CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After a difficult pregnancy, Ariel Thompson made it her mission to help other mothers who may have problems breastfeeding.
Storytime with Ariel and her daughter, Mya, often includes their favorite book: "Mama Mammals." It's a story about different animals with something in common: the way they feed their babies: breastfeeding.
Mya, at just 7 years old, is the author of the book.
"I like to draw and color," Mya said.
About a year ago, she approached her mother and told her she wanted to write a book about animal mothers. That's how "Mama Mammals" was born.
But the idea of teaching people about the benefits of breastfeeding is something that started for Ariel the day Mya was born.
"I had a horrible pregnancy, and the lactation consultant wasn't any better, and they wanted me to give up," she said. "I said no."
Studies have found that black women are more likely than their white counterparts to give up breastfeeding, or never start altogether.
Black women are also more likely to have children with poorer health outcomes.
Other studies have found that breastfeeding is a contributing factor to healthy babies and healthy mothers. That's where Thompson steps in.
"I literally wake up every morning and the first thing I do is check and see who needs help," Thompson said.
Thompson runs a non-profit called The Beauty of Motherhood, a group that has now helped over 21,000 black women in the Charlotte area and over 84,000 worldwide.
The group educates women, especially black women, about the benefits of breastfeeding, and helps them on their journey to do so.
"Our mission is to educate, that's the first thing," Thompson said. "When we don't know anything, by the time the baby comes we don't want to do it. My mission is to educate them before the baby is here and support them."
The non-profit holds support groups online and in person, providing a network and community of parents, offering breastfeeding advice, even buying breast pumps for families who can't afford them.
"We mostly do it out of pocket," Thompson said.
She is hoping to find funding one day to be able to start other Beauty of Motherhood locations. But with all those big dreams, she still finds time for a bedtime story with her favorite author.
"I am very proud," Thompson says, giving Mya a little nuzzle. "I feel like it's the breast milk!"
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