Reflections on United States Breastfeeding Committee membership meeting and National Breastfeeding Coalitions Convening

Healthy Children Project, Inc. (HCP) and the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice (ALPP) team enjoying some Georgia BBQ (left to right): Cindy Turner-Maffei, Kristin Stewart, Barb O’Connor, Ellie MacGregor, Karin Cadwell. Missing: Donna Walls.

A small team from Healthy Children Project, Inc. (HCP) and the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice (ALPP) travelled to Atlanta last week to attend the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) membership meeting and National Breastfeeding Coalitions Convening. They shared their experience with Our Milky Way.


Donna Walls, Healthy Children Project faculty member who represents the International Childbirth Education Association to USBC, writes:

One of the best parts of the USBC meetings are the reports from the governmental agencies (CDC, NIH, etc.) and many maternal-child related organizations. It is exciting to hear so much about the activities and programs supporting, protecting and promoting breastfeeding. Every time I sit at these meetings I think back when I first started helping moms and babies and the only people promoting breastfeeding was La Leche League and there was very little support for nursing mothers. Thinking about how far we have come in a relatively short time, since the mid-1970’s, it is gratifying to see the attention being paid to breastfeeding as a health initiative for infants and children.

It is also heartening to see the USBC advocacy for not only breastfeeding but for diversity and many social issues such as responding to the Fed is Best organization, the US non-support of the WHO breastfeeding support resolution and expressing concerns over separation of mothers, babies and families at the US/Mexico border.

Much of the time is also spent in networking. A chance to hear from other like-minded people and all the wonderful programs and creative initiatives in which they are involved. So many ideas are shared it seems like there are always ideas that my organization (ICEA) can benefit from.

We also have the opportunity to participate in committees, constellations, and help put into action many of the objectives supporting breastfeeding. The committees continue work throughout the year with online or conference call meetings.


Karin Cadwell, HCP representative to USBC:

One of my favorite highlights of the USBC member meeting each year is the reality check provided by CDC’s report of the current status of breastfeeding rates. Carol MacGowan of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity reported that the data for babies born in 2015 (see image—starred indicators are statistically significant changes). Kudos to new families and their lactation care providers for the positive progress. But, we’re never done – look at the change in 2-day supplementation rate among breastfed infants in Carol’s slide below. Yikes!

Carol also reported that the Breastfeeding Report Card will be released in the 3rd week of August, and will be a streamlined report on progress toward the 2020 goals. She also highlighted CDC’s newly reorganized webpage for infant feeding; I encourage you to check it out here.


Barbara O’Connor, one of HCP’s representatives USBC, shares:

USBC’s focus on diversity, inclusion and equity in lactation care and support drew a variety of intriguing speakers who shared thought-provoking ideas. Dr. Jann Murray-Garcia shared the idea of our implicit biases being “scripts”. Some of these scripts are ingrained in our being early in life.  If it is true that “scripts ensure the same outcomes” we are challenged to rewrite our scripts in order to overcome cultural injustices. 

Others presenters shared examples of breastfeeding programs that are culturally focused, being both offered to and implemented by individuals of that particular culture. One of the most profoundly moving statements was a statement from a 67 year old woman who attended a training for indigenous people taught by indigenous leaders. She shared that in all of her educational experiences throughout the years, this was the first time she had a native teacher.


Ellie MacGregor was a first-time USBC attendee, having recently replaced Zoe McInerney as the representative from the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice to the USBC Lactation Care Provider constellation.

Part of the HCP team poses with the 2018 winning duck of the famous Milk Duck races. The Duck Don really enjoyed the USBC meeting!

The words “cultural humility” are still ringing in my ears several days after returning from the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee’s annual conference in Atlanta, GA. Not to be confused with cultural competence, cultural humility refers to us all standing up and saying, “I see race,” and I see it because of 100 year-old scripts that taught me how to think and how to view others. Cultural humility means a lifelong dedication to challenging these scripts. I hold the script of a white, middle-class woman who grew up in Fairfield County, Connecticut and had zero, that’s right, ZERO classmates of color (any color other than white) in my class from grade K-8. I follow the script that my parents taught me that said “Don’t go to these ghetto neighborhoods in New York City as a young white girl.” I love my parents, and they did not teach me these scripts consciously or overtly, but I learned them, nonetheless. My script for other races is MUCH more comprehensive than this, but of course, before this conference, I did not want to admit that. I would never admit I am a racist. I believe in equality through and through, so there is no way that I could be a racist. While I still shutter a bit when I connect that description to myself, Dr. Jann Murray-Garcia taught me that it will be a lifelong label for me. We all see race, and that is ok, so long as we adopt cultural humility and work feverishly on throwing those horrible, long pages of scripts in trash cans along the way. 


Cindy Turner-Maffei, HCP rep to USBC writes:

USBC is an ever-evolving organization. USBC was preceded by the National Breastfeeding Leadership Roundtable, (NBLR) which was the brainchild of Karin Cadwell, Marsha Walker and Barbara Heiser who created the National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy. I was invited to attend the first roundtable meeting in 1996, as a representative of community lactation care providers; at the time, I was senior nutritionist and breastfeeding coordinator at a local WIC program. NBLR members realized that the U.S. needed a high-level committee to move breastfeeding forward as a public health issue, but it was unclear just how the NBLR could do this. After much discussion and debate, an iconic moment occurred in 1998 when Kathy Kelly, IBLCE rep, stood up at a NBLR meeting and announced “I am the United States Breastfeeding Committee; anyone who wants to stand with me may join” … and thus USBC was born.

It was so heartening to attend the 20th anniversary of that pivotal moment, to see and feel the evolution of this organization represented in the diversity of its board, committee chair leadership, membership and meeting attendees. One of my favorite highlights is the recent tradition of recognizing emerging community leaders and tribal trailblazers. The opening moments of the NBCC conference brought tears to my eyes, as pastor and singer extraordinaire, Myron Krys, sang Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On?. That powerful song from the 1970s resonates today, evoking the need to work for justice for all, and peace between and among us. Equity in lactation and maternity care for all new families, respect for all lactation care providers, regardless of their credential, are two of the ways USBC is working for a better future.

Another favorite moment for me was the keynote by Kimberly Seals Allers  on the final day, in which she spoke about how to respond to negative campaigns about breastfeeding, such as Fed is Best. Kimberly reminded us with a powerful quote that we must honor and share the stories of all new families. Negative campaigns are fueled by the hurt and disconnection experienced by those whose difficult breastfeeding experiences are not honored. She ended with a statement: “We must broaden the breastfeeding experience, redefine the breastfeeding ‘story’ and raise our collective voices to protect that which we promote.” May it be so!

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