August 1 to 7, 2022, is World Breastfeeding Week, a global campaign to raise awareness about breastfeeding and its many advantages. First Nations is celebrating the week by highlighting a few of our community partners that are advancing breastfeeding programs with support of First Nations’ Breastfeeding & First Foods grants.
About the Grant Opportunity
The importance of breastfeeding is not new to Indigenous peoples. Breast and chest milk is an entry point to our food system – the first food many babies consume. Additionally, breast and chest milk can have a direct impact on taste preferences and other health outcomes we experience as adults.
But often, federal, state, and hospital programs fall short and exclude Indigenous families from necessary lactation support. And the foods consumed during pregnancy, both pre- and postpartum, can impact not only babies’ health but also their palettes for traditional first foods as they grow older.
For these reasons, and with the onset of a national infant formula crisis, this year was a critical time for First Nations to launch the Breastfeeding & First Foods grant opportunity.
Through the project, 10 community partners were awarded grants in January 2022 to support Indigenous parents and children in receiving accessible, culturally competent lactation counseling and prenatal and postpartum nutrition. These Native-led organizations and Tribal government programs are creating communities built for and by Indigenous lactating people, which ultimately strengthens Native food sovereignty.
Catawba Indian Nation Childcare Services Division. This community partner started their journey to support lactating families with a needs assessment of their community, during which they discovered that more people are breastfeeding than previously thought. But even more important: There are many individuals in the community who are interested in breastfeeding and would like support or education on the topic.
Through the data collected in the assessment, the organization was able to leverage their findings to secure further funding from the Tribal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting grant from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, which will provide them with $1.7 million over five years to expand this work. Going forward, the Catawba Indian Nation is also providing 20 families with newborns of parents who are lactating with monthly food boxes of nutritious, local foods and starting community classes on breastfeeding, nutrition, and first foods.
Navajo Breastfeeding Coalition. This First Nations community partner is creating a system of direct services for lactating Diné families across the Navajo Nation and in urban centers. The coalition provides lactation counselors and doulas to new parents to smooth the ever-difficult process of learning to breastfeed. It also provides electric breast pumps for lactating parents and connects new families to local growers to bolster access to traditional foods and create a more interconnected food system. In addition, the Navajo Breastfeeding Coalition hosts workshops on how to harvest and prepare traditional foods specifically geared towards young families in partnership with local farms.
Amanda Singer, project director at the Navajo Breastfeeding Coalition, says, “This grant could not have come at a better time. The infant formula shortage happened just a few months after and we were prepared and able to respond to our families’ needs.”
How to Get Involved
First Nations invites Native friends and allies to learn more about our First Foods & Breastfeeding project, as well as our overall Nourishing Native Foods & Health Program here.
To directly support the Catawba Indian Nation Childcare Services Division, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To directly support the Navajo Breastfeeding Coalition, visit the New Mexico Foundation, and select “Dine Nation (Breastfeeding)” as the designation.
Abigail (Abbi) Han