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.

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: https://www.facebook.com/events/1687994938127413/

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: http://www.bestforbabes.org/support-formula-feeding-moms-fight-formula-marketing/

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.