USBC receives Lamaze International President’s Award

Lamaze International Past President (Fall 2012-2016) Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH, CPH, CD(DONA), CLC, LCCE, FACCE presented the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) with the 2015 Lamaze International President’s Award earlier this year. The annual award, given at the discretion of the President, celebrates an individual or organization that has made “significant contributions to advancing safe and healthy pregnancy, birth and early parenting through evidence-based education and advocacy.”

Source: United States Breastfeeding Committee
Source: United States Breastfeeding Committee

Lamaze’s vision and mission is important to Weiss because she believes evidenced based education should be the foundation for the decisions that women must make in pregnancy, birth, and parenting.

“When making decisions based on facts, the risks of unnecessary procedures and potential risks from those drop drastically,” she says.

Weiss reports having a challenging time choosing a person or entity for the President’s award each year.

“There are so many people who are doing great work,” she says. “I had trouble narrowing it down, until I tried to think of it in terms of not just who was working hard or doing good work, but who was being innovative in their work or cause.”

Among all of the great work USBC does, Weiss wanted to recognize USBC for “their outstanding use of social media and advocacy to help childbirth educators, other professionals, and the public quickly and easily interact with elected officials on topics that matter to them.”

She specifically cites the Weekly Wednesday Wire, which she says is more interactive than your standard newsletter.

“It’s difficult to make a newsletter that people want to click on things and yet I find myself clicking on something or things almost every week,” Weiss says.

She also applauds their efforts and advocacy on Twitter.

“I truly loved their project to encourage all members to tweet to their representatives and senators,” Weiss says. “The social media tools to find this information were very quick and useful as were the prewritten tweets! That’s such a great way to make it easy to tweet if you’re new or anxious.”

In the Q&A below, USBC Executive Director Megan Renner and her team weigh-in on what it was like to receive the award. Read on!  

Q: What’s it like to be part of an organization that received such a lovely award from Lamaze International?

A: We are humbled and honored to have the opportunity to contribute to the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee. The USBC is a multi-sectoral, nonprofit coalition of more than 50 national organizations that support its mission “to drive collaborative efforts for policy and practices that create a landscape of breastfeeding support across the United States.” As the national breastfeeding coalition and primary implementation partner of The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, we benefit from a truly unique vantage point to steward the many, many breastfeeding support activities in progress across our nation.

Here at the USBC we live by the words of the African Proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The solution is bigger than any one of us, but by bringing together the collective reach, talent, and resources of the breastfeeding field and beyond, our shared voices can move mountains.

Source: United States Breastfeeding Committee
Source: United States Breastfeeding Committee

It’s important that all of us in the “First Food Field” align to address the most critical policies and practices that impact breastfeeding families. That’s why USBC members, partners, and network of breastfeeding coalitions work together to advocate for policy and practice changes in areas like paid family leave, workplace accommodations, lactation accommodations in airports and public spaces, health care coverage, and more.

Q: What USBC social media campaigns would you like to highlight?

A: Each year the USBC hosts two major campaigns focused on national advocacy priorities for breastfeeding families. The first takes place in the spring to celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and the second in August for National Breastfeeding Month (NBM). These campaigns create opportunities for individuals and organizations to come together and raise their voices to build momentum and call on policymakers to create the changes that breastfeeding families need and deserve.

For example, during our National Breastfeeding Month 2015 campaign we built three different tools to make it easy for individuals to utilize the power of social media to bring breastfeeding to the attention of new audiences. This included a tool to tweet employers, which had templates of positive and negative tweets addressing their policies on paid leave and breastfeeding support for their employees. Another week we addressed health care coverage gaps with a “Tweet Your Insurer” tool that had preloaded tweets tailored to each company’s letter grade for breastfeeding coverage, based on the National Breastfeeding Center’s 2014 Payer Scorecard. With two clicks, supporters could praise comprehensive, transparent coverage or call out opaque, poor coverage. Finally, to focus on families in their communities, we created another customizable tool for tweeting airports and sports venues. The campaign had a massive reach of more than 1,000 contributors using the campaign hashtag (#NBM15) reaching over 59 million Twitter feeds, and thanks to the “shares” by our supporters, our Facebook posts reached over 261,000 people. Those tools are still active, and we invite people to use them to continue to start conversations with their employers, insurers, and local airports and sports venues!

In addition, during the 2012 and 2014 election seasons, we developed tools that made it easy for constituents to talk to their Congressional candidates about breastfeeding. Individuals simply clicked on lists of the candidates for Congress in their states/districts to send a customized tweet. The messages urged candidates to stand up for breastfeeding families while also educating them about why breastfeeding is a bipartisan issue, and what types of protection and support really make a difference.

(Photo by Sara D. Davis) Source: United States Breastfeeding Committee
(Photo by Sara D. Davis)
Source: United States Breastfeeding Committee

At the USBC we love to take advantage of social media platforms like Twitter because they can serve as an equalizer between advocates and their target policymakers, whether an insurance conglomerate, local airport, or candidate for public office. When individuals publicly raise their voices together, policymakers can’t ignore it. Social media also facilitates engagement with a wide variety of perspectives from all across the country.

But it’s not enough to simply create these tools and sample messages. We also need to ensure that our supporters understand how and why social media serves as a powerful tool for influencing change, and that they are up to speed on how to use the various platforms. Check out our Coalitions: Taking Twitter by Storm webinar to learn how to use Twitter to move your organization’s mission forward, and watch for announcements about our upcoming spring campaign so you can apply your new knowledge and skills!  

Q: Where have you seen the effects of USBC’s social media advocacy?

A: Since our Twitter tool for reaching out to airports and sports venues was launched last year, momentum to accommodate breastfeeding mothers in public spaces has soared! From LaGuardia airport to the Cincinnati Reds’ Stadium, breastfeeding mothers now have private spaces to pump breast milk. Advocates often receive direct responses to the tweets sent through our tools, initiating conversations that can help educate the targets and connect them to the resources they need to implement breastfeeding-friendly policies.

Our social media efforts are interwoven with other strategies to make policy and systems change happen. For example, last spring Representative Tammy Duckworth introduced the Friendly Airports for Mothers (FAM) Act, which would require all large and medium hub airports to provide a private, non-bathroom space in each terminal for mothers to express breast milk. Her inspiration for the bill came from her own experience as a traveling new mom, finding it extremely difficult to find a private, clean, handicapped-accessible place to pump (that wasn’t a bathroom stall).

To support the bill, we created multiple online tools around the issues moms experience in airports, including an action alert that sends direct messages to Members of Congress, a Thunderclap that sent out hundreds of simultaneous Tweets and Facebook posts, and a story collection tool where moms could share personal stories about traveling experiences. Our supporters sprang into action and demonstrated massive support for this new issue. Because they stepped up, the bill gathered bipartisan support and has passed the Senate despite the deadlocked and divided political climate.

Q: What work are you most proud of?

A: In recent years, the USBC has taken on a dual equity approach to expand both the voices leading our movement from within and the voice of our movement out in the world. Addressing disparities in breastfeeding experiences and outcomes is our most challenging and rewarding work. We’ve taken many steps forward on our equity journey, with much more to come.

Source: United States Breastfeeding Committee
Source: United States Breastfeeding Committee

One of our latest steps has been launching a new online Racial Equity Learning Community, including a bi-monthly webinar series, this past fall. Part of an inclusive learning and transformation process, the online community will build the capacity of the breastfeeding field to apply both an “equity lens” to inform and guide our external strategies and activities, and also an “equity mirror” to examine our internal structures, culture, and policies.

There is no single policy or practice change that can dismantle structural inequity. It is only with a deeply inclusive and wide-ranging approach that we can achieve our shared vision of “thriving families and communities.”

To learn more and get involved in the USBC’s work, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. In addition, the USBC’s e-Newsletter, Staying Abreast: Weekly Wednesday Wire is a weekly news brief highlighting major news, actions, and opportunities for the field. We encourage all organizations with items to share to visit our submission form so we can help promote the great work happening around the country to support breastfeeding families.

Get involved in the 2016 WHO Code Day of Action

Have you ever seen those adorable, miniature ice cream tubs? Oh, are they darling! And weighing in at just under four ounces, they’re the perfect dose of chocolate-y decadence. Certainly not enough to share though, so the other day I hid behind a house plant in hopes that my girls–busy coloring– wouldn’t swoop in on my treat.  As I indulged, I casually scanned the tiny packaging. Serving size: one container. Ingredients: cream, skim milk, sugar, cocoa processed with alkali, egg yolks. Gluten free. Then, to my horror, in miniscule print was the name of a company I attempt to boycott at all costs. I guilt-fully gulped the last, melty spoonful I’d managed to scrape from the bottom. How could I have missed this?! I thought.

Infant formula companies’ predatory marketing harms families and babies each and every day, which is why I’ve chosen to attempt to boycott the offenders. For over three decades, since The World Health Organization adopted the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes on May 21, 1981, these companies have committed and continue to commit grotesque violations of The Code. (Read Best for Babes’ The Code– Why Does it Matter To You? if you’re wondering why it matters to you.)

On May 21, Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert will host the 2016 WHO Code Day of Action. Here are the organization’s suggestions on how to take part:

  1. Take photos or videos holding a homemade sign. “Protect Parents and Babies- Keep Marketing out of Healthcare Facilities” or “Follow the WHO Code” are suggestions. Include your kids and show it if you’re expecting!
  1. Post your photos on THIS event page . (By posting photos to this page, you agree to let us publish elsewhere, including company’s pages)
  1. Post photos/videos/personal messages to the pages of Code violators. Read more here:

Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert includes this note: “This message and the Code are targeted at the MARKETING of these items, not the use of them! We are fighting against the unethical and aggressive marketing of these items, which undermine parent’s infant feeding goals! For more clarification:

I’ll be taking part with these images.


I’ve also sent letters to pediatric clinics in my area suggesting the removal of infant formula marketing. Lastly, I’ll be researching a new mini ice cream tub distributor.

More on the Code: Last week, WHO, UNICEF and IBFAN presented the first joint global report on the status of the Code in 194 countries. The report presents the legal status of the Code, including to what extent Code provisions have been incorporated in national legal measures, and provides information on the efforts made by countries to monitor and enforce the Code through the establishment of formal mechanisms. The report and video footage is available here.

First Steps Nutrition Trust published Scientific and factual?’ A review of breastmilk substitutes advertising to healthcare professionals, a document that looks at the evidence given to support advertising claims about formula milk, “revealing a worryingly common use of misleading and unscientific information contrary to international, EU and national regulations over formula milk advertising.” More here.

You can sign Public Citizen’s petition telling infant formula makers to stop using hospitals as marketing tools here.
Will you join in on the cause?

Celebrating BMBFA’s accomplishments and mothers in the community

Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association (BMBFA) hosted its third annual open house last month.

“We had a great turnout,” says BMBFA Program Coordinator Stacy Davis, IBCLC. “I would say one of our best.”

Open house attendees
Open house attendees

Families, stakeholders, community partners–like United Children, Family Head Start and Peace Maternal Infant Health Program– and members of other community organizations all attended the open house.  

“We also had potential funders come see the work that BMBFA does in and out of the community,” Davis reports.  

Each BMBFA home visiting program participant was honored at the open house with a Pandora charm signifying every breastfeeding milestone accomplished: initiation, three months, six months, twelve months and beyond.

Davis’s sister-in-law Gwendolyn Yarbrough-Gordon and her best friend Barbara Staunton came from Toledo, Ohio to present pregnant mothers in the doula program and mothers who had not breastfed in the doula program with handmade blankets, pillows, bibs, and hats.

This year, the first publishing of BMBFA’s annual report was presented at the open house.

“We find it necessary that our stakeholders know the accomplishments that we have made with the funds that we have received,” Founding Executive Director Kidada Green writes in a BMBFA newsletter. “Most importantly we want you to know how these accomplishments have made a difference in the lives of the families we serve.”  

BMBFA’s accomplishments are extensive and make a big impact in a community with an alarmingly high infant mortality rate. The organization’s home visiting program has serviced over 537 families since its June 2013 start date.

In 2015, BMBFA helped 198 breastfeeding peer counselor participants and 47 doula participants, Davis adds. BMBFA’s growing doula program assisted over 20 births in 2015.

The organization expanded its doula services with two new program initiatives: the Community Birth Worker Initiative and  the Our Health, Our Births Gatherings. The Community Birth Work Initiative is a grant-funded project supported by the March of Dimes’ Michigan Chapter.

Vested women in the Detroit community are trained to become community-based doulas, Davis explains.

The Our Health, Our Births Gatherings is a project funded by Community Connections that aims to create informal, relaxing and accessible spaces with stimulating events for pregnant women in the Osborn community, she goes on.

Davis reflects on BMBFA’s other accomplishments since its launch eight years ago.

“I am proud of the growth of the Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Club (BMBFC,)” she says.

BMBFC started as a monthly meeting and has grown to weekly meetings in two locations on the east and west sides of Detroit.

“I am also proud of the fact that organizations across the country are interested in replicating BMBFC and the work BMBFA has done in the community to support black families in breastfeeding,” Davis says.

Readers can connect with BMBFA and its mission several ways:

  • Become a member of the BMBFA Advisory Board. Meetings are held quarterly. The next meeting will be held in June 2016.
  • Join BMBFA’s free monthly webinar series. Attendees have the option to reciece continuing education credits for a fee.
  • Attend BMBFA’s 7th National Seminar on October, 14, 2016. This year’s theme is Maternal Care Reframed.
  • Connect with BMBFA on social media.

Meet HCP’s newest faculty member!

unnamedMeet Healthy Children Project’s (HCP) newest faculty member Cindy Francisco, RN, MA, IBCLC, RLC! Since beginning teaching with HCP three months ago, Francisco finds herself most struck by the reciprocal learning relationship between herself and The Lactation Counselor Training Course participants.

“I’ve learned from the students’ experiences; they all come from different backgrounds,” she says. “They are so excited to learn from us and so appreciative of the information we give them– the week goes so fast and we develop quite a bond with the attendees.”

Francisco has over four decades of experience in maternal child health. She became interested in the mother baby dyad right out of nursing school when she began her career as a labor and delivery nurse.

“A lot of the interest sparked around the beautiful, magical part of the woman’s body,” Francisco begins. “The pregnancy and being able to feed her baby… that whole aspect that influenced me.”

Reflecting on her forty plus years working in maternal child health, Francisco says: “We have a huge way ahead of us, yet I really see that we have changed.”

Specifically, she remembers laboring mothers being routinely strapped to the delivery table. She recalls when partners started being invited into the delivery rooms to support the laboring mother, sometime around the mid 1970s.

Today, she notices a trend toward a family centered birthing experience.

Francisco has also become aware of the importance of skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth, especially since completing her Master’s degree with Union Institute and University.

Her thesis led to the implementation of skin-to-skin in the hospital where she worked as a nurse and lactation professional.

“After [we] implemented [skin-to-skin,] I saw an increase in our breastfeeding rates,” Francisco reports.

Not only has Francisco witnessed the physiological effects of skin-to-skin contact, she’s aware of its emotional effect on parents.

She tells the story of an expecting couple who specifically chose the hospital Francisco worked at because of its implementation of skin-to-skin.

“It was so important for them not to miss that opportunity,” she says.

Francisco continues, “As nurses in the medical field, we take [these experiences] for granted. This isn’t our experience. This is the mother, baby, family, their experience.”

Francisco is sure to inspire many in her new capacity with HCP.
“I have to pinch myself a lot,” she says. “This is the highlight of my career. I’m just so pleased to have this position.”

Museum responds creatively to NIP discrimination

Last month, a mother was discriminated against for breastfeeding in public at the Cleveland History Center by some of its staff members. The museum has taken a proactive approach in their response.

Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS) President and CEO Kelly Falcone-Hall made this statement which was posted to their Facebook page:

“We were made aware that, last weekend, a breastfeeding mother was asked to move to a private space by members of our Cleveland History Center staff. This reflects poor judgment on our part, for which we are truly sorry. We have formally apologized to the mother, and are immediately implementing additional training for our entire team in order to ensure that an incident like this does not happen in the future. The Western Reserve Historical Society strives to be an inclusive, family-friendly organization that provides a welcoming environment for all our of patrons, including breastfeeding mothers. We did not live up to that goal in this instance.”

We do not nor have we ever had a policy that prohibits a mother from feeding her child. We have contacted the mother directly and issued an apology which she has accepted. We do not condone the incident and are taking steps to retrain our entire staff.

Several lactation professionals from the Ohio Breastfeeding Alliance recently led a training with the entire Cleveland History Center staff followed by a Q&A, reports Patty Edmonson, Cleveland History Center/ WRHS Museum Advisory Council Curator of Costume and Textiles. Staff from other museums in the area were also invited to attend the training.  Edmonson says that this training will integrate into their human resources program going forward.

The earliest dress featured in "Dressing for Two," from about 1775.
The earliest dress featured in “Dressing for Two,” from about 1775.

But that’s not all. The Cleveland History Center also creatively responded to the NIP incident by featuring a pop-up exhibit of historical maternity and nursing garments. The exhibit was received well, some saying it was a beautiful way to honor women and others commending the center for its efforts to extend breastfeeding education to the public.

The dresses featured in the pop-up exhibit come from a 2003 exhibit called Dressing for Two which featured maternity wear and birth and childhood related objects spanning from the late 18th century to the 1970s.

Some of the artifacts included were children’s clothing, obstetrical forceps, breast pumps, bottles, teething rings, baby vanity sets, safety pins, and rattles, explains Edmonson.

An example of a wrapper.
An example of a wrapper.

From this exhibit, Edmonson says she is particularly fond of a 19th century garment called a wrapper which she says was essentially a “really fancy” robe.

Women, especially wealthy women, wore the wrapper toward the end of their pregnancy for comfort and style. The buttons down the front of the garment also made it comfortable to nurse in.

“The biggest difference between then and now is the desire to hide what was going on,” Edmonson says of this historical nursing wear.  She pays special attention to the pink and green plaid dress, noting that the slits for nursing are located under a fold in the garment. (See pictures below.)

“That’s not to say maternity and nursing clothes today are putting everything out there…People have so many more choices and options. In the 19th century it was about editing the clothes that you had.”

Because cloth was expensive to make, people owned less clothing prior to the 20th century, Edmonson explains.

Maternity dressing gown from about 1900.
Maternity dressing gown from about 1900.

Some of the garments could have seen their owner through twenty years of childbearing.

Edmonson’s next exhibit will feature political clothing where one of the dresses featured in Dressing for Two will be shown again. The reform dress, complete with an adjustable front, freed women from the corset.

You can visit WRHS’s website here.
To read more about the fascinating history of infant feeding, check out A History of Infant Feeding and Baby Food.  

Images courtesy of the Cleveland History Center, a museum of the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio.