Feel like a health professional has undermined your expertise in your baby? Provided you with info that is not supported by evidence? You have a right to stick up for yourself! This is how I did it and why you should too.
I’ve got my crushing the patriarchy, working from home, boss mama uniform on today: t-shirt with feminist emblazoned across the front and my booby earrings. These help me to harness my strong feminine power for an important day of advocacy!
“You should be your biggest champion, because no one understands you better than you!”
Advocacy is a bread and butter task for social workers, and as someone who is passionate about social justice, it is something that I do on a voluntary basis. Why? Because I am passionate about creating positive and sustainable change for women and mums.
Be part of the change mamas!
The most important person you can advocate for is yourself. You should be your biggest champion, because no one understands you better than you! What’s important to you? What do you stand for? What is an acceptable way to be treated?
A few months ago my daughter had a routine check-up at the children’s hospital – standard for a kid with a heart defect. She passed with flying colours which is always a big relief … But the doctor made some comments that absolutely did not sit right with me. She told me that I needed to stop breastfeeding my daughter because it was causing her harm, and that if she did not consolidate her sleep and sleep through the night that it could lead to issues at school.
My internal reaction was “what a load of rubbish”!!!! I was angry and could feel it rising within me. This quickly turned to hurt and defeat as I felt like I was being criticised for being a bad mum (even though I knew this wasn’t true).
Afterwards I sobbed as I recounted what had happened to the hospital liaison person, who was very receptive and listened to my experience. After a few days had passed I had time to collect my thoughts and I wrote a formal complaint letter to the hospital.
Fast forward a couple of months and I got a reply. I felt nervous as I opened the email, but this quickly turned to excitement as I read the letter. It included an apology for what had happened, assurance that the doctor was reflecting on her practice and how it can be improved, news that the hospital had approved a lactation consultant position AND that they were looking at becoming part of the Baby Friendly Health Initiative.
I was stoked and beaming from ear-to-ear. I posted the news on a couple of Facebook breastfeeding pages and I couldn’t believe the feedback I received – thousands of likes and comments! Mums are looking to other mums to be champions for them and their rights as mothers.
This experience taught me so much – about myself, about mothering and about the power of advocacy. Mums are hungry for advocacy. Advocacy so that they feel they can mother the way they want. Advocacy so that they are given evidence based information. Advocacy so that biologically normal infant and toddler behaviour becomes the popular discourse. Advocacy so that they are recognised as the expert in their children.
If you want to be a part of the change and advocate for yourself and other mums, you can write an advocacy letter too. My tips for advocacy letters include:
· Context – what happened, where did it happen, who said what?
· How did this impact you? What are potential impacts for others?
· What would you like to see changed?
· What are you looking for in a response?
As well as sending it to the agency responsible, it’s a great idea to get other groups involved – a google of relevant advocacy groups and Cc’ing them on the letter will probably help you to get more traction. Don’t forget about politicians too! There are ministers for women, health ministers and your local members.
If you’d like to know more about advocacy or how you can advocate for yourself, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay strong and back yourself mama!