Photos courtesy of Maricela de Rivera (pictured center). Celine Malanum pictured left.
Long Beach Breastfeeds, the city’s first organization dedicated entirely to supporting breastfeeding and breast milk feeding families, was introduced to the public this past Saturday with a “Community Conversation” hosted by Long Beach City Councilmember and community partner Rex Richardson at the Ninth District field office.
Attendees included the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, representatives from both local birthing hospitals, St. Mary’s Medical Center and Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital, representatives from maternal and child health organizations and over 30 breastfeeding families.
Co-founders Celine Malanum and Maricela de Rivera said they are responding to a lack of support for breastfeeding after mothers leave the hospital. The two see Long Beach Breastfeeds as a major step toward to the 2011 Surgeon General’s “Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding.”
The call to action states, “The time has come to set forth the important roles and responsibilities of clinicians, employers, communities, researchers, and government leaders and to urge us all to take on a commitment to enable mothers to meet their personal goals for breastfeeding.”
During the event, Malanum, who also co-founded the city’s first breastfeeding resource fair, Latch & Link, shared her grievances about the need for more support groups.
“We have a service gap in breastfeeding support after mothers leave the hospital,” she said. “There are entire swatches of the city, entire districts, that have zero support groups. Zero! There still are.”
“And so Long Beach Breastfeeds was born,” she continued, calling the organization a "labor of love." She said the organization hosts community-building celebratory events but will also put more support groups in every neighborhood.
The organization announced partnerships with Councilmember Richardson and The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach to bring “quality, free and donation-based support to areas and communities that are underserved,” according to the release.
“The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach is incredibly honored to partner with Long Beach Breastfeeds on a monthly breast and chestfeeding support group,” said Porter Gilberg, The Center’s executive director, during the event. “We are proud to support this organization to increase awareness around breast and chestfeeding and are very excited to offer this resource to LGBTQ families.”
De Rivera, a soon-to-be-certified lactation professional, will co-lead the chest and breast milk feeding support group at The Center. The “Long Beach Breastfeeds, Center” support group will start Monday, June 22 at 6:00PM at The Center’s upstairs room and will meet monthly every fourth Monday thereafter.
"As a social justice and breastfeeding advocate, offering peer-to-peer support to the entire breastfeeding community is a passion of mine,” de Rivera said in a statement. “Access is a real issue for many communities. As a bisexual mother, it means a lot to me to serve the LGBTQ community in this way.”
According to the 2014 California fact sheet report, written by the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the University of California Davis Human Lactation Department, titled Bringing Breastfeeding Home: Building Communities of Care, peer counseling programs are a cost-effect, culturally competent way to support mothers.
“These programs increase duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding," the report states.
Both Malanum and de Rivera say Long Beach Breastfeeds is poised to make a positive impact on the public health issue of breastfeeding duration rates by offering two new support groups.
The “Long Beach Breastfeeds, North” support group will start Monday, June 1 at 6:30PM at the Houghton Park Community Center’s multi-purpose room and will meet monthly every first Monday thereafter.
"Thanks to Long Beach Breastfeeds, the confidence of breast feeders is increasing, so that more children are realizing the full benefits of the breastfeeding relationship," Malanum said.
Co-founders Malanum and de Rivera are longtime local breastfeeding advocates and residents of Long Beach. Malanum co-founded the city’s first breastfeeding resource fair, Latch & Link, held annually in August at the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week and Month, and a donor milk drive that netted 2,000 ounces of human breast milk, translating to 8,000 meals for premature infants. In addition to being a city commissioner and Leadership Long Beach board member, de Rivera was recently nominated as one of the Press-Telegram’s “Amazing Women” finalists for her work developing and growing the local breastfeeding community.
The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach is located at 2017 E. 4th St. and the Houghton Park Community Center is located at 6301 Myrtle Ave.