Celebrating Infant Mental Health Awareness Week

This summer, we are revisiting some of our previous publications as they relate to various national celebrations. 

This week is Infant Mental Health Awareness Week, so we are re-sharing “Breastfeeding is…” a 2014 piece. Based on an interview with Barb O’Connor, this piece describes how breastfeeding is so much more than nutrition, including establishing secure attachments which are fundamental to infant mental health. 

——

With a gentle pulsing of the sand, a baby sea turtle emerges from her hatching place. She breathes the salty ocean air and immediately begins her race to the rushing tide. She dodges stealthy crabs and gulls, mounts beach debris and endures what seems like an endless journey. Programmed for survival, she plunges into the abounding ocean, her lifeline.

Worldwide, there are over 70 conservation laws and regulations that protect sea turtles.

Not far from the briny ocean breeze, a mother hears her infant cry as she enters the world outside of the womb for the first time. Placed on her mother’s abdomen, the baby relaxes for several minutes until she begins to awaken. Soon, she makes mouthing and sucking movements signaling her interest in her mother’s breast. She leaps and crawls upward with intermittent periods of rest. When she reaches the breast, her hands become increasingly active and she familiarizes herself with her mother’s nipple. She suckles enjoying her first few sips of thick colostrum. After the first feed, she will rest again in the arms of her mother, her lifeline. [For more information about the 9 Stages visit: http://www.magicalhour.com/aboutus.html]

When a newborn is given the opportunity to practice early survival skills, amazing things happen.

But all too often, the newborn’s programming is interfered with by well-meaning health care professionals and popular, although non evidence-based health care practices.

“Our culture really discredits the importance of early beginnings,” Healthy Children faculty Barb O’Connor, RN, BSN, IBCLC, ANLC says. “If we protect and nurture mothers and infants, that’s going to impact future outcomes.”

Barb O’Connor (back left) pictured with colleagues from HCP and ALPP.

She goes on,  “Mothers and infants really have a synergistic recuperation from birth and if breastfeeding is supported and not interfered with, both parties are able to develop in a manner that leads to positive health outcomes.”

O’Connor discusses several cultural components that make establishing normal, healthy beginnings nearly impossible for families.

Our culture urges independence. Mother and baby are expected to properly function away from one another immediately after birth. Most birthing facilities don’t encourage or appropriately support the important practices of skin to skin contact or even rooming in.

Moreover, mothers are often expected to return to work or school while they are still bleeding from childbirth.

“There are other cultures that really value moms and babies and you can see it in the legislation,” O’Connor says.

Differently, our country provides mothers with zero paid maternity leave.

To be fair, there have been strides made in terms of promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding families in our nation. The Baby-Friendly Initiative (BFI) offers more and more families the opportunity to successfully breastfeed for instance. Particularly, BFI advocates for babies by requiring the facilities to provide the healthiest practices for mom and baby. O’Connor calls skin to skin contact and rooming in essential practices for all babies regardless of feeding method.

Still we have a lot to grasp, especially when it comes to older breastfeeding babies and children.

“Because we focus so much on breastfeeding being nutrition, our culture doesn’t really understand what breastfeeding really is for infants over one,” O’Connor says.  “We don’t understand as a population that nursing becomes a source of joy and communication and a way of life that should only be discontinued as mother and child mutually desire.”

O’Connor is particularly interested in the value of breastfeeding beyond nutrition.

“The delight I witness in the eyes of a baby who is nursing is indescribable; it is pure, unadulterated joy,” she says. “Every baby deserves the right to experience this loveliness.”

And skin to skin and breastfeeding are lovely in so many ways.

Breastfeeding is a stabilizer.

When a mother holds her baby skin to skin to breastfeed, she regulates her baby’s body temperature, heart and breathing rates, stress and glucose levels just to name a few. [For more information see these publications on skin to skin contact.]

O’Connor is fascinated by the findings of Dr. Nils Bergman and KH Nyqvist. Bergman, Nyqvist and colleagues have discovered that if the mothers of low birth weight babies practice Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC), they learn to breastfeed at incredibly young gestational ages. KMC also supports increased brain development and decreased mortality for low birth weight babies.

O’Connor’s daughter Brandy, mother and full-time caregiver of a special needs son who, born at 25 weeks gestation (now 5 years old), spent 110 days in the NICU, will speak at Healthy Children’s upcoming International Breastfeeding Conference about her experience with KMC and breastfeeding. She will share her perspective of the emotional turmoil, hospital practices, and challenges experienced by mothers of infants in the NICU.

“It has taken her a long time to come to a place where she could talk about this,” O’Connor says of Brandy’s experience. “I am extremely excited for my colleagues who work in the NICU to hear her perspective on how the experience affects new mothers”.

Breastfeeding is empowering.

The symbiotic relationship between breastfeeding mother and child and the infant’s programming for survival has a profound impact on the mother’s physical and mental well-being, O’Connor explains.

She continues that a child’s desire to breastfeed for comfort can be empowering. No one else but the mother has the capacity to console an upset child the way she does.

In Breastfeeding: A Feminist Issue, author Penny Van Esterik explains the many other ways breastfeeding is empowering including:  “breastfeeding confirms a woman’s power to control her own body, and challenges the male-dominated medical model and business interests that promote bottle feeding” and ”breastfeeding requires a new definition of women’s work – one that more realistically integrates women’s productive activities.”

Breastfeeding is immunity.

Maternal body flora and milk prime an infant’s immune system in a way that cannot currently be replicated and offers beneficial lifelong effects. O’Connor cites Lars Hanson’s immunology of breast milk research.

“A fully breast-fed infant receives as much as 0.5-1 g of secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA) antibodies daily, the predominant antibody of human milk,” authors of Breast feeding: Overview and breast milk immunology write. “This can be compared to the production of some 2.5 g of SIgA per day for a 60 kg adult. These SIgA antibodies have been shown to protect against Vibrio cholerae, ETEC, Campylobacter, Shigella and Giardia.”

Breastfeeding is communication.

“If I see a baby who looks anxious or isn’t taking the breast well, it’s an immediate sign that something isn’t right in baby’s life,” O’Connor says.

As stated babies seek the breast for survival, so if baby refuses to breastfeed, they are communicating in a non-verbal way, she continues. Perhaps baby is ill or injured. When circumstances like these arise, it is important that the dyad receive help from a lactation professional who can assist with investigating the problem.

O’Connor reminds lactation professionals that it is always important to practice from a current, evidence-based perspective and to possess appropriate counseling skills.

“Most moms want to breastfeed,” she says. “It’s a matter of figuring out how to fit it in her life.”

Breastfeeding is regulatory.

A breastfed baby is offered control over the amount of milk she ingests whereas a bottle-fed infant’s intake is usually dictated by the amount of milk in its artificial container.

Consequently bottle feeding, regardless of the type of milk, may have future implications on obesity.

“Infants who are bottle-fed in early infancy are more likely to empty the bottle or cup in late infancy than those who are fed directly at the breast,” authors of Do infants fed from bottles lack self-regulation of milk intake compared with directly breastfed infants? conclude.

Breastfeeding is survival.

O’Connor suggests we reevaluate our definition of survival. Survival goes beyond the performance of simple body functions.

“We have to look beyond that at a more encompassing definition,” she says. “Babies who are breastfed have a different potential for intellectual and interpersonal relationships.”

In fact, authors of Breast feeding and intergenerational social mobility: what are the mechanisms? conclude that “Breast feeding increased the odds of upward social mobility and decreased the odds of downward mobility.”

The effect was mediated in part due to stress mechanisms,” O’Connor comments.  “This is really fascinating.”

Breastfeeding has become of international concern because it offers protection against infant mortality. The World Health Organization’s Millenium Development Goals include breastfeeding as a strategy to combat child malnutrition and reduce child mortality.

In “Breastfeeding and Infant-Parent Co-Sleeping as Adaptive Strategies: Are They Protective against SIDS?” included in Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives, James J. McKenna and Nicole J. Bernshaw explore the epidemiological studies that suggest that breastfeeding may be protective against SIDS.

What does breastfeeding mean to you? How else is breastfeeding more than nutrition? Please share your thoughts in the thread below.

 

Other relevant pieces

Field of lactation gains child psychologist

Cheap medicine: laughter

Implications of mother baby separation

First ever Global Congress on Implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes spurs multi-national project

Earlier this summer, the World Health Organization (WHO) hosted its first ever Global Congress on Implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.

INFACT USA’s Cadwell and Mulpeter ready for the Congress

INFACT USA Convener Karin Cadwell PhD, RN, FAAN and INFACT USA Program Coordinator Ellie Mulpeter, MPH, CLC were of the roughly 400 Congress participants.

The conference aimed to to increase knowledge and skills of national actors on strategies to end the unethical marketing of breast-milk substitutes, bottles, and teats, develop national roadmaps/work plans to strengthen legislation, monitoring and enforcement of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, and build regional networks to share information and support of national action on the Code.

Mulpeter says the overall energy was upbeat and eager.

“It was inspiring to see so many people from around the globe all dedicated to the same mission, and all passionate about implementation and enforcement of the Code to protect families across the world,” she reports.

Congress participants proudly pose

The Congress was intended to be as interactive as possible with breakout sessions organized by region. The U.S., Canada and the Caribbean were grouped together.

“The work being done in all of the Caribbean Islands is very impressive,” Mulpeter explains.  “They are all unique islands with their own unique policies and legislative processes, so it was fascinating to hear their representatives brainstorm together and discuss ways to work regionally in the future.”

Congress conveners created an industry influence grassroots monitoring simulation where participants had the opportunity to spot and record Code violations using the KoboToolbox platform.

Congress leaders also shared the the International Special Dietary Foods Industries (ISDI) statement released in response to being excluded from the Congress.

“It really drove home the point about how integrated the industry is when it comes to Code monitoring and enforcement,” Mulpeter comments.  “It’s a wild marketing tactic to blatantly lie about their dedication to breastfeeding families.”

As laid out by INFACT USA: “Here in the United States, there is an incredible amount of work to be done to advance the Code and its subsequent resolutions. To date, the U.S. is one of three countries in the world that did not sign onto the Code back in 1981. While that step may never come for the U.S., there are other options and avenues to implement protections against predatory marketing practices of these commercial baby-food product companies.”

Mulpeter points out that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) already has an avenue to monitor false advertising and hold companies accountable for making claims that are not evidence-based.

“Additionally, the fact that the US is hyper-focused on data sharing and digital privacy at the moment may allow an opportunity to explore how targeted advertisements of formula companies are directed towards pregnant individuals and new parents,” she goes on.

Participants engaging at the Congress

What’s more, last week INFACT USA started the recruitment phase for a multi-national research project on the Code. The U.S., Canada, the UK and Australia are all participating in a Code monitoring project that will collect real-world violations from the general public.

Research participants are asked to download the Goose Chase Adventures application on their mobile device and participate in the missions outlined within the app. Submissions will help monitor Code adherence in several countries.

Individuals interested in learning more about this research study can visit: https://surveyswesternsydney.au1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_cN14ryUEZriqHL8

Should you have any questions about the project prior to or after signing up to participate, please contact Ellie Mulpeter at: info@infactusa.org or Jeni Stevens at: Jeni.Stevens@westernsydney.edu.au

Mulpeter explains: “We hope that the results from this study will not only allow us to assess what types of violations are happening most frequently in these four countries, but also to assess the frequency with which people see and recognize them as problematic at all. Pending the outcomes of the study, we hope that INFACT USA will be able to use the evidence gathered in this project to persuade legislators in the U.S. to implement stricter monitoring of predatory marketing practices of infant and young child feeding products. Ideally, Australia, Canada and the UK can use the results from this study to enforce stricter implementation and monitoring of the Code in their respective countries.”

Mulpeter and Cadwell applaud the efforts of the hosts of the first Global Code Congress: “It was a huge success!”

Fatherhood advocate facilitates paternal involvement, positively affecting children’s and mothers’ lives

Doug Edwards, Director of Real Dads Forever, a Fatherhood Strategies Development organization, is a firestarter. Inside every father is something of value, an ember, as Edwards describes. Edwards sees it as his mission to clear away any ashes so that the embers can burst into flames, to become energy and atmosphere, to help fathers come into the space where they can truly radiate.

“I want to change the world!… More realistically and substantively I want to get dads to understand their unique and specific value and articulate it and change behavior so their relationship is meaningful to their child,” Edwards said in a 2013 interview.

Paternal involvement positively affects child development and wellness; further when fathers are positively involved in their infants’ lives, mothers’ stress decreases.

Edwards was propelled into this work nearly three decades ago when he volunteered with a development center working with teen parents.

Since then, he has worked with over 20,000 men.

When he started this work, Edwards says the national focus was on deficit and absent fathers; today, he sees more awareness and an understanding of the importance of fatherhood as it relates to the needs of the child.

Photo by Keira Burton

Real Dads Forever boasts an impressive list of clients including Centering Pregnancy, UCONN, public school systems and departments of public health.

About a decade ago, Edwards found through a father-friendly site survey,  that only 30 percent of programs enrolling new parents–whether that be at a school or through a maternity program, etc.–  asked for the father’s name.

“We don’t encourage [fathers] to step up and then we wonder why they don’t show up,” Edwards commented in a 2013 interview.

In many cases, this continues to be the trend today.

Recently, Edwards conducted a Fatherhood Friendly Site Assessment with Connecticut WIC. He investigated: Were fathers included in their policies? If so, was this being translated into their practice? Was the physical environment welcoming to fathers? Were fathers pictured in their educational and promotional materials? Edwards found that fathers literally had no chair at the table. When consults were held, there was often no chair for the father to be included in the discussion.

Photo by Anna Shvets

Edwards helped the organization implement changes specifically through staff training and professional development.   The training included sensitivity training on how to respectfully ask the question : “Where is the father?” when he is not present, taking into account many of the realities that families may be dealing with: death, incarceration, deployment, abuse, and absence under other circumstances.

Edwards suggests that those working with young families take stock of our biases as well as acknowledge and address any systemic barriers present.

Fathers are often forgotten in the experience of infant and young child death too. Through his work with the Fetal and Infant Mortality Review in Hartford, Conn., Edwards found that fathers were getting little to no support after the death of a child.

He recalls one father who shared that he listened to the heartbeat of his baby, felt his baby’s movements, sang to the baby, and attended all of the prenatal visits. Around eight months gestation, the family was involved in a car accident. The baby was born prematurely and ultimately died. The father shared with Edwards that he lost the ability to become the father he didn’t have. “My fetus knew her dad,” the father told Edwards.

Photo by Laura Garcia

It was this poignant story that led Edwards to create the curriculum, “Paternal Prenatal Early Attachment”. The program is designed for expecting couples with a focus on strengthening fathers’ capabilities to enhance their support of mothers and babies during pregnancy beyond. He has facilitated the program in Connecticut and with 17 different states for National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ), which provides Technical Assistance for National Healthy Start.

Prenatal education offers the “biggest bang for your buck,” Edwards says of fatherhood advocacy.

“This is when [fathers] are keenly aware of something outside of themselves that’s going on,” Edwards comments. “They want to do a good job… Guys like jobs… I turn that into more than a job; I turn that into a relationship. I want them to fall in love with their unborn child and fall in love with [the mother of their child]. That’s a great setup for the child to thrive.”

Edwards’ work challenges fathers to explore and feel their own childhoods.

“This is an eye opening experience for them,” Edwards comments.

He calls it “backing into empathy.”

Edwards has watched the transformation of self described “thugs” and “black hearted” individuals to softened men when they go through the “magical epiphany” of becoming a father.

Photo by Ксения

Edwards explains that fathers gain new insights and experience out-of-body sensations due to the flood of oxytocin during the birth of a child. Skin-to-skin contact deepens this bond between father and child. [More at Facilitating the bond between children and fathers or male-identifying partners]

Reflecting on the course of his work, Edwards says “It’s just getting better with time. We didn’t have these discussions years ago.”

He highlights fatherhood legislative work in Conn., the first state to pass legislation on fatherhood.

“The Connecticut Fatherhood Initiative (CFI) is a broad-based, statewide collaborative effort led by the Department of Social Services, focused on changing the systems that can improve fathers’ ability to be fully and positively involved in the lives of their children.

First implemented after the passage of legislation in 1999, state and local partners have been working together … to make changes to policy and practice in order to better meet the needs of fathers…” [Read more here: https://portal.ct.gov/Fatherhood/Core/The-Connecticut-Fatherhood-Initiative]

Photo courtesy of the Gaynor family

Edwards was previously featured on Our Milky Way in Unsung Sheros/Heros in maternal child health.

Edwards also recently completed the Lactation Counselor Training Course (LCTC).

‘Full pandemic mama’ becomes full spectrum doula

Allysa Singer was, as she describes, a “full pandemic mama.” Singer became pregnant with her first child in the winter of 2019. As she became aware of the threats and the consequences of COVID-19, she started researching her options and her rights in the delivery room she’d find herself in August 2020.

What started as personal preparation– How many support people would she be allowed? Would she be allowed a support person at all? What restrictions would she encounter? How could she advocate for herself? What were her options?–  propelled her into a world of birth support and autonomy advocacy.

“I was just dumbfounded by the disparities that exist in maternal health,” Singer begins.

In 2020, Alabama, where Singer and her family live, had the third-highest Maternal Mortality Rate in the nation, at 36.4 per 100,000 live births.

BIPOC families suffer from massive disparities in maternal and infant deaths. In a recent piece, Childbirth Is Deadlier for Black Families Even When They’re Rich, Expansive Study Finds, Tiffany L. Green, an economist focused on public health and obstetrics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is quoted: “It’s not race, it’s racism…The data are quite clear that this isn’t about biology. This is about the environments where we live, where we work, where we play, where we sleep.”

Still, unlike so many of her peers, Singer reports having had an amazing birth experience.

Inundated by birth horror stories, she decided to change care at 27 weeks in hopes that she would be better supported in her choices at a different institution.

Here, she was allowed a doula and support person to accompany her during her birth.

“Not a lot of women had that luxury,” Singer comments.

Knowing well that birth support is a right and not a luxury, she started her own doula practice in December 2021. 

Singer shares that she experienced severe postpartum depression, but she was able to divert and ultimately reshape this energy into her doula work.

“My doula training was the lifeboat that saved me from drowning in my PPD,” she says.

And now her practice, Faith to Fruition, has become the lifeboat for many of the birthing people Singer supports.

She shares: “I don’t believe that a birther’s desire to have more children should be dictated by their birthing experience. I have heard so many stories from people who had one kid but say, ‘I would never do this again because my experience was so traumatic.’ One of my biggest missions and goals is to support birthers to feel empowered in their process; not as bystanders of their process.”

Singer also holds a full time position as an industrial psychologist where she channels her advocacy work, pushing for organizational change and understanding of proper maternal support.

In fact, as part of a public speaking course for a training curriculum, Singer presented on why it’s important to support breastfeeding. She reports that her audience of roughly 25 was engaged, especially as she pointed out the absurdities of infant feeding culture in our country: How would you feel if I asked you to eat your meal in the bathroom? How would you like to eat with a blanket tossed over your head? for instance.

Singer also points out the “insanely amazing public health outcomes” breastfeeding affords.

If 90 percent of U.S. babies were exclusively breastfed for six months, the United States would save $13 billion per year and prevent an excess 911 deaths, nearly all of which would be in infants ($10.5 billion and 741 deaths at 80% compliance). [Bartick, Reinhold, 2010]

“Not only is there a personal investment, there is a public investment and value to understanding the larger implications,” Singer comments. “As a taxpayer, [breastfeeding] impacts you; as someone who utilizes our healthcare system, [breastfeeding] impacts you.”

With the recent passing of the PUMP Act and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act coming soon, Singer says “We still have a long way to go.”

Organizational policy doesn’t support motherhood; instead it fuels detached parenting which goes against nature, Singer goes on.

“Mothers feel the brunt of that more than ever,” she says.  “[We aren’t] supported to be able to care for our children the way that we want to.”

Singer says she sees it as her mission as an organizational psychologist to encourage change that supports parenthood, so that women don’t feel threatened to care for their children the way that they want to. This means ensuring that women are provided with ample space to pump their milk while away from their babies and empowering them to approach HR when there aren’t appropriate accommodations.

“Outside forces shouldn’t be able to dictate how you care for and feed your child. The end of one’s breastfeeding journey should be a personal decision.”

She continues, “It’s amazing that legislation is catching up. The thing that I fear with any law, there are still people behind those laws that have to enforce them and carry them out. Education and garnishing an understanding of what this looks like is a key component to implementation. The people behind those policies have to make them successful, but this is  moving things into a very good direction, and I hope that more changes to legislation follow suit, especially with paid parental leave. It’s a catalyst for change; I am hopeful but cautiously optimistic.”

Singer says she owes her personal success continuing to breastfeed her two-and-a-half year old to Chocolate Milk Mommies, where she now serves as a board member.

Through Chocolate Milk Mommies, Singer started a subcommittee to focus on education for individuals within the breastfeeder’s support system.

“The people in the village need to be supportive. When you don’t know better, you can’t do better,” she explains.

Singer recently completed the Lactation Counselor Training Course (LCTC) as part of Chocolate Milk Mommies’ mission to best support their constituents and as a way to benefit her doula clients with more well-rounded support.

“I really loved the training because I already thought that our bodies are amazing, but learning more science was great. I would text my friends the ‘Boobie Fact of the Day’,” Singer shares. “[The science] allows me to really appreciate my journey that much more and how impactful I’m being with my daughter.”

You can follow Singer’s work here and here.

Enhancing national network of nonprofit donor milk banks and diversifying nation’s production of infant formula to secure infant nutrition in U.S.

The Infant Feeding Action Coalition USA, Inc. (IN.FACT.USA) has put together a piece detailing the global recall of contaminated Abbott powdered formulas.

In February 2022, the largest U.S. infant formula manufacturer recalled three brands of its powdered formula and one breastmilk fortifier and shut down its main manufacturing facility in Sturgis, Michigan following reports of Cronobacter infections in infants who had consumed formula manufactured at the Sturgis plant. It’s noteworthy that the initial recalls were voluntary–not required by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)— and they only came after nine babies died between September 2021 and January 2022 from infections.

Let’s focus on that, the death of these babies, Tameka L. Jackson-Dyer, BASc, IBCLC, CHW  urges in her Great Lakes Breastfeeding webinar Feed the Baby: Lactation, Contamination, and the American Formula Crisis.

One infant death is one too many. Initially, two deaths were reported; however, Freedom of Information requests and whistleblower action revealed that not only two, but another seven infants in the U.S. were reported to have died after consuming powdered infant formula manufactured at the Abbott factory.

“During the same period, 25 severe infections categorized as ‘Life Threatening Illness/Injury’ and 80 instances of ‘Non-Life Threatening Illness/Injury’ were reported among infants who were fed these formulas,” The Abbott Powdered Formula Scandal also points out.

“Until Cronobacter infections require mandatory notification, the number of cases of illness or deaths will never be known. Neither will their extent in the 37 countries which imported the potentially contaminated Abbott formula.”

In The Four Pillars of Infant Nutrition Security in the United States, author Amelia Psmythe Seger points out that  “The U.S. has not regulated the marketing practices of the commercial milk formula industry, unlike 70% of the world, which has implemented at least some part of the WHO’s International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes. In the absence of regulation, these marketing practices are predatory.”

Psmythe Seger goes on to urge, “Diversify the nation’s production of infant formula. Plainly it is a mistake to allow 42% of the infant formula in this country to be produced not only by one company but by one factory of that company. Infant formula companies are part of an infant food security system, but we don’t have to be so dependent on that industry.”

[For more on commercial influence, you can watch USBC’s series of Unpacking Commercial Milk Formula Marketing Webinar Recordings]

A history of breastmilk substitutes laid out by Jackson-Dyer reminds us that before the advent of commercial infant formulas,  wet nursing was the original supplemental feeding.

Considering the infant feeding landscape today, Jackson-Dyer quotes Michigan Breastfeeding Network Executive Director Shannon McKenney Shubert, MPH, CLC: “In my 12-year career in the field of human milk feeding, I have never once met a birthing parent who ‘chose not to breastfeed.’ In this country, whether to breastfeed is not a choice. In this country, whether to breastfeed is a question of ‘Within all the systems of oppression that I navigate, what is the best combination of things I can do to ensure the survival of my baby, myself and the rest of my family?’”

With this context in mind, Jackson-Dyer confronts the idea that yes, babies must be fed, but fed is not best; instead, it is required, she says in her webinar.

“It is the absolute minimum to sustain life,” she reminds us. “We can’t just feed the baby anything.”

Again in The Four Pillars of Infant Nutrition Security in the United States, Psmythe Seger shines light on nonprofit donor milk banks which provide pasteurized donor human milk for human babies, “the next best thing to mom.” 

“Enhance the national network of nonprofit donor milk banks,”  Psmythe Seger writes. “Support innovative partnerships across existing structures, taking a cue from a national model such as what exists in Brazil. Consider: Red Cross has the infrastructure to support donor screening; WIC offices or community health clinics could be donor drop-off sites; more hospitals could provide space and equipment for donor milk processing and distribution, as some have done. Models exist to create an affordable and plentiful alternative to commercial milk formula when a parent’s own milk is not available.”

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

This fall, the Access to Donor Milk Act (ADMA) was introduced in the House. ADMA would increase federal support for nonprofit milk banks and access to donor milk for medically-vulnerable infants.

What’s more, the legislation would allow state agencies to use WIC funding to promote the need for donor milk, provide emergency capacity funding when there is a demand for donor milk,  create a donor milk awareness program, and require the secretary of HHS through the FDA to issue a rule clarifying the regulatory status of donor milk provided by nonprofit milk banks.

Stay tuned for how you can help support this legislation. For other legislative and policies opportunities that support healthy infant feeding, visit USBC’s Take Action page here.