The Nooni Project
This project aims to train community Indigenous Breastfeeding Counselors and local health care providers in breastfeeding best practices, who will thereby teach families and community members about breastfeeding in a culturally appropriate way that meets the health and social needs of tribal communities in Michigan.
Breastfeeding in Native American cultures is often viewed as ceremony, and thus an act of resilience; however, due to the effects of historical trauma, this act has been lost. Breastfeeding is important for maternal and infant health by providing physiological and psychological short-term and long-term benefits, such as the prevention of infectious and chronic diseases and improvements in mental health, family bonding and a return of societal values.
The Nooni Project aims to train community Indigenous Breastfeeding Counselors and local health care providers in breastfeeding best practices, who will thereby teach families and community members about breastfeeding in a culturally appropriate way that meets the health and social needs of tribal communities in Michigan.
Loss of Culturally Meaningful Breastfeeding Practices, Native American Women and Families in Michigan
The Nooni Project addresses an important cultural practice that was lost during colonization that historically brought families together, while also improving the generational health of Michigan mothers and their infants (boys and girls): Breastfeeding. Mothers and community members will regain this traditional knowledge of breastfeeding and with this new learning and sustained positive experience, it is our vision that mothers will pass this knowledge on to her own daughters, sons and other relatives thereby, increasing the health of future generations of Indigenous peoples. The physical and psychosocial benefits of breastfeeding are numerous, including lower rates of postpartum depression, and promoting optimal bonding and attachment for the infants. Breastfeeding during infancy also protects these same children from obesity, diabetes, cancer later in life; protects mothers from breast and ovarian cancers, postpartum depression and helps mothers return faster to pre-pregnancy weight thereby, reducing rates of obesity and its related sequela (AAP 2020; MDHHS 2020a,b; WHO 2020). These benefits will have direct and indirect positive impacts on mothers, infants, families and communities.
The Nooni Project involves a three-part re-education and collaboration on breastfeeding practices among (1) Indigenous community leaders, (2) tribal health care providers (including, doctors, nurses, healthy start staff, home visitors, and behavioral and/or mental health care providers), and (3) families and community members within the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan’s Healthy Start Program (2020) Site Service Area.
Within each of six communities selected, at least 25 Native community members will be selected for training as an Indigenous Breastfeeding Counselor, for a total of 150 Certified Indigenous Breastfeeding Counselors trained and certified by the end of this project. Additionally, at least five healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses, healthy start staff, home visitors, and behavioral and/or mental health staff) from each community-based tribal health center will be trained in breastfeeding best practices and how to support and promote breastfeeding while mothers are in their care, for a total of 30 tribal healthcare professionals by the end of this project. Moreover, we expect to train up to 80 community members in each of the six communities for a total of 460 community members on how to best support breastfeeding mothers and begin talks on sustaining this support within their communities. While this training initiative/intervention will directly serve these six communities, the communication and marketing materials produced during this project will reach all tribal centers with the intention of having a positive statewide impact on breastfeeding best-practices.
Power in Numbers