Breastfeeding Empowerment Zones
Despite the positive health benefits of breastfeeding, many mothers do not breastfeed and they often lack support during the transition from hospital to community. In addition, neighborhood business establishments and local institutions may not encourage breastfeeding. As a result, many women choose not to breastfeed, don’t often breastfeed or stop altogether.
The Breastfeeding Empowerment Zone (BFEZ) is a neighborhood initiative based out of the Center for Health Equity’s Brownsville Neighborhood Health Action Center. BFEZ trains and empowers community members in North and Central Brooklyn to support breastfeeding parents and families. In 2017, BFEZ launched a project to increase the reach of support services, provide workforce development opportunities and engage community stakeholders in neighborhood health planning. They also sought to empower men and fathers to become breastfeeding advocates.
Since February 2017, BFEZ has helped to establish more than 110 breastfeeding-friendly spaces in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville by leveraging the existing workforce and infrastructure of the Neighborhood Health Action Center. BFEZ trained five male peer educators to provide breastfeeding education and support new fathers in Central Brooklyn. Additionally, the initiative’s male-involvement coordinator developed a more rigorous training curriculum for male mentors to carry out in Year 2 as well as a curriculum for the Brooklyn Dad program.* The project also referred six new fathers to community partners for employment, and the employment/education referral system will further increase referrals in future years. As a result of the project’s effort, several businesses in the Brownsville commercial district have pledged space within their venues to allow nursing mothers to feed their children.
*The BFEZ Brooklyn Dad program focuses on: increasing awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding; involving male partners/fathers in supporting breastfeeding; creating breastfeeding friendly businesses; and providing breastfeeding education to fatherhood programs.