International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) Global Partners Program was designed to improve breastfeeding worldwide by creating linkages between organizations around the globe. ILCA would like to welcome its 23rd National—Regional Partner, Mom2Mom Global, a worldwide network of breastfeeding support and advocacy for military families.
We asked Amy Barron Smolinski, MA, ALC, CLC, the executive director of Mom2Mom Global, to share with us more about the role of the organization in breastfeeding support and why they decided to sign on to the Partners Program.
Lactation Matters (LM): Tell us about why Mom2Mom is so important to human health for military families worldwide.
Amy Barron Smolinski (ABS): We are the only 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting breastfeeding for military families serving the United States. Our sister organization, Breastfeeding in Combat Boots supports active duty military service members in their breastfeeding journeys. Together, our organizations create a community of support and advocacy that is built around the unique challenges and needs of the military families we serve. Deployments, frequent moves, training exercises, irregular shift work, and the constant knowledge that your family’s needs will always be secondary to the needs of the military can create stress and make it difficult to find the support and encouragement necessary for each parent to meet their breastfeeding goals. Yet, our military families are also incredibly resilient, strong, and willing to help each other out. Our organization is founded on this strength and compassion and made possible by the dedication of volunteers who simply want to help others succeed at meeting their breastfeeding goals.
LM: What challenges do you face in your work?
ABS: We operate on a 100% volunteer basis, and our volunteers are all affiliated with the United States Department of Defense in some way. This means that, at any given time, one or more of us may be moving, having a baby, deploying or away for training, single-parenting due to a spouse being away for an extended period of time, and/or living in a foreign country. For example, this summer, one of our Board members moved from California to Puerto Rico. She called into our virtual meetings from wherever she was—at one point standing in line at the vehicle processing center while she waited to try to pick up her car! Being a virtual organization brings its own challenges, such as trying to plan for teleconference trainings or meetings across 10 or more time zones. As a brand new organization, we also face budgetary constraints that come with developing a long-term operational strategy.
We also face the struggle of invisibility within the national policy discourse. Legislation and policy are passed with no consideration for how it will impact military families, and we are just beginning to harness the power of our membership to bring the concerns of military breastfeeding families to the table. There is a tendency to believe that the military takes care of its own, but this is only half true. Military families take care of our own, but when it comes to policies, resources, and legislation, we are often an afterthought. However, it is also true that social progress is often tested within the military culture and system before it takes hold in the national culture. As a cross-section of the U.S. population, we face the same challenges as the rest of the nation, particularly when it comes to equitable treatment among those of diverse race, sex, gender, age, religion and economic status.
LM: Why did Mom2Mom decide to become an ILCA National-Regional Partner?
ABS: Mom2Mom Global is committed to diversity and equity as core values of our organization. We believe that all military families deserve access to the same quality of support, skilled lactation care, and advocacy. We are encouraged by ILCA’s stated intent to increase equity in lactation, both for those pursuing careers in the field and for breastfeeding families who need support. In addition, although we are a U.S. based national nonprofit, we also have members at locations all over the world, and this gives us a global lens through which to view breastfeeding in diverse cultures. We are excited to be an ILCA partner, and we look forward to working together to increase equity in the lactation field for both supporters and the families we serve.
LM: What is your vision for breastfeeding support for military families?
ABS: Our vision is military-specific breastfeeding peer support with chapters at military installations around the world to promote, protect, support, and advocate for breastfeeding families facing the unique challenges to breastfeeding and military life, and to normalize breastfeeding within military culture and communities.
To read more about Mom2Mom Global, check out their blog by clicking HERE.
Amy Barron Smolinski, MA, ALC, CLC is the longest running active participant in Mom2Mom history. She became a Peer Mentor in the Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC), Germany in 2008. In 2010, she accepted an invitation to expand Mom2Mom KMC’s breastfeeding advocacy and outreach in the local community. Amy was the first ever Community Outreach Director for Mom2Mom KMC, and helped to shape the organizational structure and mission. She served on the inaugural KMC Board of Directors until 2014. In 2015, the KMC Board determined the need for a larger parent organization to support new chapters at other military communities, and Amy accepted the responsibility for creating Mom2Mom Global, a national nonprofit network of support and advocacy for breastfeeding military families, eventually taking the position of Executive Director. A Certified Lactation Counselor and Advanced Lactation Consultant, Amy counsels breastfeeding mothers and babies as a volunteer both in the community and at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. She has been a presenter at several international lactation conferences and published articles and essays on peer breastfeeding support for military families. She breastfed all four of her children.