Breaking the Cycle of Trauma in Breastfeeding in Black Communities | Deneige Outram
Hey guys, thanks for tuning into this episode of MomTalks with Christa. So if you've been following us for a while you will know we talk all about the importance of supporting moms in community education and so much more. I mean the internet is an amazing place because of education and it's really cool the stuff you can find. So today's guest is the founder of What The Boob, Deneige Outram. And I was so excited to talk to her because she's just so passionate about what she does and I think it's really cool for us to hear from her why she got into the work she does, how she's kind of turned it into this amazing company What The Boob. So she started as a labor and delivery nurse at a public hospital working with a lot of immigrants and bipac. She noticed that there was really a need for community-based workers and that a lot of the women didn't have the education or support around them. And so through this, she started joining organizations to be able to support and help these women and now she's doing that with her company What The Boob. It's just amazing to see the work she does and she just talks about the importance of sharing free education to women no matter what stage they're at in motherhood. This is a really important episode. I hope you guys learned something and can take something away and share something with your community. You know what, we always just talk about the support and so I just hope you guys can take something from this. Show another mom's support from this episode so without further ado, here's my interview with Deneige Outram. All right guys today we have Deneige here and she's going to be talking all about trauma and breastfeeding in the black community and I’m so excited for this episode. I think it's something that we really need to talk about on the show and so just to get started, can you just explain a little bit about who you are? And then we'll kind of go from there.
Deneige: Of course. Well my name is Deneige. I'm a mom of two first. I’m a wife. I’m also a registered nurse. I’m from New York. I’m an IBCLC and I am CEO and founder of What The Boob.
Christa: Awesome, very quick. So okay so let's talk a little bit more. I know you started off with a job in public health, so what kind of made you want to go into public health and what were your overall goals with going that direction at first?
Deneige: So I actually started off at working at a public hospital as a labor and delivery nurse in Queens New York here and the population that we serve they were majority immigrants by pog people who were receiving government services and through my experience there for two years, i’ve noticed that there was a need for more community-based workers to educate women prenatally on the labor and delivery and breastfeeding experience. So I actually I got pregnant and I went on maternity leave and then once I was on maternity leave I actually came across the opportunity to join an organization. The one that I worked for right now to serve first-time moms on a community-based level and that was just ideally what I needed, what I felt passionate about at the time. So the specific agency that I work for right now again we serve women in the community who receive government assistance and some of these women are also informed secure and we do serve women who are incarcerated as well. So I was able to translate the information and the knowledge that I received from working as a nurse in labor and delivery to be able to aid and assist these women.
Christa: Wow, a lot of what you talk about is like the lack of education too in these areas and so you kind of start with when you kind of do meet with these women and kind of help them out in this kind of unchartered territory?
Deneige: I think for me it's a little easier for these women to connect to me because they see a reflection of them when they look at me because that's the majority of the women that I serve. So I meet the women where they are, I don't come in as a pro. I’m a professional and I’m coming in as a professional but I’m not starting off the conversation as someone who is here and you're here just because I hold a degree. So I meet you where you are and I find out what and what are your goals, what are your desires, where can I fill these gaps for you that have not been filled, what experiences have you had already, how can I come in and make that better for you, how can I change the experiences you have had already. I have met a lot of women who have not had great experiences with the system and what does that translate to lack of trust so they don't feel comfortable to be able to go to their providers and ask these questions. So I meet them where they are and based on what they tell me then we work together, we're a team. It's not me coming and telling you what to do. I am I’m here working for you essentially. That's what I’m doing to help you reach your goals no matter what they may be so I just look at myself as a form of support.
Christa: That's amazing I think that helps so much to meet them at the right level because I think it can be so intimidating to go in and be like I don't know about any of this stuff like, where do I start? Exactly. Yeah so yeah. I know you kind of talk about a lot of it has to do with trust in the system, how the system has been set up and so what do you think some other reasons are for this lack of education and I know like this the system is a huge part of it. There's yeah lack of help and what else do you kind of see in your studies and work through all of this?
Deneige: Access is a big thing right a lot of again like i’ve said a lot of the women I work with receive government assistance, so majority of them are on Medicaid. It's very difficult to find a provider who has at least an IBCOC here in new York. I’m not too sure about other states. I can only talk about where I’m from but it's very difficult for them to connect with an IBCLC through their insurance and a lot of these women don't have the financial means to obtain those services. So there's the gap right there why is it that a lot of these ibcocs are not taking medicaid and that's because the government are not providing them like they're not enticing them to do so. When I had looked into it honestly the other day because I had a client who was in real need of one-on-one lactation consultation services. I had to consult with an IBCLC of mine and trying to understand why is it that many of you don't take medicaid because I reached out to so many ibclcs and you know why because the reimbursement is only 30 dollars. That's not and that's not enticing for someone. You know even for I’m a community advocate, so I through what the boob I offer information to women for free but sometimes that information that I give requires one-on-one help and if they don't have the ability to access that because of finances then they're stuck who are they, who can they turn to, they have no one to turn to, so that's where I feel like I come in and I fill that gap for these women by providing that prenatal education and support. I always tell women you can always come to me if you have any questions, you have any concerns any issues, feel free to come to me. Don't think that you have to be making this amount of money to come see me know I’m going to work with you as best as I can, so that's how it goes.
Christa: That's amazing and that's such important work like you said like education is so important and the access to it the education because it's out there but if you can't afford to go to it or you're not told about it, it's not just going to be like easy to find, it’s gonna be important. Exactly. So what can people do I mean I know this is kind of off the cuff but what can people do like in their communities to make this education more accessible to share this?
Deneige: I actually love that you asked me this question because I actually held a titnic. I created a titnic, it was a picnic for breastfeeding moms and I did this in 2019 and it was just something I felt like I needed to do to the for the community. I was trying to figure out well how can I give back. This is before I launched What The Boob It was previously proacting but we could get into that later and through that public event, I connected with other lcs in my neighborhood and I asked them I said, would you be able to donate some of your time to come to this event? I invited black women to come to get education and support and to support each other not just from the lcs but each other. So hosting community events like that well that was pre-copied but now during covid even having a 30-minute webinar or even doing like a Q&A session once in a while some or putting infographics out there something like that to entice women to come and be educated and just give it to them for free. It doesn't hurt. Everything is going to benefit the community. At the end of the day, that's all it's about. So just having those free spaces and free events that's one way you can definitely go about it. I’m not saying to do it all the time because people have to make a living but at least a little bit to give back to the community that would be a beautiful way and I know the community would appreciate that.
Christa: Yeah, absolutely. And I think one thing with this code and everything one thing that it's shown us is that a lot of stuff can be done online and with these webinars and events and like I think that's like something that we've done it Mommy Knows Best is like online in our Facebook group or on Instagram, we'll just do live stations and just talk about things. Yeah because it's so many things that first-time moms don't know about.
Deneige: Support groups and that's also very important because women also find a lot of support from other women. So even just creating a support group as an LC, creating a support group and inviting moms to come in to support each other and if you can do a little check-in once in a while have a little Q&A session things like that.
Christa: Yeah absolutely I think that's so powerful creating a community and a safe space for people to connect with each other. So I know we also really want to talk about like the history of trauma when it as it relates to breastfeeding in the black community, so what can you kind of tell us about this? Where did this kind of start with and then kind of where's it at right now?
Deneige: So in order to really understand the correlation between the rates of breastfeeding in the black community and trauma. I think you have to take a look at the history of breastfeeding for black women in America in general. That's the only way we're going to see where it came from and how it's affecting us now and just looking back on it just being a black woman coming in as a black slave, right? Having to breastfeed your oppressors child and put your own child aside can have a psychological effect on you, right? You can have because of the trauma, because of all that you're encountering, being in that position can cause you to have a negative association with breastfeeding in general. I can only imagine for me as a being experiencing something as traumatic as slavery and then having to breastfeed a child that's not my own neglecting the it's I wouldn't I don't want to call it neglect but being forced to neglect the nutritional needs of your own child and then it's hard to come back from that mentally, right? So what happens is that for example you have grand mommy who experienced this right who is now creating her own formula because that's sometimes what they ended up having to do using things like arrowroot and stuff like that to create formula for babe for their own children, so then their kids know that that is the new norm and then what happens the next generation comes in and sees bottle feeding as the norm. So now it's continuing generation after generation after generation of just bottle feeding. No one knows about breastfeeding anymore and conditioning is key in order for you to have it normalized for you have to be exposed to it. I grew up with my mom I have two younger sisters so I grew up seeing my mom breastfeed and that's all I knew so I as soon as I got pregnant it was like breastfeeding was what I knew I was going to do for both of my kids. I didn't know anything else so I think that that experience has changed the psyche of a woman which has then manifested itself into the lack of education and knowledge and exposure to breastfeeding in their own communities. So what do we need to do? We need to allow women to be more exposed which is why I’m so grateful for social media because now you have a lot of black breast-feeding pages that's showing women breastfeeding is normal. It's normal to breastfeed at 1 day old, 6 months old, 9 months old, 12 months old, 24 months old, 2 years old,3 years old so we need to continue that exposure we need to continue to normalize breastfeeding in the black community and even through media and itself, I know they're working very hard to implement breastfeeding into shows you would often find seed in shows. Now moms breastfeeding their babies publicly but even through the graphics and the images that we're putting out there, when we're advertising breastfeeding and breastfeeding products, right? Make the images more diverse more black women. That's how we're going to allow black women to understand that yeah this is not for us we are also included so just to bring it back around when I create, so I create animated videos that educate women on breastfeeding and I’m very specific about the graphics that I use. I use black women, black babies, black families so that it becomes normalized and ingrained in their head because the subconscious is very powerful.
Christa: Yes, absolutely. I think that representation is so powerful because you want to see someone that looks like you doing it and knowing that oh that's normal, that's what I can do too and that impact is so powerful. So what kind of other resources so obviously representation and you talk about these education courses but other kind of resources like when you have people of color and black women come to you do you what kind of resources do you provide them? With like if they're kind of maybe if they're currently pregnant and they are looking into it but are still kind of worried about this new avenue, what kind of resources do you provide?
Deneige: Well usually when these moms come to me I usually try to be the one to educate and support them as much as I can so I always tell them okay well what questions do you have? Let me answer some of it for you let me dispel those myths. And then what I also encourage moms to do is to reach out like if they are delivering at a hospital or birth center. Sometimes these places offer courses well not really a course but one class that they can take because usually nothing that's very long but a one day class that they can take so I usually tell them to reach out to the provider and see if they're offering any breastfeeding courses. Then la leche league is also a great place to find any information if they also want to find information about breastfeeding and how it translates to beneficia to being beneficial for babies than the American academy of pediatrics. So I usually keep it there but a lot of the times they like to be very personal. They want to have someone to talk to, you can always read things on the internet but they want to have that one-to-one relationship so I try to be that person to do that for them.
Christa: Awesome yeah it's like back to that connection that you kind of talked about earlier.
Deneige: Connection is key.
Christa: And so I know we kind of mentioned your company earlier but let's kind of just talk about a little bit more so you have the company called What The Boob, so a little bit more about, why did you create it and what are your goals of the company?
Deneige: What the boob is actually a rebirth of prolactin. So when I again when I got pregnant with my daughter, I myself even though I was already a nurse. I was not a CLC so I wasn't a certified lactation counselor I knew about the benefits of breastfeeding but I do not have the I didn't have then the in-depth knowledge that I have now and I needed a community so I couldn't find one so I wanted to create one. So I went on Instagram and I created a page called prolactin which was a play on the hormone prolactin that is responsible for helping you produce milk. And there I started with my journey and it was more personal so I would post more images again to try to normalize the black breastfeeding experience. I was posting images and inspirational quotes and answering questions and doing videos on like breast pumping and things of that such. And because I wanted to reach more women on more of an educational stance, I decided to create What The Boob and the whole mission of What The Boob is to educate support and normalize the breastfeeding experience for a woman and I do this through the creation of very short. I like to call it The Tasty Of Breastfeeding because the style of my videos are very funny, they're very short but it's jam-packed. You get the information that you need. It goes straight to the point and I use that as a way of attracting moms to simplify the complications of breastfeeding because a lot of moms I speak to they come in with this idea that breastfeeding is going to be difficult off the bat. They come with that in their mind and if you're already coming to a situation feeling that way it might you might manifest it to be that way so I try to debunk that bring it down and say it's not that it's difficult, this is your first time breastfeeding, this is your baby's first time breastfeeding. You guys are learning to do a new dance, you just got to be patient and give it a little bit of time. So What The Boob we focus on just educating and supporting as best as we can to these moms and we're looking to grow our community.
Christa: Awesome, I love that. I love like we keep going back to it but just the community. I think there's the powerful thing about social media these days is that you can find that connection even if you're isolated in a town where you don't know anybody, you can still find that connection online.
Deneige: Yes, that is so important. You would be surprised how many women who don't have that support. It's many many many women and I know like even though What The Boob is aside from my regular job, a lot of the women I deal with and I hear about it from the women I work with from my job. So I know and I only have a specific group of women and if 80 of these women of 15 are telling me that they feel lonely, they're looking for a community, how can they find this community, then that's telling me that I got to do something to create that community because if it's not there I feel responsible because I know what it was like that's why I even decided to create the community.
Christa: Absolutely, yeah that's so needed, I mean we see all the time in our Facebook group too just people that are just finding they're super lonely at that time even if they did have a bunch of community before. They're kind of in a new community now because they're figuring out this motherhood or they're figuring out a new stage, so where can everyone follow you and what kind of other like services do you offer that if people aren't near you that they can connect with you for?
Deneige: Well people can connect with me on social media so I am on Instagram at What The dot Boob. I also I’m more recently created a Facebook support group. I’m also on clubhouse as well and services I offer so I do offer one-on-one lactation services. I’m also developing a prenatal breastfeeding course that is going to be accessible to women. It's not going to be it's not going to put women at a place of having to choose if they should even take the educational course because they can't afford it, I want to make it accessible to everybody. And then I’m always there for support, you can always send me a message if you need a word of encouragement. I am there for you if you have a question. I am going to support you so you can always feel free to reach out to me.
Christa: Very cool and whenever your course launches, let me know and we can put like the descript. We can put the link to it in the description and all that and absolutely thank you. Well yeah so I always like to end these interviews with what I call fun thinking questions and so if you could have a billboard made today where you could share one tip with moms everywhere, what would you have it say?
Deneige: That's a good one. It would probably be my favorite thing to say to moms right now and that's trust your body to nourish its creation and I say it that way because it's so true your body created your baby. It has what your baby needs to survive and thrive and that is breast milk. Confidence is also another thing that moms need to build up on when you're coming into the world of breastfeeding, you have to be confident in your body, you have to be confident in your milk. So be confident in it and trust it.
Christa: Yeah awesome and what is a quote that you live by or think of often when it comes to it could become parenting or just life in general?
Deneige: Be open to being a student again because being a parent your children can teach you much more than you probably have ever learned from in life and I experience that every day with both of my children and I have to say I they end up becoming the teachers and I am the student. I am learning again to be patient. I am learning how to be better every day so be open to being a student again no matter what the age is.
Christa: Awesome. I love that. Thank you so much for coming on and like sharing your passion and everything you do with the community and I think everyone needs to go check out What The boob. I was looking around at some of your videos and they're so educational and I just think it's important for people to see and I think the work you do is so important.
Deneige: Thank you so much Christa, thank you. I look forward to seeing everyone please stop by and say hi if you need some affirmation, some validation, I am here for you. I will be your biggest supporter.
Christa: Awesome yay! Awesome. I can't wait to share it and thank you so much for coming on the show.
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