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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.