In celebration of the triumphs and in hopes of a better future paved by the hard work and passion of countless advocates, we’re looking back on Our Milky Way stories in the workplace.
The 2015 World Breastfeeding Week theme, Breastfeeding and Work Let’s Make it Work!, inspired Alyssa Sheedlo’s, RD LDN, CLC sharing of her story about providing milk for her triplets. Her story was originally published by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). Read it here.
In a male dominated field, Alameda County Sergeant Misty Carausu blazed trails for mothers working in law enforcement. Carausu was granted an initial three thousand dollar budget to renovate an existing lactation closet at the county jail. Read that story here.
Laura Westover PA-C, CLC, a provider at Castle Rock Pediatrics, dove into helping transform her office into a Breastfeeding-Friendly Employer and ultimate Breastfeeding- Friendly Medical Office.Westover worked alongside a breastfeeding policy specialist to create their policies and lactation spaces through a six-point plan which includes policy, staff and provider training, patient education, environment, evaluation and sustainability, and continuity of care. Read the whole story here.
Learn about Zambian Investment Management and Banking Professional Musa Imakando-Mzumara’s perspective on breastfeeding and how it fits into the solution of national challenges here.
Passionate about breastfeeding support from both a personal and social standpoint, clinical researcher at the University of Colorado Dr. Bridget Young, PhD, CLC volunteered her time redesigning three lactation rooms and adding four newly designated lactation rooms at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Read about her efforts here.
We’d be honored to share your story about balancing employment and breastfeeding on Our Milky Way! Please email us at email@example.com with interest.
Coordinated by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), this year’s theme, Step Up for Breastfeeding: Educate and Support, focuses on strengthening the capacity of actors at different levels of society to protect maternal child health and ultimately global health. Target audiences including governments, health systems, workplaces and communities make up the warm chain of support for breastfeeding and must be informed, educated and empowered to strengthen their capacity to provide and sustain breastfeeding-friendly environments for families in the post pandemic world. [https://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/]
The following story is an example of multi-level engagement– from community members to the Ministry of Health– working toward the shared goal of ensuring food security and reducing inequalities.
There’s a sliver on the globe, a place called Timor Leste, one of the newest countries in the world. It gained independence from Indonesia in 2002.
In the spring of 2021, the small island country of about 1.3 million people endured major flooding, killing 44 people and affecting over 30,000 households. [More figures about this tragedy can be found in the OCHA situation report here.]
Prior to the flooding, families in Timor Leste were already challenged by extreme child malnutrition. One in 24 children under five years old will not survive to celebrate their fifth birthday. [UNICEF 2018]
Nearly 2,000 people were displaced during the flooding, seeking safety at evacuation centers and camps. As is often the case during emergencies, those in Timor Leste dealt with the subsequent flooding of infant formula, baby cereals and feeding material donations. Artificial feeding methods can be dangerous especially during emergency situations and undermine breastfeeding.
Dr. Magdalena Whoolery reported inStrategies for Infant and Young Child Feeding in Climate-Related Emergencies that the Indonesian Bank donated 180 kgs of infant formula during this emergency. The conditions in the camps are dire, she said. The situation did not welcome a safe environment for artificial feeding. Dr. Whoolery went on to show photos of children eating artificial milk powder from packages.
In an effort to properly serve those facing disasters and emergencies, Whoolery and her colleagues developed the first “Nurturing Care Centers of Excellence (NCCE) for Emergencies and Beyond”, a cost-effective and innovative package of care for rapid integration of MCH-IYCF recommended practices. The centers were developed based on WHO’s five components of nurturing care.
Whoolery proudly reported that over 1,000 families were supported through NCCE; 571 children under 5 and over 600 lactating and pregnant women.
The initiative included strategies like emphasizing the importance of skin-to-skin. While skin-to-skin is often overlooked during emergencies, it helps mothers continue producing milk, offers calming effects to both mother and child and limits child trafficking because there is zero separation of the dyad.
The program offers instruction on relactation and bottle amnesty where caregivers are made aware of the risks of bottle feeding and offered cups in exchange for their bottles.
NCCE places an emphasis on cooking traditional foods to uphold a sustainable food system.
Community members are also trained to manage and intercept artificial baby milk and other ultra-processed food product donations.
Whoolery offers a higher understanding of these numbers and successes. Behind the statistics are children, she reminded us. Juxtaposed photos– the first of a 2 year old depicted with his arm measurement in the red (a danger sign for risk of death) and the next of him thriving, held by his smiling mother after she was able to feed him her expressed milk– demonstrate the power of human milk and the importance of supporting efforts like those of Whoolery and her colleagues.
As a whole, our nation lacks support for fathers and male identifying partners to bond with their babies. The father–infant relationship should be honored “in its own framework rather than as an alternative to mother–infant theory.” (Cheng 2011)
“Infant massage is such a neglected modality, especially in the NICU, where it reduces both the risk of sepsis and bilirubin levels, and gets babies home sooner because their brains mature more quickly and they gain weight faster,” Nikki Lee points out.
Beyond its benefits to infants, Cheng and colleagues have found that “infant massage appears to be a viable option for teaching fathers caregiving sensitivity.” Their work showed that “fathers were helped by increasing their feelings of competence, role acceptance, spousal support, attachment, and health and by decreasing feelings of isolation and depression. Although not all fathers saw the direct benefit of infant massage instruction, they did note they enjoyed participating in an activity that gave them special time with their infants and appreciated the opportunity to meet other fathers.”
More broadly, skin-to-skin contact has a positive effect on paternal attachment.
Ontario artist Lindsay Foster’s viral image of fathers BJ Barone and Frankie Nelson meeting Baby Milo captures perfectly the flood of oxytocin that skin-to-skin affords fathers and male-identifying parents.
WABA suggests that fathers should be engaged and involved throughout the 1,000 days and health systems and care providers can provide knowledge on breastfeeding through antenatal visits, other breastfeeding classes and enabling their participation during labor and delivery and postnatally.
There is also “a need for greater vigilance against promotion and unethical marketing of breastmilk substitutes targeting fathers to ensure that they also get unbiased information.” [More here.]
In our national sphere of advocacy, last month, Foundations of Fatherhood Summit hosted Wide World of Fathering with a mission to advance fatherhood and families in Michigan communities and beyond. The speaker lineup was full of individuals passionate about fatherhood and working to shift the way we view males as parents.
Presenter Reginald Day, CLC for instance, hosts a podcast called Get At Me Dad which reveals the true narrative of BIPOC fathers–”present, connected and raising strong families.”
Reaching Our Brothers Everywhere (ROBE), an organization which seeks to educate, equip, and empower men to impact an increase in breastfeeding rates and a decrease in infant mortality rates within the African-American communities, hosts a monthly virtual call where males can discuss maternal child health related topics.
In partnership with Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE), ROBE will host the 11th Annual Breastfeeding and Equity Summit in New Orleans from August 25 to 27, 2022 where presentations center on equity in breastfeeding, maternal health, fathers and partners, and infant health initiatives.
Identify and network with an individual or organization with a mission that intersects with maternal child health. This shouldn’t be a challenge… “All roads lead to breastfeeding!” (A popular adage at Healthy Children Project.) Often, we find ourselves preaching to the choir, shouting in an echo chamber, whatever you want to call it. It’s time to reach beyond our normal audience.
Follow Dr. Magdelena Whoolery on social media to stay up to date on strategies that combat the multi-billion dollar artificial baby milk industry.
Ten point nine trillion dollars is so much money. Ten point nine trillion dollars is so much money that if you’re not a numbers person like me, it’s kind of impossible to even conceptualize. Ten point nine trillion dollars is the amount of money, according to a recent report by Oxfam, that women would have earned last year if paid minimum wage for their unpaid work, as Kimberly Seals Allers points out in her March 2020 The Washington Post piece 10 ways to honor the work of motherhood during Women’s History Month.
This work includes “routine housework, child care, shopping for household items, tending to elderly relatives and other caregiving that is never acknowledged by economists or society.”
What might this amount look like if calculated during COVID-times, when we consider the added responsibilities many mothers took on as schools closed down, as many reinvented and re- engineered our careers, household duties and other contributions?
No one says it better than Seals Allers:
“No one should work free, yet our society accepts and even expects that mothers do just that. Being priceless and worthless at the same time is a terrible state of affairs.
And if we only celebrate our ‘worker’ identity and not our ‘mother’ identity, we risk contributing to the ongoing division of roles that forces many women to feel like they have to choose which identity is more important, then prove it. This can’t be good for women’s futures.”
Breastfeeding in America just might be the epitome of Seals Allers’ “priceless and worthless at the same time” argument.
In a publication from this spring, authors Julie P. Smith and Nancy Folbre write “Breastfeeding is an example of how the economy is mismeasured: the market value of milk formula production and sales are counted in a nation’s GDP, but the value of breast milk production is not.”
Smith and Folbre further consider that women and children who have not breastfed have higher rates of illness, chronic disease and hospitalization- a financial detriment to the health system “and to families of this additional illness and disease are (perversely) counted as increasing GDP.”
What’s more, several years ago “a path-breaking study estimated that premature cessation of breastfeeding cost the global economy around $300 billion a year due to diminished human capital,” Smith and Folbre write. More massive numbers generated by the humans and their work that are completely undervalued in our society.
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