Amplifying Melanated Voices in BLW


 

Never in a million years did I think that I – a white suburban dietitian mom – would be writing a blog post about fighting racism in the very niche area that I work in called baby-led weaning.

…but here we are, amidst a powerful movement and a moment of recognition in the US and I can do better.

 

#amplifyingmelanatedvoices

In recent days I have learned much and been inspired by the #amplifyingmelanatedvoices campaign on Instagram spearheaded by fellow dietitian Jessica Wilson, MS, RD @jessica.wilsonmsrd and Alishia McCullough @blackandembodied.

As someone who has never experienced the harsh reality of systemic racism that is endemic in our country and much of the world, I don’t feel qualified or adequately equipped to tackle the important issues of racism and social injustice.

But I do run the largest digital community dedicated to baby-led weaning, and I have an obligation to use my platform to do something. My community is full of incredibly diverse, informed and kind parents and caregivers who want to give their babies the absolute best start to solid foods.

And while I certainly don’t have any answers or personal life experiences or stories or strategies that can alleviate the pain people are experiencing right now…

…my community does.

 

Putting Your Suggestions into Practice

And so I recently began having conversations with moms and dads and caregivers, grandparents and healthcare professionals in my community, many who are people of color, many who are not.

  

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And I asked, “How can I amplify the voices that need to be heard & fight racism here?”

{…“here” being on my primary platform Instagram @babyledweanteam, on my podcast Baby-Led Weaning Made Easy, on this blog The Fortified Family and inside of my BLW membership group The Baby-Led Wean Team…}

Some of the responses I received, I expected. But others I was surprised by.

 

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My community wants to see more (…and this is what I was not surprised by):

  • Black families doing baby-led weaning

  • BLW in other cultures

  • BIPOC dietitians

  • BLW cultural food recipes

But I was also intrigued by a lot of the responses to that question sticker that were related to class and socioeconomic status and access. These included more requests for:

  • Information on food deserts

  • More ideas for WIC moms

  • Food inequality

  • Access to healthy foods for lower socioeconomic families

In the ensuing discussion that played out in this particular Instagram post (original post is here), there was 1 particular comment that stood out to me. This comment read:

“I appreciate the intention behind your post, but please be careful to not conflate or associate Black parents feeding their babies with experiences in food deserts, as WIC recipients, or low socioeconomic backgrounds 💗 It is possible to be culturally competitive without making class associations.”

It made me realize how far I have to go and how much more learning I need to do in order to adequately serve the community of followers who seek out my expertise in infant nutrition and baby-led weaning.

There is value and need to speak about feeding issues as they pertain to race and as they pertain to class, and they may at times overlap but at other times they should not.

 

Moving Forward

My team and I have spent this week brainstorming ways to make meaningful changes to the content we put out.

We want to celebrate babies and families of ALL backgrounds including different races and different parts of the world and different religions and different cultural food practices.

But because the imminent issues afflicting our country are about race, in the immediate future I am working to:

  • Feature more Black families doing BLW

  • Amplify the hashtag #blackbabyledweaning

  • Spotlight BIPOC dietitians

  • Interview more Black feeding experts

For the other areas of cultural competence, in my forthcoming content I am seeking to:

  • Share more ideas for WIC families

  • Highlight BLW in other cultures

  • Educate about food deserts

  • Post more BLW cultural food recipes

I seek to do this in a way that makes all of my platforms a more inclusive learning environment that is representative of ALL parents and people and babies…as well as the types of foods we ALL eat.

In these efforts, I know I will make mistakes along the way. I will accidentally and unintentionally, but certainly offend some people in trying to do so. But I will lean on the individuals and stories and experiences of those in my community to make this a more inclusive learning environment.

 

About the Image

I’ve had a lot of questions about the image for this post I originally used on Instagram. A very talented dietitian who works with me, Katelynn Sasaki, RDN is an illustrator and drew it for the post.

She used her own nephew (a BLW baby 🙂 and his “incredibly chunky hands” as a reference for the drawing.

We originally posted it on Instagram with this Rosa Parks quote:

 

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…but I also love it on its own with just the chunky little self-feeding fingers of babies of all races.

 

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Each time I look at Katelynn’s drawing it reminds me that chubby baby fingers of ALL colors are always welcome here.

And I will do a better job to ensuring it stays that way.





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