Best for Babes’ Miracle Milk® Stroll increases awareness of lifesaving power of human milk

Dover, Delaware Miracle Milk Stroll Credit: Katie Phillips Photography [https://www.facebook.com/KatieTPhillipsPhotography/]
Dover, Delaware Miracle Milk Stroll
Credit: Katie Phillips Photography [https://www.facebook.com/KatieTPhillipsPhotography/]
Best for Babes is the only national consumer-driven nonprofit for the human milk cause.  Their largest annual event, Miracle Milk® Stroll (MMS), is in its third year. The MMS happens each May in cities across the U.S. and Canada. The purpose of the event is to increase access to and awareness of the lifesaving power of human milk, especially for our most fragile infants in the NICU. Best for Babes shares proceeds with nonprofit partners to support their work in getting more human milk to more of our babies.

This year, over 2,500 people attended and donated raising over $31,000* for the human milk cause!

Rock Star Local Coordinator Amanda Cullen has been hosting the Stroll in Dover, Del. since its infancy. This year, just under 90 people attended.

Dover, Delaware Miracle Milk Stroll Credit: Katie Phillips Photography
Dover, Delaware Miracle Milk Stroll
Credit: Katie Phillips Photography

Cullen shares the highlight of Dover’s Stroll being the community rallying around a life-saving cause.  

“I loved ending the Stroll and having people who saw us walk come up to ask questions about milk donation and to connect with others saying, I breastfed my baby, too…The feedback really showed the impact of awareness!” she exclaims.

Dover, Delaware Miracle Milk Stroll Credit: Katie Phillips Photography
Dover, Delaware Miracle Milk Stroll
Credit: Katie Phillips Photography

Cullen also shares: “A mom was photographed breastfeeding her baby in the background of [a] picture– something that she was unaware of at the time… She was so amazed about  how unexposed she was and it has completely increased her comfort level for breastfeeding in public. One small step in reminding us that this is a normal behavior.”

Another mother donated 274 ounces of her milk to the Mother’s Milk Bank!

Davenport, Iowa Miracle Milk Stroll
Davenport, Iowa Miracle Milk Stroll

Davenport, Iowa’s Stroll, coordinated by Rock Star Local Coordinator Aubrey Schlue, also welcomed about 90 participants this year.  

Schlue reports that between attendees and sponsors, their event raised over $1,000.

“The highlight of our Stroll was having Jean Drulis, director and co-founder of the Mother’s Milk Bank of Iowa, come and speak about what they do, the importance of human milk donations, and how to donate,” Schlue says.

The Davenport Stroll also featured a local mother who shared her experience using donated milk when one of her children–now a healthy 11-year-old–was born prematurely.

fe597a64-8449-48dc-9077-c3fc00fe00c6“The hospital wouldn’t allow her sister to donate breastmilk to their child, and she had to work hard to get donated milk from the Iowa Milk Bank,” Schlue reiterates. “It was a huge ordeal because they had never used donated milk at the hospital. Local mothers here in our area owe a lot to this mother, because she paved the way for future children to have access to this lifesaving milk.”

Schlue was impressed that a local news station covered their Stroll this year, too.

Davenport, Iowa Miracle Milk Stroll
Davenport, Iowa Miracle Milk Stroll

“I think that a lot of the resistance to breastfeeding and milk sharing or donating is based on misinformation, so any time we can get those statistics and facts out there in the community is a win in my book,” she comments.

Cullen and Schlue both admit challenges to hosting a Stroll.

Hosting the Miracle Milk Stroll is a pretty hefty undertaking, but having a co-coordinator or two really helps,” Schlue says.

She also says that the event doesn’t have to be extravagant.

Davenport, Iowa Miracle Milk Stroll
Davenport, Iowa Miracle Milk Stroll

“Not every Stroll needs a tent with tables and decorations,” she says. “The heart of the Stroll rests in raising awareness and funds to help premature and compromised infants…it’s important to encourage those who don’t have the time or funds to pull off such a huge event to still host a Stroll in their area.”

Schlue reflects on the first Stroll she hosted by herself. About 20 people showed up.

“It was still a valuable and worthy use of my time,” she says.

Cullen says that each year, it has gotten easier hosting the Stroll.

Davenport, Iowa Miracle Milk Stroll
Davenport, Iowa Miracle Milk Stroll

It can be overwhelming,” she comments. “We are communicating mostly via Facebook with almost one hundred other locations and Best for Babes Stroll Coordinators all over the country and Canada.  So, my advice would be to relax, remember why you are doing this, and ask questions!”

Despite these challenges, Cullen’s and Schlue’s passion to help moms and babies is unshakeable.

Even before having children of her own, Cullen says human milk was important to her.

Dover, Delaware Miracle Milk Stroll Credit: Katie Phillips Photography
Dover, Delaware Miracle Milk Stroll
Credit: Katie Phillips Photography

“I remember wanting to support friends that were having babies,” she says.

When her daughter was born with a minor heart defect that corrected itself around four months, her cardiologist attributed her fast recovery to exclusive breastfeeding. 

“My experience with her– having to take a new baby in and out of specialist offices during the harsh winter, lessening her risks of getting sick, lowering her symptoms when getting sick– I was able to see first-hand how beneficial breastmilk is,” Cullen says.

It was during her experience coordinating the  Miracle Milk® Stroll in its inaugural year that Cullen learned the most about Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a disease that affects the wall of the intestine.

“… After learning that receiving donor milk can be life saving, my passion increased,” she reports.

Davenport, Iowa Miracle Milk Stroll
Davenport, Iowa Miracle Milk Stroll

Schlue says the human milk cause is important to her because “it is a perfect food for babies and children, whether it comes straight from the tap or is expressed and/or donated.”

She goes on, “The statistics on NEC are staggering and heartbreaking… It can cost so much money and multiple surgeries to repair the damage and yet, simply by using human milk instead of formula to feed these children, we can reduce the risk of all that pain and suffering by 79 percent. That is huge.”


Find more great Miracle Milk® Stroll stories here.

*Edited from original post to reflect final audited numbers.

Parent partners have profound impact on breastfeeding learning collaborative


Collaboration has always been a vital part of ensuring healthy maternal child health outcomes, whether it be among professionals or within the community. NICHQ’s Texas Ten Step Star Achiever Breastfeeding Learning Collaborative, supported by the Texas Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), is the perfect example of how to get parents involved in collaborative efforts that improve infant feeding support.

The learning collaborative includes multidisciplinary teams from Texas-based hospitals which are broken into three geographically-based cohorts.

a5b7f828-8a6b-4a2e-991d-a3af6ffe7714“The parent partner role is a member on the team that provides input first and foremost on their own birth experience…. This builds a connection and a focus in the work hospital staff are doing related to breastfeeding,” Texas Ten Step Coordinator Veronica Hendrix, LVN, IBCLC, RLC says.

Within each team, the parent role differs depending on their availability and personal skills. For instance, some mothers provide feedback on hospital-developed materials to ensure infant feeding messages are consistent and appropriately reach moms.

Parent partners may get involved with hospital marketing departments to help develop positive breastfeeding messages to display on social media outlets. Other moms have started in-person and online support groups depending on their comfort level, Hendrix explains.

Hendrix recalls one mother who contributed to her team through an in-person breastfeeding support group. At first the group’s attendance was low, so the hospital conducted a survey that revealed that mothers did not attend because they didn’t know anybody; they were apprehensive to open up to a group of strangers.

In response to low attendance, the parent partner went through the hospital’s training to become a volunteer. This allowed her to interact personally with the postpartum mothers. She encouraged them to attend her support group face-to-face, and it made a difference.

“That is the epitome of what we wanted a parent partner to do,” Hendrix comments. “It’s different when a nurse provides a mother with information on a support group than when a mom personally invites you to go to a support group.”

Hendrix says she’s proud that this team in particular utilized the mom in “a unique way that identified and filled a need.”

Overcoming barriers to parent participation

Of course, as with all collaborative efforts, the project has faced challenges specifically with engaging parent partners.

Finding the right person for the job is an initial challenge. Even when the right person comes along, availability can cause problems. What’s more, parent involvement can seem overwhelming, especially when moms are joining a mostly medical team where even terminology might be foreign to them.

Due to the sheer size of Texas, travel has proven challenging at times too. In these cases, Hendrix says teams must get creative about how to fund parent travel or keep them engaged when team meetings are missed. Because hospital teams are often inundated with work, it can be easy to meet when there’s a quiet moment without taking the time to invite the parent partners.

“It’s important not to forget that these are important partners that add value to the work staff are doing,” says Hendrix.

Also, because mothers are non-traditional team members, sometimes hospitals are hesitant to share their work with parent partners. HIPAA regulations protecting patient privacy have made the interaction especially tricky.

Finally, it can be challenging for hospitals to understand fully how to utilize and integrate the parent partner’s role.

“It’s important to look at the needs you have on the team and then think creatively about how the parent can fill that role,” Hendrix explains.

DSHS and NICHQ strive to provide hospitals with continued opportunities to learn, and give them ideas on how to best utilize mothers’ services.  

“It’s a matter of bridging those gaps where we see them,” Hendrix says.

Still, these challenges have not discouraged parents from getting involved.

Sharing their story

“What entices parents to participate is just being able to tell their story whether it was good or bad,” says Hendrix.

This NICHQ blog post highlights parent partner Andrea Thompson who shares her advice on getting involved with the collaborative: “My advice to parents is to get involved in any way that you can. Don’t be shy just because you don’t understand the hospital jargon or because many of the things that might be discussed in meetings don’t necessarily apply to you. Bring that outside voice. Remind the members of the team that do work at the hospital what you as a customer or patient, saw, got, want or need. They need that. Be an advocate for that different perspective. Hospitals can’t change if they don’t know where they are providing less than adequate support or care. You have a lot of power as a mother representative—don’t be scared to use it!”

Parent partner Ivette Torres got involved with the collaborative because “postpartum breastfeeding support at the bedside is imperative to success,” as she explains here.

Mercédez Cahue’s involvement as a parent partner allows her to exercise her passion for breastfeeding.

“I love being able to assist someone interested in breastfeeding and offer advice and help,” she writes on NICHQ’s blog. (You can read other patient and family engagement stories here.)

225x300_StoryPhoto_Jennifer-UstianovParent partners have a profound impact on the success of the collaborative. NICHQ Senior Director Jennifer Ustianov MS, BSN, RN, IBCLC reports that aggregate results from the 21 Cohort B hospitals have been impressive.

“In just 15 months, the overall  breastfeeding rate went from a median of 82 percent to 84 percent; the percentage of mothers receiving referrals to the community support they need at discharge to continue breastfeeding at home went from 62 percent to 83 percent; and the percentage of mothers that were able to raise their skin-to-skin rates after a vaginal birth went from 36 percent to 67 percent,” she reveals.  
For more information about this program, please visit http://breastfeeding.nichq.org/solutions/texas-breastfeeding-collaborative

Mother’s premature births inspire her to donate milk

In full show makeup, voluptuous red lips and all, Jennifer Cloer, CLC stood behind a pillar in a valet parking garage, slipped on her nursing cover and pumped for her baby. Ready for an audition at the Venetian in Las Vegas, she practiced her vocals accompanied by the whir of her pump.

The Cloer Family
The Cloer Family

In fact, Cloer says she’s pumped just about everywhere for both of her babies who were eager to be born.  Andi, her first born, came earthside five and a half weeks early, but didn’t require any time in the NICU. Her son Rowan, born at 31 weeks and five days, spent 30 days there.

During her son’s stay, Cloer reports that “the support was amazing.” Her mom was able to fly into town for three weeks which allowed her and her husband to travel back and forth between their daughter at home and their son in the NICU.

Rowan on his birth day and two-year-old Rowan!
Rowan on his birth day and two-year-old Rowan!

Cloer also shares how important her husband’s support was too. In a Dignity Health article, she talks about her infant feeding decision as a joint decision between her and her husband.

“It’s very much a partnership,” she says. “It makes you family. You don’t feel so segregated from each other.“

In the perfect example of her husband’s support, Cloer was off to perform a show one night and forgot her breast pump.

“Oh my God, I’ll bring it!” she remembers her husband exclaiming, understanding the importance.

What’s more, Cloer recalls the hospital staff at St. Rose Dominican- Siena campus— which achieved its Baby-Friendly designation as of October 2014– being very helpful when it came to pumping.

“My son was born and a few hours later, a nurse came in and said, ‘OK Hunny, let’s try pumping’,” she remembers.

She says she was grateful that the medical staff initiated the discussion, so that she didn’t have to ask.

Because Cloer’s body responded to a pump for the first 30 days postpartum, not her tiny newborn, she says her supply went crazy.

Cloer's first milk donation of about 200 oz.
Cloer’s first milk donation of about 200 oz.

“I had an abundance of milk,” she says. “I would have never needed that amount of milk even if I went back to work full time.”

Cloer had “a ton” of stored milk from her daughter too, but she ended throwing it away because she wasn’t aware of her donating options.

The second time around though, Suzie Owens, a lactation consultant at St. Dominican, directed Cloer to the Mother’s Milk Bank in San Jose, Cali.

Cloer was featured in Fox’s “Miracle Milk” coverage for her donating efforts.

The process to become a donor was simple, Cloer reports.

“It happened within a few days and it was convenient,” she explains. “They were so kind and they ship a freezer right to your door.”

Andi and Rowan, "strong and fierce!"
Andi and Rowan, “strong and fierce!”

Now, Cloer’s friends reach out to her for advice on donating their milk. She’s thankful for the opportunity to bring awareness to the importance of donating human milk.

Cloer recently completed The Lactation Counselor Training Course with her ultimate goal to become a NICU nurse and IBCLC. She is currently enrolled in the pre-nursing program at Nevada State College.  

Cloer reflects on her CLC course: “One thing that really sat with me was the praise to give to people for the good job that they are doing. People get caught up in the problem and how to fix it, that they forget to commend the family for what they have been doing.”

Occupational therapist reflects on infant feeding in her rural community

92128f40-d4ad-4c34-b35c-f181a528df9aMother’s Day wasn’t long ago, but it seems the sentiment has already worn off. It’s a trend Reagan Scott, MOTR/L, CLC has noticed in our country– one where mothers are criticized, shunned and condemned rather than encouraged, celebrated and supported.

“I am a firm believer that babies and mothers need to be celebrated, period,” Scott says. “We as a nation don’t celebrate moms and babies enough.”

Scott practices at an outpatient pediatric facility in rural Casper, Wyo. (population about 60,000 in 2015) where she serves brand new babies to adults with special needs.

“I see tough babies…babies who have had more surgeries/medical procedures in a month or two than most of us have ever had in our lives,” Scott says.

When Scott noticed a lack of resources for moms and babies struggling with feeding, she became inspired to fill that gap.

She recently completed The Lactation Counselor Training Course to gain a better understanding of how to help her patients. Scott typically receives referrals to help two and three year olds who have already developed bad habits– like only eating pureed foods or drinking from a bottle. With her new training, she hopes to intervene much earlier.  

“I want to…hopefully avoid some of the long term problems,” she says.  

Scott reports being most surprised by the physiological component of lactation and breastfeeding covered during the training.

“The process is fascinating to me,” she says. “It’s much more complex than I thought it was; it all makes so much sense now.”

Scott reveals having a “really hard time” breastfeeding her babies.

“But I was a die hard,” she says. And while she encourages her clients to breastfeed, she acknowledges that there are circumstances when breastfeeding doesn’t work out.

In this rural community, the birth climate is quite unique and heavily influences infant feeding outcomes especially for premature babies or babies with special needs.

In the past two years, hospitalists have come to Casper allowing babies 32 weeks gestation or more to be born in the state. Any earlier than that and mothers are transported, typically life flighted, to Denver, Colo. which is a five hour drive from Casper.

“So the mom is on her own a lot of times,” Scott says.

While some families are able to stay with their babies in the NICU in Denver, many must come home to save up maternity leave or look after other children.

In the past six months, Wyoming Medical Center started receiving human milk from the Mothers’ Milk Bank in Denver which allows more babies to receive breast milk when in the hospital.

Once the babies come home from the NICU, Scott notices that most of them are nursing, “at least comfort nursing.”

She tells the story of a little boy born at 25 weeks. Having been on a ventilator for two and a half months, his palate is very high making the transfer of milk difficult. This little guy’s mom breastfeeds him for comfort and supplements for nutrition.

Scott recalls another patient who relied on an ECMO machine— a device that oxygenates blood outside of the body– for 13 days.

“Most people don’t survive longer than seven days,” Scott states.

This brand new baby nearly doubled those odds and survived. While incredible, Scott reminds us that this baby couldn’t be touched during treatment.

“She didn’t have any of those bonding times,” she says. “Not only is that hard for baby, that’s hard for mom.”

Additionally, Scott notices that hospital practices– like handing out nipple shields to many moms– influences breastfeeding success.

“It causes a lot of short term and long term problems,” she reports.

She’s recently worked with a mom and her baby born at 33 weeks who was not transferring milk well due to use of the nipple shield, tongue and lip ties, fatigue and poor motor control of his tongue.

“I told this mom I feel like the system failed her to send her home with this [device] and to not have a good plan to stop the use of the shield,” Scott explains.

When Scott first saw the baby at seven weeks, he had only gained a pound and a half.

“He screams all the time, mom cries all the time, it’s a total nightmare,” she says.

Scott doesn’t denounce the use of devices all together; she suggests proper follow-up so that mothers’ milk production is not affected and mom and baby don’t suffer.

Situations like this have lead Scott to conclude that “there’s so much more to it than [just] breastfeeding.” Instead, it’s about the relationship and the grieving process for these families.

“Their child isn’t doing all of those normal things,” she says. “I have to look at the bigger picture. What is most important today? We need to work together on what is realistic.”

And while she acknowledges that breastfeeding can come easy to some dyads, Scott says that it’s a huge milestone for others. She says each step needs to be celebrated.

“No one gets excited for the little things,” she goes on.  
Scott plans to continue encouraging and praising mothers and babies for their own accomplishments. She also plans to continue to promote breastfeeding in her community and make it known that she is here to help mothers. She would like to reach out to doctors and nursing staff, so that they have knowledge about infant feeding resources available to families.

Get Real About Breastfeeding Campaign

Ingham County Health Department’s new campaign, Get Real About Breastfeeding, is already gaining a lot of positive attention in the media, on social networking platforms and within the community. The Get Real About Breastfeeding initiative is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS.)

The campaign launched in early April and will run until June 2016. In collaboration with Willow Tree Family Center, Strong Start Healthy Start, Capital Area Breastfeeding Coalition, Ingham County WIC and Redhead Design Studio the campaign features billboards placed throughout the community, posters, postcards, cinema advertising, a traveling gallery, social media shareables, and its website for moms and families to access breastfeeding resources.

Greiter nurses daughter Elise.
Greiter nurses daughter Elise.

Willow Tree Family Center Early Childhood Specialist Nicole Greiter, MA comments on the importance of collaboration: “Individually, we may be strong, but collectively, we are stronger.”

“When we work together, we can have a louder voice, a wider reach, and a unified message…” she continues. “When we work together, we can pool our resources to do bigger programming. When we work together, we can see what services already exist and instead of replicating something that another organization is doing, we can find the gaps in services and fill them. Similarly, we can see what populations other organizations are serving and find gaps so that they entire community can be reached.”

Redhead Design Studio’s Principal, Creative Director Jennifer Estill says she and her team were excited to collaborate on the Get Real About Breastfeeding campaign because they love to engage in purposeful and meaningful work. Estill, a breastfeeding mother herself, reflects on her experience nursing her children: “[Breastfeeding] is one of those things in life you don’t have any clue what you’re getting into. It’s harder and more rewarding than you ever think it’s going to be.”

But a lot of the infant feeding imagery moms and the public are fed today doesn’t reflect the realities of parenthood.

“A lot of the imagery is almost mythical,” Estill comments.  

So, during the photoshoot for the campaign, the nine breastfeeding families weren’t told what to wear, how much skin to show or how to hold their baby.

“[The pictures] turned out to be really real and true,” Estill says.  

Greiter adds that breastfeeding looks different for different moms.

“Every drop counts and every mom and baby have their own breastfeeding journey,” she says.

When the team designed this campaign, Greiter reports that they thought long and hard about what message they would convey. The health benefits of breastfeeding are well-known, so they avoided this messaging. Instead, the message they hope to get across is twofold.

“First moms, get real about breastfeeding,” Greiter says. “Breastfeeding is tough, but you’re tougher.”

The second part is for the public.

“Babies have to eat, and we want moms to breastfeed, so get used to it,” Greiter continues.

Seeing the breastfeeding images around town has been an empowering experience for those involved.

“It makes our moms feel proud that they are breastfeeding their babies, and it helps other moms see that people just like them are doing it, and they can do it too,” Greiter says.

In the following Q&A, Ingham County Health Department’s Healthy Start Supervisor Isa Solís, MSW and Health Officer Linda S. Vail, MPA share more about the Get Real About Breastfeeding campaign and the community it serves.

Q: What was the inspiration for this campaign?

A: According to the most recently published Michigan Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) breastfeeding data, Michigan as a whole continues to fall below the US Healthy People goals for breastfeeding in both breastfeeding initiation (73.4% vs. goal of 75%) and exclusive breastfeeding at 3 months (31% vs. goal of 60%).  However, some groups in Michigan are doing better with breastfeeding than others, and the disparities in these rates across age, race and education levels are striking.  Non-Hispanic African American mothers are significantly less likely to initiate breastfeeding (54.9%) than non-Hispanic white mothers (72.1%). Non-Hispanic African American mothers are also much less likely to exclusively breastfeed at 3 months (19.2%) compared to non-Hispanic white mothers (34.2%).  Similar differences in these breastfeeding rates can be seen between younger and older mothers, and between mothers with a high school education or less and those with higher education levels.

Get Real About Breastfeeding celebrates mothers who breastfeed, acknowledging that breastfeeding is often not easy, reminding people that breastfeeding in public is legal, healthy, and normal, and encouraging others to provide support to breastfeeding moms and families.  The campaign also seeks to combat misinformation and hurdles, encourage moms to start breastfeeding and continue breastfeeding, and normalize breastfeeding in our culture.

To connect with local pregnant and nursing moms in an authentic manner, the campaign shares personal stories from local moms, featured in the campaign, around topics such as The First Six Weeks, The Hardest Part, Pumping and Bottle Feeding, Health Benefits, Making the Commitment, Nursing in Public, Partner Support, and Getting Help.

Q: Tell us about the community you serve.

A: As a local health department, the Ingham County Health Department (ICHD) is charged with protecting the health and welfare of county residents. The Department has an annual operating budget of approximately $40 million and over 375 employees. The Department is organized into three overarching divisions: Public Health Services, where traditional and contemporary public health activities are located; Community Health Center Services, which houses Federally Qualified Health Centers; and the Bureau of Environmental Health, which oversees regulatory environmental health function.

The Health Department’s primary offices, located in south Lansing, provide traditional public and population health services including immunizations, WIC, communicable disease control, public health nursing, and environmental health services. This location is also home to four Community Health Centers (CHCs): Adult Health, Adult Dental, Child Health, and Women’s Health. The CHCs incorporate a patient-centered medical home model, utilizing social workers, nutritionists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and physicians to provide comprehensive and coordinated primary care services to low income residents. The Department also provides services through nine other locations throughout the community, providing access and community presence in areas with the most vulnerable members of the population.

The Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Division provides community nursing, nutrition education and social work services in homes, schools and other community settings.  These services are largely directed at preventing health problems in high-risk populations.  Assessment, coordination of care, health education, and referral to appropriate community resources are key components of the services.  

There are an estimated 69,079 women of childbearing age in Ingham County. The largest proportion of women of childbearing age is between 35-49 years old (37.7%) followed by women 20-24 years (33.1%). Mirroring the general population, the largest proportion of women in this group are non-Hispanic White (74.2%), followed by non-Hispanic Black/African American (11.1%), Hispanic, any race (6.4%), and Asians (5.3%)4. Although sample sizes for American Indian /Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian /Pacific Islander were not large enough to report, community partners will still be engaged to disseminate information about the HS Project to all communities of color.

According to the American Community Survey, the primary language for most women of childbearing age in Ingham County is English. However, one in ten women are more comfortable speaking Spanish, or another language. Most of the women of childbearing age (41.5%) have never been married, but they are closely followed by the proportion of married women in the population (37.2%). One in five women in Ingham County are formerly married (separated, divorced, or widowed).

The majority of women of childbearing age in Ingham County are employed. One third of women are not employed and are not seeking employment. The median income for women is lower than that of the general population ($37,056 compared to $47,211). Close to a quarter of women in Ingham County live in households below the federal poverty level.

Q: What breastfeeding support programs are you most proud of?

A: ICHD is proud to offer extensive breastfeeding support to moms and the community via our Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and home visiting programs.  Below, are a few of the services and programs that ICHD offers related to breastfeeding:

  • The WIC program is a federal food and nutrition program that acts as an adjunct to prenatal and pediatric health care. The goal of WIC is to eliminate nutritional deficiency as a contributing factor in neonatal death, low birth weight, and other significant health problems of children and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. Eligible women and children receive breastfeeding support, nutrition counseling and education, and nutritious foods to supplement and improve their diet. These foods may include milk, whole grains, cheese, eggs, juice, peanut butter, dry beans and peas, and infant formula if necessary.
    • WIC also offers Baby Café, which is a free, drop-in Breastfeeding Center. It’s an informal, comfortable place for breastfeeding moms or moms who are thinking about breastfeeding. Moms can receive breastfeeding support and information. Breast pumps are available for loan.
  • Strong Start | Healthy Start is an initiative of the Ingham County Health Department to enhance the health of African-American families and improve birth outcomes in Ingham County.  Through family support, parent coaching, education, breastfeeding support, and case management, Healthy Start works to promote health and decrease infant deaths in our community.  
    • Healthy Start, in collaboration with Willow Tree Family Center, also offers a mother-led breastfeeding support group, Black Breastfeeding Sisterhood, held twice a month. Mothers are able to share their experiences and learn from other mothers in a welcoming and supportive community setting. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers enjoy fellowship, sisterhood and breastfeeding support. Additionally, mothers are able to meet with Breastfeeding Peer Counselors to get advice on breastfeeding concerns and to discuss topics such as milk storage, social barriers, and incorporating breastfeeding into your lifestyle.
  • The Maternal Infant Health Program (MIHP) is the largest home visiting program in Michigan serving pregnant women and infants up to the age of one receiving Medicaid in Ingham County. Services are a covered benefit of Medicaid and the managed health plans.  MIHP provides support to promote healthy pregnancies, good birth outcomes, and healthy infants. MIHP families receive services by a team of nurses, social workers, breastfeeding counselors and dietitians to connect families with the information and support needed to have a healthy pregnancy and baby.
  • Nurse-Family Partnership is a program for women who are having their first baby. Once enrolled, a registered nurse will visit families in their home throughout pregnancy and continue to visit until the baby is 2 years old.  A nurse will help families have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, become a better parent, build a strong network of support for mom and the baby, make the home a safe place for the  baby to live and play.

Q: Please tell us about the importance of networking and collaboration as it pertains to supporting families’ infant feeding goals.

A: Collaboration enables us to accomplish jointly something that one agency alone could not. Many funding agencies and agencies that seek to make a profound impact in their communities have recognized the power that collaboration can bring and are now calling for interagency collaboration as part of the criteria for grantee selection. As a local health department promoting the idea that breastfeeding is legal, healthy, and normal, we knew that it was important to engage other stakeholders to ensure that a common goal was shared among other institutional partners that offer similar services and have similar goals in mind.

Q: What challenges were associated with this campaign?

A: Too often we expect self-sacrifice from individuals and organizations as they move toward coalition solutions. If we understand that people and organizations may be motivated by self-interest, then we can approach a situation by looking for strategies to lessen territoriality and consider self-interest. It is also possible to minimize the effect of territoriality and self-interest by appealing to a larger good.

With the Get Real About Breastfeeding Campaign, we understood that the multitude of agencies represented- 20 in the Capital Area Breastfeeding Coalition alone- had specific self-interests.  As the agency funding this initiative, we wanted to make sure that we were good stewards of federal dollars and meeting the grant requirements, while still engaging and motivating partners to utilize their ideas and innovative approaches to breastfeeding promotion to have a common core message.

The other challenge presented was making sure that we agreed on utilizing local moms to be represented in the campaign.  We wanted to highlight the stories or real and local breastfeeding mothers without telling the story for them or speaking for them.  We were very cautious to seek their input and ensure that they requests of the group and the slogans associated with each were truly reflective in how they saw their breastfeeding journey.  

Q: Future plans for the campaign?

A: Future plans include continuing to share our story so that other local, state, and national partners can hopefully replicate Ingham County’s efforts to give breastfeeding moms a voice and to affirm that breastfeeding is legal, healthy, and normal.  We also hope to expand the traveling gallery initiative to include non-public health or health-focused organizations and engage the economic development and business sectors in discussions to support nursing moms and promote breastfeeding. Additionally, we hope to embed videos, of moms depicted in the campaign, so that there is an additional method to engage community members aside from stories written via written text.  Lastly, we are in discussions about a local event, during breastfeeding awareness month, where we bring moms back for a celebration to share their stories with other community members, stakeholders, and policy-makers to continue to promote the message that breastfeeding is legal, healthy, and normal.

Q: How has the community responded to the campaign thus far? Have you been surprised by the responses?

A: The responses from the community have been overwhelmingly positive. We have seen social media explode with positive remarks once the campaign images were initially shared by Redhead Design Studio.  Mothers and supporters are feeling validated that nursing is normal and healthy and have also found a platform, and voice, to share their stories of being previously humiliated for nursing in public.  They are additionally validated because the mothers featured the campaign are local nursing mothers.  There is a genuine connection to the campaign because of those relational links that affirm the bond, not only among women from the same community, but also among nursing mothers.

From an interagency and institutional perspective, the campaign has been lauded by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.  They are looking at mechanism to replicate this campaign, and also use local moms and voices, to promote breastfeeding.  The campaign has additionally received praise from local and state media and has been featured in several news segments over the last couple of weeks.  The stories first focused on the visibility of the campaigns throughout the community to now being labeled as a nationwide campaign to end the stigma and discrimination that nursing mother’s experience. Additionally, we have received requests from as close as Southeast Michigan to as far as Germany to utilize the images and information about the campaign in periodicals and other scholarly sources.