We talk to Kiersten Pilar Miller, founder of The Milk Bar and Bellies Abroad, based in Rome.
The Milk Bar, created in 2009, was a store and meeting place dedicated to pregnancy, breastfeeding and motherhood.
Today the Milk Bar has evolved into a portal for families called Bellies Abroad offering online and in person consultations with culturally sensitive health care & legal professionals who speak a common language and adhere to the WHO Guidelines.
They have courses and an entire team that specialises in pre and post natal support so that parents can: learn what happens during labour and delivery, learn about successful breastfeeding and how to take care of their newborn and meet with English-speaking gynaecologists, midwives, paediatricians, lactation consultants and counsellors and other general healthcare professionals for the whole family.
Here Kiersten discusses how ‘foreign mums’ are more able to question the status quo and the changes she has seen in the maternal health space in Italy over the past ten years.
(0:30) MumAbroad – On your website it says ‘changing the world, one birth at a time’. Can you explain?
Kiersten Pilar Miller: “When I had opened the Milk Bar I had recently given birth to my daughter here in Rome and the availability of useful things for parents was limited. So I opened up the Milk Bar based on my own needs and experiences of what I found useful: breastfeeding clothing, good baby carriers… and being in the store each day it gave me such a unique view into the experiences women were having. When women came in, I would always ask ‘how was the birth?’ and I realized that’s not a question women are ever asked. And women would speak and it was an opening of floodgates. There were so many who were having very negative experiences and I looked into try to understand why.”
“With a midwife here we started the first English-language pre natal course. And the basis of the course was to give families fact-based info so they could make their own informed decisions about what they were looking for instead of what was thrust upon them. We started doing this eight years ago. And we told our families that putting together a birth plan was a good idea. When we started everyone said, ‘but if I show up are they going to accept my birth plan?’ and I said ‘you know what? Not very likely, but it’s a good exercise, and each person showing up with a birth plan is paving the road for women after them’.”
“After eight years, there has been much more acceptance into women arriving with birth plans and structures are beginning to listen to them. This is something we have been able to change by each individual family going in and saying ‘this is what I would like to have respected’. It’s a grass roots movement. And so that is changing the world one birth at a time.”