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United States Lactation Consultant Association’s Response to the Call to Action for Breastfeeding

The Surgeon General’s Call to Action for Breastfeeding offers opportunities for US-based IBCLCs in virtually every one of its twenty action steps. From #1, give mothers the support they need to breastfeed their babies to #20 improve national leadership on the promotion and support of breastfeeding. IBCLCs play key roles and the United States Lactation Consultant Association (USLCA) is actively involved to promote, equip, and empower members. USLCA is working hard to ensure that IBCLCs are represented in discussions with both policymakers and caregivers in a variety of venues. The Call to Action strengthens the voice of the lactation professional and gives IBCLCs the credibility and clout to do what they do best for mothers, for babies, and the health of the nation.

USLCA is responding to the Surgeon General’s Call to Action by networking and relationship-building with organizations such as the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, AWHONN, the American Academy of Pediatrics, United States Breastfeeding Committee, National WIC, and Texas WIC Association. In every discussion, language is emphatically clarified so that a breastfeeding support person translates directly into IBCLC, as per the Surgeon General’s specific and strategic recommendation.

USLCA recognizes the responsibility for IBCLCs to provide the best care possible as they work with employers to develop breastfeeding-friendly workplaces, with hospitals as they move along on the Baby-Friendly journey, with educational institutions creating curricula to incorporate lactation care into health care education, with public health entities as they expand services for maternal and infant care, and for individual families as they seek to achieve their breastfeeding goals. To that end, USLCA publishes its peer-reviewed Clinical Lactation and presents cutting-edge educational programs each month via webinar technology.

USLCA encourages its members to be politically engaged at community, state, and national levels, participating in state Breastfeeding Coalitions and advocating for IBCLCs in a wide cross-section of settings. As Milk for Thought traveled the nation in the Big Pink Bus, USLCA members participated in community rallies at every stop. USLCA President, Laurie Beck, MSN, RN, IBCLC, participated in the documentary chronicling the tour and promoting breastfeeding.

The Surgeon General’s Call to Action is a wonderful tool to advocate for communities that support breastfeeding at every juncture with the goal of health care that begins with breastfeeding. IBCLCs are key figures in the Call to Action and USLCA is responding to the call by providing education, support, and advocacy for IBCLCs.

Laurie Beck, RN, MSN, IBCLC, RLC
President of USLCA on behalf of the USLCA Board of Directors


Summary of the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding

On January 20, 2011, Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin issued a “The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding,” outlining steps that can be taken to remove many of the challenges faced by women who want to breastfeed their babies. The Surgeon General identified 20 evidence-based actions that are needed, including establishing worksite policies and programs that are supportive to employees who are breastfeeding, implementing maternity care practices in hospitals and birthing facilities that do not sabotage breastfeeding, reducing marketing of infant formula products, and ensuring access to services provided by International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). The Call to Action asks six segments of society to step forward and take responsibility for removing breastfeeding barriers within each of their respective spheres of influence.The twenty action steps within the six categories have numerous suggested implementation strategies.

Mothers and their Families: recognizes the need for mothers to be informed by their health care providers of the importance of breastfeeding, and that health care providers support mothers in their efforts to breastfeed.
Communities: asks for community-based support for breastfeeding mothers from public health programs, including the provision of peer counseling support, and around the clock breastfeeding support from community organizations. Manufacturers of infant formula should be held accountable for marketing their products within the guidelines of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and health care providers should not serve as advertisers of infant formula.
Health Care: requests that hospitals accelerate their efforts to achieve the Baby-Friendly designation, ensure access to skilled, professional lactation care services following hospital discharge, provide training in lactation care in undergraduate and graduate educational programs for health professionals, encourage insurers to reimburse for services provided by IBCLCs, and increase availability of banked donor milk.
Employment: calls for paid maternity leave, the establishment of lactation support programs by employers, and the adoption of child care standards that support breastfeeding mothers.
Research and Surveillance: identifies the need for new research regarding the most effective ways to increase breastfeeding rates among populations with low rates, conduct analyses of the cost effectiveness of breastfeeding, and provide a better evidence base for making clinical decisions in challenging situations.
Public Health Infrastructure: urges the creation of a federal interagency work group on breastfeeding, and increasing the capacity of the United States Breastfeeding Committee and affiliated state coalitions.

The Call to Action represents a significant tool for use in validation of the importance of both breastfeeding and the role that the IBCLC plays in assuring that all mothers and infants receive the level of lactation care and services that they need. The document can be used in numerous ways to improve access to evidence-based care in the hospital, to provide post discharge lactation care in the community, and in settings where mothers experience the most difficult challenges to breastfeeding, such as the workplace. The Call to Action functions as a guide or roadmap for those wishing to make changes, as it places the responsibility for breastfeeding improvement on all the segments of society that interact with mothers or who have an influence on how lactation support is provided. It provides suggestions on how best to reduce barriers, and challenges health care providers, institutions, organizations, agencies, the Government, employers, and insurers to all do their part to see that mothers and infants receive the support to which they are entitled.

Action 11 specifically recommends, “Ensure access to services provided by International Board Certified Lactation Consultants.” It goes on to ask that IBCLCs be designated as “covered providers” and that reimbursement should be provided independent of licensure. Adherence to these recommendations will go a long way in reducing disparities and providing access to care that can be financially out of reach for mothers when insurers refuse reimbursement for lactation care and services provided by IBCLCs. Use this document to your advantage, whether you work in a hospital, clinic, agency, or private practice. There is so much room for improvement that we should make sure that we have all of the tools at our disposal in our work to help mother and babies breastfeed. To obtain copies of the Call to Action see:


MarshaWalker, RN, IBCLC

Marsha Walker has worked with breastfeeding mothers since 1976, first as a volunteer counselor with Nursing Mothers Counsel in California and eventually as the Director of the Breastfeeding Support Program at Harvard Pilgrim Health, a large HMO in Massachusetts. Much of her time is currently spent advocating for breastfeeding on the state and federal levels. She is the executive director of the National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy (NABA) which is the organization that monitors the Code in the US. Marsha also sits on the Board of Directors Baby Friendly USA, Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition, and Best for Babes. She represent USLCA to the US Department of Agriculture’s Breastfeeding Promotion Consortium and represent NABA to the US Breastfeeding Committee.


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