Yesterday, when the host of NPR’s program “Tell Me More” teased a segment on breastfeeding, I will admit that I rolled my eyes and nearly switched channels.  I am very tired of the analysis of moms in the media, the purported “mommy wars” between women working in and those working outside the home, and the huge lack of comprehension most journalists have of what it means to nurse a baby in America today.

I’m glad I didn’t switch the station.

Host Michel Martin led an interesting, thoughtful conversation on a topic with which she is clearly familiar.  Her most interesting guest, Kimberly Seals Allers, is a breastfeeding advocate who authored a study on the concept of “first-food deserts.”

You may be familiar with the term “food desert,” which describes an area without access to fresh, nourishing foods.  In the urban context it usually translates to a part of town with multiple convenience stores and fast food restaurants but few, if any, actual grocery stores.

In the context of breastfeeding, the term is applied differently:

Allers describes it thusly:

So our first food desert is a neighborhood where there really isn’t any access to support. So a food desert is all about accessing, whether that’s a – like, to you, as you mentioned, a healthy fruit or a vegetable and the fact of the matter is that because of the current climate and our cultural forces, women need more than their actual physical breasts to breastfeed. They need support. They need the infrastructure there to help them do so, and so many communities lack this basic infrastructure.

Accordingly, most of the conversation centered around the barriers that women face that prevent them from establishing or continuing successful nursing relationships.

This is precisely the type of dialogue around breastfeeding that I believe we should be having.  If you talk to moms who struggled with nursing, over and over again you hear common themes and most of them relate not to physical impediments, but to issues of knowledge and support from care providers, community, and family.

Allers’ study is especially resonant with me because it was conducted in Southeastern states.

Take a few minutes to read the transcript here then tell me what you think about the conversation.

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