Every October, the National Breast Cancer Foundation runs their annual campaign to raise awareness about breast health and the impact of breast cancer. Breast health shouldn’t be an awkward conversation. Just like taking care of the rest of your body through exercise and a healthy diet, as women, paying attention to our breasts and implementing healthy practices like screenings and mammograms can help save lives!
To learn a little bit more about how to take care of ourselves as mothers and women, I sat down with Kimberly Durdin. Kimberly is a Licensed Midwife, Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Childbirth Educator and Doula Trainer. As a mother of six and grandmother of five, Kimberly credits her children as her greatest teachers.
Over the last 29 years, Kimberly has interwoven her life with the lives of thousands of families throughout New York City, Washington DC Metro Area & Los Angeles. Be it through her work of providing lactation care, postpartum support, groups, counseling, childbirth education, labor support or through her work mentoring current and future birth workers, her dedication has allowed her to fully enjoy the fruits of her labor in the faces of the communities served. She and business partner Allegra Hill are co-owners and co-founders of Kindred Space LA, South LA’s only Black-owned Birth Center and hub for midwifery care, doula support and training, lactation consulting, education, parenting support group, enrichment and movement.
Her non-profit the Birthing People Foundation empowers People of Color by providing free and low cost education, training and certification pertaining to pregnancy, birth and postpartum; such as doulas, childbirth educators, lactation consultants, birth assistants and midwives. It is designed to address the maternal and infant health disparities in communities of color and other marginalized groups and to help change birth outcomes for marginalized people, while bringing Black and Brown women/people back to their roots as the original wellness providers.
Kimberly lives in South Los Angeles with her partner Michael and her two youngest children. Her older children live close by with their spouses and children, and one of her children currently resides in the DC Metro Area.
Could you give our audience some tips on self exams? Best practices, how to, etc…
Although the American Cancer Society is no longer recommending breast self exams (stating that it causes more women to go in for biopsies and other procedures unnecessarily) and recommends various screenings only, based on age and risk factors, organizations such as breastcancer.org DO still recommend breast self exams (BSE) because they believe it can help find problems early, when breast cancer is more treatable AND it is a convenient, no-cost tool that can be used on a regular basis, at any time and any age.
Some tips are for BSE are:
- Check your breasts once a month
- If you have periods, check 7-10 days after your period has ended (breasts will be less lumpy and full as associated with your menstrual cycle)
- If you don’t have a period because of menopause or lactational amenorrhea, choose a particular day of the month to check, every month that you can remember, for example, the first day of the month.
Step-by-step instructions for a breast self exam can be found at breastcancer.org
This year’s theme of Breast Cancer Awareness month is RISE – rising to support access to screenings and support for every woman. What are the biggest barriers to access and support that you’ve witnessed as an IBCLC?
Honestly, the biggest barriers I see are the same barriers that many people experience accessing healthcare in general, lack of time to take care of one’s health and lack of access to quality healthcare.
Are mothers with Breast Cancer able to continue nursing?
That’s a great question. If a mother is diagnosed with breast cancer while on her nursing journey, the truth is, she’s already been breastfeeding with breast cancer. Once cancer is diagnosed, a discussion with her medical team as to how and when to treat the cancer will be determined, and it is the various treatment options that will make it more unlikely that a mother can continue nursing on the affected breast. The drugs, chemical agents and chemotherapy will all affect not only her breastmilk (in the breast being treated), but also the function of the breast. However, typically we are talking about one breast being affected, therefore a mother can continue breastfeeding in the cancer-free breast. Most mothers would still be able to provide all or most of their babies breast milk needs from one breast only.
If a nursing mom needs to wean, what are some tips you have for her and baby?
Each mother and baby will have a unique set of circumstances to consider, so I would recommend talking to an IBCLC to help map out your weaning plan so that it can be done in a way that minimizes the potential trauma for both mother and baby. Sudden weaning or “cold-turkey” is recommended in only the most urgent situations, and depending on the mothers condition, may be the best option. I recommend seeking guidance from a lactation profession. In addition academy of breastfeeding medicine has a comprehensive protocol on breast cancer in pregnancy or while breastfeeding at www.bfmed.org (protocol #34)
What are some resources you would share with our audience for prevention or general women’s health? What about resources or tips for managing mental, physical, and emotional health if diagnosed with breast cancer?
I would like to remind folks if they are considering breastfeeding their child, one of the benefits to the mother is that breastfeeding reduces a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer and that the protection builds the longer she breastfeeds. I think it’s important to know that along with a healthy diet, exercise, managing your weight, reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption, staying away from toxins and chemicals (even in beauty products!) breastfeeding plays a part too!
As far as mental, physical and emotional health, folks on a healing journey will need lots of support. I recommend leaning into support in all forms. Regular physical activity and at the same time making space for adequate rest is imperative. Getting extra support or help with children, meals, and around the house can go along way in relieving the pressure to keep up with the daily demands of life while going through treatment. Having a supportive friend or friends, family, etc… as well as therapeutic support in the form of individual, group therapy and support groups can be true lifelines. Embracing and nurturing your spirit can be beneficial as well, whether that’s in a church, mosque, temple or any other spiritual community. For some people that can be found in nature, for others it may be through the power of meditation and prayer. Explore and find what works for you.
For more resources check out these sites: