National Breastfeeding Month 2013: It’s Time for Action!
August 6th, 2013
by Kathleen Marinelli MD, IBCLC, FABM, FAAP
Chair, United States Breastfeeding Committee
August is National Breastfeeding Month and we have much to celebrate!
The national breastfeeding community is rallying together like never before, and more families are receiving the support they need and deserve. Breastfeeding initiation and duration rates continue to climb, and racial disparities are finally narrowing. Changes that seemed out of reach just a few years ago are now being implemented on the national, state, and local levels.
All of this has happened because of the support of people like YOU. From all of us at the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC): thank you! We have come so far and together we are working to ensure that every mom has the opportunity to reach her personal breastfeeding goals. But we aren’t there yet.
Study after study affirms the value of breastfeeding in protecting both mothers and children from a host of acute and chronic diseases, saving billions of dollars in health care costs each year. Yet women who choose to breastfeed continue to face numerous barriers. Lack of knowledge, social norms, poor family/social support, returning to work or child care, and deficits and disparities in health services create challenges for families.
But moms are raising their voices from the grassroots to the treetops, calling for action to address the barriers that may force them to stop breastfeeding earlier than they’d planned or discourage them from even starting. These moms know that far from being a matter of choice, breastfeeding is simply not accessible for many families. The USBC and partner organizations are undertaking a number of approaches to meet this call to action.
This spring we conducted an environmental scan/stakeholder analysis to assess the “landscape of breastfeeding support,” receiving more than 2,500 responses identifying organizations and programs across the country that currently have or could have an impact on breastfeeding families. Community, state, and national organizations in non-profit, governmental, citizen, and business sectors were identified, and the USBC is in the process of convening representative stakeholders to explore stronger paths to continuity of breastfeeding care.
To bridge gaps and support insurers in implementation of the newly required coverage of “breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling” under the Affordable Care Act, the USBC and the National Breastfeeding Center (NBfC) came together to develop an implementation guide for insurers. The Model Policy: Payer Coverage of Breastfeeding Support and Counseling Services, Pumps and Supplies, identifies best practices for payers that appropriately meet the requirements of the ACA and ensure adequate delivery of support for breastfeeding.
This year we’ve also worked with a professional lobbyist to develop the USBC’s first Strategic Advocacy Plan. The levers for change are coming clear and many of our goals are now within reach. That’s why the USBC is teaming up with MomsRising, the National Partnership for Women & Families, and the National WIC Association on the 2013 National Breastfeeding Month Action Across America campaign. It will focus on four different topics aligned with our Strategic Advocacy Plan goals, calling on policymakers to support breastfeeding in ways that will really make a difference.
There are simple ways for individuals and organizations to participate. With your help, we can demonstrate the overwhelming support for breastfeeding families. We’ll provide templates to tweet key members of Congress about policies needed under each of the topic areas. In addition, the August 8th National Breastfeeding Month: Action for the Summer Recess webinar will prepare you with everything you need to visit legislators while they are home for the August recess. To get involved with the campaign, check in each week at www.usbreastfeeding.org/nbm or sign up to receive action alerts to your inbox at www.usbreastfeeding.org/signup.
Action Across America Campaign Schedule
August 4-10: Peer Counseling
The National WIC Association breastfeeding peer counseling program has seen tremendous success, yet funding to support the program is in jeopardy. Help the USBC and the National WIC Association advocate for continued funding for WIC breastfeeding peer counselors.
August 11-17: Paid Family Leave
The United States is one of the only developed countries that does not guarantee paid leave, although it is proven to increase breastfeeding rates and maternal and infant health outcomes. Join the USBC, MomsRising, and the National Partnership for Women & Families to make the case for the FAMILY Act: a national family and medical leave insurance program.
August 18-24: Maternity Care Practices
Last month the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a FY 2014 Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations bill that would continue “Breastfeeding Promotion and Support” activities through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, increasing the program to $15 million. Help the USBC and state breastfeeding coalitions advocate for approval of this funding next by the full Senate and House.
August 25-31: Employer Support
The “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” provision of the Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide reasonable break time and a private, non-bathroom place for “non-exempt” (hourly wage-earning) employees to express breast milk during the workday. Join the USBC and MomsRising in calling for expansion of this law through the Supporting Working Moms Act, to cover an additional 12 million salaried employees, including elementary and secondary school teachers
Thank you to the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition and its supporters for all you do to support breastfeeding families.
Dr. Kathleen Marinelli is the Chair of the United States Breastfeeding Committee, where she represents the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. She is also a Neonatologist and Breastfeeding Medicine Physician at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, in the Connecticut Human Milk Research Center, and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine.
The United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) is an independent nonprofit coalition of nearly 50 nationally influential professional, educational, and governmental organizations. Representing over one million concerned professionals and the families they serve, the USBC and its member organizations share a common mission to improve the Nation’s health by working collaboratively to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. For more information on the USBC, visit www.usbreastfeeding.org.