover the ways our culture, policies, and structures stand in the way of achieving a fully breastfeeding-supportive society. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months with continued breastfeeding while introducing appropriate complementary foods for one year or longer. (2) The World Health Organization also recommends exclusively breastfeeding for 6 months with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to 2 years of age or older. (3) Breastfeeding helps to achieve optimal health outcomes, including developmental, immunological, and long-term health for families.
The breastfeeding initiation rate for Flint families is well below the state average, 43.2 percent compared to an 83 percent initiation rate in Michigan according to statewide data. (3) Of the infants that initiated breastfeeding, only 21.9 percent are still breastfeeding at two months, and a mere 9.39 percent at six months. (4) The drop in breastfeeding rates at each interval highlights the critical points of intervention for breastfeeding families. The duration of breastfeeding is a natural indicator of life-long health and equity in communities. When duration rates are low in a community, it indicates other health disparities as well. In Genesee County, data reports some of the highest infant mortality rates in Michigan. The 2018 infant mortality rate in Genesee County was 6 per 1,000 live births and 11.3 percent in the city of Flint. (5) There are also racial disparities between White infants and Black infants. The average infant mortality rate from 2016-2018 for white infants in Genesee County was 5.4 while 13.6 for Black infants. (6) The same time frame in the City of Flint showed rates of 8.7 for whites and 15.0 for Black infants. (7) Increased initiation and duration of breastfeeding can help to improve mortality rates as breastfeeding is a specific protective factor against infant death. For Genesee County families, breastfeeding serves to combat the lifelong impacts of systemic racism on health disparities.
This project will be a direct partnership with YOLO Breastfeeding, founded in 2015 by Shonte’ Terhune-Smith, BS, IBCLC, to fill a gap in community-based lactation support in Genesee County and surrounding areas. "We've witnessed Shonte' and her relentless efforts in the community while making sure that no family falls through the cracks of our broken system. She is filled with passion, commitment, and love for her community. Every family that she serves is centered, and cared for with the utmost respect. A true community-collaborator, she has developed countless partnerships all throughout the community to ensure that the system works together to support the whole family in reaching their individual breastfeeding goals." shares Shannon McKenney Shubert, MIBFN Executive Director.
Terhune-Smith is the first and only Black International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in Genesee County and her innovative ideas are working to change health disparities in her community. YOLO’s mission is to improve breastfeeding initiation and duration rates by educating, empowering, and supporting families through improved access to skilled lactation services that are culturally competent and empower families to reach their breastfeeding goals. YOLO’s services are accessible to all families in Genesee County, regardless of economic status. Terhune-Smith created the vision for “The Village” initiative with support provided by Michigan Breastfeeding Network (MIBFN).
According to Terhune-Smith, “YOLO is excited to have the ability to serve families in Flint and Genesee County through our partnership with the Michigan Breastfeeding Network. We appreciate the relationship we have established with MIBFN, it is embedded in trust and empowerment. Our organization over the years has felt heard, valued, and appreciated. We look forward to continuing to support breastfeeding families in years to come in our continued partnership with MIBFN. YOLO is honored to be a trusted resource in Genesee County. The families that we have serviced have taught us resilience, hope, strength and motivation to continue to work hard to empower families to reach their breastfeeding goals and reduce the barriers to access of care.”
According to Jennifer Day, MIBFN Project Manager, “I know the heart, sweat and tears Shonte’ puts into this work.” Day continues, “I am so grateful for her sacrifice, grace and love for the work. She is solid, consistent and truly SHOWS UP for the community.” YOLO provides families with prenatal breastfeeding education that combats barriers for local families to increase breastfeeding initiation rates in Flint and Genesee County. In addition, this project connects faith-based organizations and maternal infant health care providers to professional lactation services in order to deliver community-driven, culturally-relevant, skilled lactation support to the families they serve.
About Michigan Breastfeeding Network
MIBFN is a 501c3 organization that collaborates with organizations and individuals to bring about actionable, system-level changes that are centered on the diverse experiences of Michigan families with young children. Our mission is to lead the statewide collaborative actions for advocacy, education and coalition building to create a supportive breastfeeding culture. To learn more, visit www.mibreastfeeding.org.
About Foundation for Flint
The Foundation for Flint, a supporting organization of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, was established in 2016 to assist in Flint’s recovery from the water crisis. A 501(c)3 public charity, the Foundation for Flint raises and distributes resources to serve the long-term health and development needs of Flint children and their families. The Flint Kids Fund has distributed $7 million since its inception to safeguard the health of Flint children exposed to lead and support interventions that ensure they can lead healthy and productive lives.
World Health Organization. (2002). Infant feeding recommendation, Global Strategy on infant and young child feeding. Retrieved from http://apps.who.int/gb/archive/pdf_files/WHA55/ea5515.pdf?ua=1
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Section on Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Pediatrics. 2012;129(3):e827-841. 2011-3552.
2018 Geocoded Michigan Birth Certificate Registry, Division for Vital Records & Health Statistics, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Genesee County Health Department, Infant Mortality Trends, Infant Mortality Tables.
Infant Death Rates by County, 2007-2018 Geocoded Michigan Death Certificate Registries, 2007-2018 Geocoded Michigan Birth Certificate Registries. Division for Vital Records & Health Statistics, Michigan Department of Health & Human Services.