FLINT, Michigan -- After having her first child, Shonte’ Terhune-Smith realized there was a gap in breastfeeding support for women in Flint. She decided to do something about it.
Terhune-Smith is the owner of a breastfeeding support service called YOLO. Her company helps women and families in Flint and Genesee County. She launched the business in June of 2018.
She went from going to no breastfeeding class for her first child, to becoming an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and opening her own lactation service.
“[There was] minimum breastfeeding support that you could find in our community ... I couldn’t find anyone who looked like me, who could encourage me to continue breastfeeding, so we are mainly wanting to give women of color a place to go to with somebody in a professional setting to help support them with breastfeeding,” Terhune-Smith said.
YOLO offers breastfeeding classes, child education classes, postpartum doula services, birth doula services, and lactation consultations. YOLO is also free for families, regardless if they are able to pay, they can still get these services and get the support they need.
YOLO is for all women in Flint and Genesee County but originally focused on women of color in the lactation field. Representation is important, especially with issues of birth and breastfeeding.
The poverty rate for Flint is 38.8 percent and this affects women ages 25-34 and young children the greatest according to DATA: USA. This means that many women in Flint are unable to have the luxury of paying for breastfeeding services, which makes YOLO essential to the Flint community.
Even during COVID-19, Terhune-Smith was able to help women and their families. She worked with almost 60 families during 2020, changing her usual methods -- home or office visits -- to online consultations.
YOLO is connected with the Hurley Midwives, Hurley Lactation, Nurse Family Partnership, Baby Cafe, the Breastfeeding Coalition, and fatherhood and parenting groups. These groups have formed a network to recommend services for mothers.
Terhune-Smith helps with many different things: it allows women to have a go-to person for all things birth and breastfeeding.
“I feel like it's more one-on-one sharing individual care for families, as they also like the follow up that families received from YOLO that the moms feel more connected and they feel like they can continue to reach out,” Terhune-Smith said.
She notes that this type of care benefits both babies and mothers. Her care goes beyond just visits, instead she creates a comfortable environment for families to reach out whenever they are in need of help.
She believes that this is why families recommend her to their friends, because it is not just a service, but an experience. She has created a community of support with all the families.
“[My experience] made me want to change the scope of what’s provided in our community, encouraging women to take those classes and be prepared because you do feel a little more confident in it,” Terhune-Smith said.