Nursing moms in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, no longer have to worry about where they can feed their hungry children if they are anywhere near Restoration Plaza on Harriet Tubman Boulevard.
New Councilman Robert E. Cornegy Jr. threw a little shindig on Friday, March 14, to open his new offices and the lactation center therein at 1360 Fulton St., Suite 500.
Cornegy hosted a community ribbon-cutting ceremony for his new constituent services office on Friday at Restoration Plaza.
A father of six, including twins, Cornegy is hypersensitive to the needs of mothers who want to feed a baby but don’t want to be exposed to stares or comments on the street. He told the AmNews, “I just thought about the experience my wife, Michelle, encountered when she had to nurse our boys, and while a mother is able to nurse where and when she needs to—and she should—I was excited to be able to provide a safe and secure room where mothers can come in off the street and feed their babies.”
Cornegy emphasized that the district office includes a community lactation station to facilitate and promote breastfeeding for working mothers and Central Brooklyn residents.
“Breastfeeding reduces a mother’s risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Breastfeeding also reduces an infant’s risk of ear, respiratory and gastrointestinal infections and asthma, and promotes maternal bonding and optimal growth and development.”
Local residents at the reception were joined by former Assemblyman and City Councilman Al Vann, state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery and Assembly Members Annette Robinson and Walter Mosely.
The event gave constituents the opportunity to learn more about the services offered by the office, which includes help with education, housing, landlord-tenant relations and quality of life issues.
“The opening of the new constituent services office is a moment of celebration and a demonstration of my pledge to provide an exceptional level of service to the residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights,” stated Cornegy. “I am eager to seek out ways in which my office can connect with and deliver for the people of this community, to which I am so deeply committed.”
In a small room with two cushioned chairs and a fridge, nursing comfortably with her 14-month-old baby Efuntomi, was Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka.
“My family always breast fed,” the proud mom told the Amsterdam News, noting the joy of feeding another human. “The first time I fed my first son, I was so nervous. We were on the train station platform in Brownsville, and he was tired or hungry—something that nursing would comfort. My husband and I just looked at each other, so I just began feeding him, and the world didn’t end. He was fine, and it was obviously something he needed, and after that, I never thought twice about it.”
Saying that she is a student and is therefore out most of the day and cannot always nurse Efuntomi, Sangodele-Ayoka said with a laugh, “He likes Brussels sprouts and potatoes—he eats so much food.” But when she is home, she nurses her wide-eyed baby, who seemed quite oblivious to the cameras and the journalists.
When asked about the benefits of nursing, she replied, “Obviously, there are health benefits with his nutrition and vitamins in the breast milk, but it is also a source of comfort, and it helps us bond. Before I had children, I knew I would always breastfeed, but no one could convey the depth of the bond.”
“This is our effort to normalize and create spaces for mothers to breastfeed their babies, so we are going to be working with not only elected officials, but local businesses, faith-based organizations, barbershops and salons,” Dr. Aletha Maybank, assistant commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, told the AmNews.“I can’t think of anything better than when elected officials are so supportive and take the wheel.”
With his big yellow button on his lapel, Cornegy reiterated that he is a staunch supporter of the Pregnant Worker Protection Act and the Health Department’s Brooklyn Breastfeeding Empowerment Zone Project, which services Bedford-Stuyvesant.
In a statement, the councilman’s office said, “The Brooklyn Breastfeeding Empowerment Zone, funded in part by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is a community-based initiative to support moms in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville who are interested in breastfeeding. This will be done by providing in-home breastfeeding support and counseling to new mothers and providing education and support to new fathers. The Health Department will also work with local businesses and faith- and community-based organizations to establish spaces where women can breastfeed.”
As a part of a multifaceted strategy to promote breastfeeding, the Health Department also partners with maternity hospitals and birthing centers, runs a text messaging campaign called Mobile Milk and offers two home visiting programs, the Newborn Home Visiting Program and Nurse-Family Partnership, to educate and support breastfeeding mothers before and after delivery. It also produces a number of breastfeeding educational materials that are available through 311. For more information, visit nyc.gov/health.
“I just wanted a safe place for moms to be able to feed their children,” Cornegy said. “They can come into this office and feel comfortable.”
In partnership with the Health Department, the new district office will be hosting a series of “Know Your Rights” workshops to educate employers, employees and community residents about breastfeeding. Workshops for employees will be held on Wednesday, March 19 and Wednesday, April 9 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Workshops for employees and community residents will be held on Wednesday, March 26 and Wednesday, April 23 from noon to 2 p.m.
Meanwhile, Cornegy said that the district office will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, with evening hours every Thursday until 8 p.m. and Saturday hours the first weekend of every month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.