Our CHEER Champion of the Week is T’amentanefer (TaNefer) Lumukanda Camara, BS, MS-HCA, IBCLC, and Certified Doula. TaNefer is a maternal health strategist, healer, and lactation/breastfeeding expert with 13 years’ experience as a doula, lactation consultant, and infant feeding specialist. She currently works as a Lactation Consultant at a safety net Baby Friendly Hospital in Oakland, CA and provides education to community and professionals on breastfeeding and lactation.
“I enjoy witnessing moms tap into their innate ability to care for and nurture their babies,” she shares. “I love to see families grow and thrive.”
TaNefer is renowned for her popular music video “Teach Me How to Breastfeed”, a song that was inspired by the moms she met at WIC as a Peer Counselor. “I felt the information was vital but not written for young urban moms,” she says, “people needed clear, concise information that was straight to the point yet left a memorable impression.” The video not only challenged the notion of breasts as sexual objects, but also dispelled the myth that black women do not breastfeed. It was a social statement that portrayed a Black IBCLC educating families of all races and sexual orientation on breastfeeding.
TaNefer has a diverse background with experience in Qualitative Research, counseling foster youth, social work and family advocacy. In 2014, she started The Lactation Café (TLC) in collaboration with Room to Bloom, a local early education program in East Oakland. The organization provided families with a safe place to receive the support they needed to breastfeed their babies and thrive as parents. Through the support provided, the rates and duration of breastfeeding in the community increased, with many of the moms breastfeeding for over 1.5 years.
When asked what motivates her to do this work? TaNefer described how she was inspired by an article she read in 2003 about Black Midwives in the South and the alarming infant mortality and morbidity rates she discovered in her neighborhood. “At that moment, I realized the rich legacy that we as Black people had in this country,” she shares. “From then on I began my journey to birth work, breastfeeding, and health education as a means to save myself and liberate my people.” She was further motivated by her difficult experience with breastfeeding after the birth of her son in 2006. This experience helped her to realize that moms would need practical and hands on support to overcome the challenges.
In addition to all her accomplishments, TaNefer is a Health Connect One-Birth Equity Leader. She is also involved in cutting edge research as part of the USCF Preterm Birth Initiative and co-founding the B.L.A.C.K course, a comprehensive African-American/diaspora centered lactation educator course designed by Black Lactation specialists. In her spare time, TaNefer loves to travel! She recently visited Morocco where she learned ancient post-partum traditions for restoring health and dignity to women after birth.
Congratulations TaNefer, and thanks for the excellent work you do in providing hands on breastfeeding support to families!
This week’s CHEER Champion of the Week is Judy Ellzey, CLC, Peer Counselor 3 and Special Projects Officer 1 with the Mississippi State Department of Health’s (MSDH) WIC Breastfeeding Program. She was nominated by a past supervisor, Shellie Evans, AA, BS, CLC, for 23 years of compassionate and dedicated service to the MSDH WIC Breastfeeding Program!
“I love seeing women succeed and reach their goals,” Judy shares. “When I breastfed my fist daughter, I did not have much support, so I understand when moms feel unsure. Giving them knowledge that I have gained over the last 28 years so they can reach their goals encourages me to keep doing my work.”
As a WIC Peer Counselor 3 and Special Projects Officer 1, Judy covers a large rural area and a high number of clients. She services 5 counties, teaching prenatal classes, and making hospital and home visits. She works with local hospitals on their pathway to becoming Baby-Friendly and on their Memorandums of Understanding with WIC. She has also organized and is the lead for the MISS-LOU breastfeeding support group in Natchez, and she volunteers at the Circle of Moms’ Baby Café cluster locations.
In addition to her role with WIC, Judy is a pastor’s wife and member of Junior Auxiliary. In these roles, she volunteers when needed in the community and organizes special community service projects.
What personally motivates Judy to do the work she does? Like many lactation counselors and consultants, Judy finds the work itself motivates her and is full of rewards:
“Hearing a mom tell me she would not have made it very far on her breastfeeding journey without my help,” she says. “Seeing a mom that was having a very rough start sticking with it and breastfeeding for one year or more. Also, having moms who I helped with breastfeeding refer their grown children to me for help.”
Judy is currently working towards meeting the requirements to take the IBCLC exam.
Congratulations, Judy, and best wishes to you and your valuable work!
This week’s Champion is Becca Young, medical student at Oxford University and CHEERing volunteer. Becca was nominated for her hard work and dedication while she volunteered with CHEERing in Athens last August.
Being a medical student with a keen interest in international aid work, Becca decided to travel to Greece and make a direct impact. She chose CHEERing because she was struck by the simplicity of their mission, and the powerful effects of helping mothers to give their children the best possible start in life, no matter where that might be. “One of the most rewarding parts of the job is seeing mothers’ faces light up when they see how well their babies are growing on our growth charts – you can see the weight physically lift off their shoulders,” Becca wrote in a recent article. She is glad to have been involved in CHEERing’s efforts to support mothers in best practices for infant feeding and health in and around Athens.
Before going to Athens in August, Becca had been involved with SolidariTee, an organization that fundraises at her university for legal aid in the Mediterranean. Her experience at CHEERing enabled her to recognize the disparities in the reality of her medical education in the UK and that of vulnerable refugee populations. She believes that this new perspective will be beneficial in her future medical practice.
In her spare time, Becca enjoys cooking, hiking, swimming/scuba diving, and reading.
Congratulations Becca, thank you for your contributions to CHEERing!
Note: Becca’s full article was published on August 19, 2019 and is available on the CHEERing Facebook page.
Our CHEER Champion of the Week is Paula Schreck, MD, IBCLC, FABM and Medical Director, Breastfeeding Support Services, Ascension St. John’s Hospital in Michigan. Dr. Schreck was nominated for her accomplishments in getting Detroit hospitals baby-friendly designated and founding the Ascension St. John Outpatient Breastfeeding Clinic.
“My earlier exposures to BFHI got me hooked on the fast-paced, constantly changing environment of continuous quality improvement work,” Dr. Schreck says. She trained as a primary care pediatrician with residency at University of California, San Diego (UCSD). After a couple of years on the UCSD Clinical Faculty, she and her family moved back to her home state Michigan, where she became the Medical Director of Breastfeeding Support Services at Ascension St John Hospital. She founded the Ascension St. John Outpatient Breastfeeding Clinic, a physician-led breastfeeding clinic in 2008, the first of its kind in the state. With momentum from the clinic, she and her team created the Mother Nurture Network, a comprehensive and far-reaching breastfeeding support program, supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Through Mother Nurture’s programming, Ascension St. John achieved Baby-Friendly accreditation, making it the first of the four large urban hospitals in Detroit to do so. This action propelled the city toward full BFHI engagement, as the other three hospitals were engaged in the pathway within two years. Dr. Schreck discussed how Baby-Friendly has improved collaboration between these health systems. “We may be from competing health systems, but Baby-Friendly has brought the four sites together, and through a city-wide collaborative we are working together, with our community stakeholders, to achieve and maintain our designations” she says.
Since its inception, the Mother Nurture program has grown into an accredited Pathway 2 lactation consultant training program, accessible to women in the community, with the goal of diversifying and growing the lactation consultant field beyond the walls of the hospital to serve the communities of Michigan.
When asked what she enjoys the most about her work, she responded: “right now, after years of planning, I am most enjoying seeing the inaugural class of our lactation consultant training program begin their classwork and clinical rotations”. When she first started in the breastfeeding clinic, she was motivated by how, with her team’s assistance, a breastfeeding dyad could be helped back onto the road to successful and sustained breastfeeding. “Seeing our work scaled to hospital systems and statewide networks to reach thousands of breastfeeding dyads every year is exciting to me,” she says.
Currently, Dr. Schreck and her team provide technical assistance for birthing center quality improvement to the Ascension hospitals of Michigan, the majority of which are engaged in the Baby-Friendly pathway. They hope to have the rest of the Ascension birthing centers join soon, so all Ascension Michigan hospitals are eventually Baby-Friendly accredited. She continues to offer technical assistance to the other hospitals in Detroit, as needed, and she serves as a consultant with Coffective for the Gift program of Louisiana and other Coffective initiatives in Wisconsin, Kentucky, Minnesota and Michigan.
Dr. Schreck is an active member of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, and the chair of the Membership Committee. Though her sons are off to college, she is glad to still have her two golden retrievers – Macky and Mr. Darcy- to mother.
Congratulations, Dr. Schreck, and thank you for all you do to promote breastfeeding in Michigan and beyond!
CHEER Champion of the week
Each week, we will recognize a CHEER Champion for all the work they have done for CHEER (Center for Health Equity, Education, and Research)/CHAMPS (Communities and Hospitals Advancing Maternity Practices).