Tag Archives | Call to Action

If YOU Don’t Advocate for Mothers & Babies, Who Will?

Written by Jennie Bever Babendure, PhD, IBCLC

As IBCLCs, part of our Code of Professional Conduct  (IBLCE November 1st, 2011)calls on us to adhere to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes and Subsequent Resolutions.  For those of us who hold this Code in high esteem, the news that WHO is accepting corporate funding and instant payday loans for its obesity initiative is enough to turn our stomachs many times over. According to the article, the Pan American Office of the WHO (based in Washington, D.C.) has begun to accept funding from fast food makers, among them the food giant and WHO Code violator Nestle.

As I struggled to reconcile the idea that an organization focused on world health would accept funding to fight obesity from the organizations that stand the most to gain from creating it, I began to feel crushing discouragement. How on earth can we, as a small band of mothers and breastfeeding professionals supporting the WHO Code, compete with multinational corporations with seemingly endless supplies of money? How can we succeed at supporting the WHO Code when the WHO is taking money from one of the worst offenders?

This is the point in the story when the hero has been soundly defeated. She goes back home with her eyes on the ground kicking stones in the path. She decides she will never win, so she might as well give up and just make noodles for the rest of her life (oh wait, I think that might be from one of my son’s favorite movies).

After a long night of frustration, writing, and a little alcohol, I chose to reframe the issue as a CALL TO ACTION. And if the WHO violating the WHO Code isn’t a call to action slapping me in the face, I don’t know what is!

But what can we do?

Most of us are doing our darndest to help mothers and babies start and continue breastfeeding in the face of tremendous marketing and cultural pressure to do otherwise. We stay awake nights worrying about how to best help a mother struggling with thrush or low supply, pour over research on tongue-tie and search the web for resources for new mothers. What more can we do?

The time has come for us to see our roles expand.  Our job as lactation professionals must not only be to provide individual breastfeeding support, but also to advocate for maternal and child health on a larger scale. If we don’t begin to protest the status quo and work to change the political and cultural barriers that mothers face in their attempts to reach their breastfeeding goals, we will be fighting the same battles for the next 100 years. The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) has long been at this fight. They shouldn’t have to fight alone.

In many places, we are beginning to see policies and legislation changing. We need to harness that momentum to move the tide even further. Now more than ever, mothers and babies need us to advocate for them and they need us to empower them to demand change themselves. Not just in the clinic or hospital, but in the grocery stores and restaurants, in the hallways and on the floor of congress. When mothers and babies protest a mother being asked to leave for nursing in public, we need to show up. When our congressmen and women debate policies that impact breastfeeding, we need to show up. When a news station wants to run a story on breastfeeding, we need to show up. When the WHO takes money from Nestle, we need to show up!

For some, showing up means planning and attending nurse-ins and rallies, for others it is talking, blogging and posting information on the cultural and political barriers to breastfeeding on websites, twitter and Facebook pages. Still others have the ability to influence corporations and other organizations they are a part of by changing the way they do business, who they work with, and how they support their employees. Even beginning to have conversations with the mothers you work with about choosing to support companies that uphold the WHO Code can have an impact!

We can also leverage our resources by joining forces with other organizations working to improve maternal and child health. In addition to IBFAN and the World Alliance for Breastfeeding ActionNatasha K. Sriraman has written about the organization 1000 Days for the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.  With a goal of improving life by improving maternal and infant nutrition in the first 1000 days –pregnancy through the second birthday—1000 days seems like a natural ally of lactation consultants and maternal-child health advocates.  Working with like-minded organizations will increase our ability to impact policies and legislation that prevent corporations like Nestle from sabotaging breastfeeding in both developed and developing countries by marketing their products directly to mothers.

When I was younger, I was under the illusion that if something important were happening, someone else would take care of it. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that is rarely the case. When the WHO takes money from a formula company, something is terribly wrong. If we don’t do something about it, who will?

If you are interested, please consider joining the “Friends of the WHO Code” Facebook Group to discuss violations of the WHO Code, especially those on social media, and how we can empower lactation professionals, volunteers and mothers to stand up for its importance.

Jennie Bever Babendure, PhD, IBCLC: I am mother to 2 active boys and an Assistant Research Professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University. As breastfeeding researcher, I am constantly scanning the literature for articles that guide my research and inform my clinical practice. One of my goals is to increase the evidence base of our profession as lactation consultants. I feel it is important for lactation professionals to be aware of and contribute to breastfeeding research, especially when so much of it is fascinating! As an ongoing contributor to Lactation Matters, it is my hope that you will find the articles I highlight as interesting and informative as I do, and that you will use them to guide you in the important work of lactation professionals and breastfeeding advocates. For more research news and commentary, check out my blog at www.breastfeedingscience.com. I can be reached at jennie.bever@gmail.com.

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A BFHI Update – ‘Call to Action for Breastfeeding Support from the Surgeon General ‘

How do you see the Call to Action impacting Baby Friendly in the United States? (Maybe even internationally?)

The United States now has a strong, evidence based national policy on infant and young child feeding that specifically calls for expanding implementation of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). This is an extremely important turn of events and status change.  BFHI is also specifically mentioned in the White House Obesity Report, and possibly even more importantly, in The Joint Commission’s recent Speak Out campaign. Internationally, Baby Friendly USA (BFUSA) has always been a strong collaborator with other nations’ BFHI Authorities and I would expect this collaboration to increase.

What changes are you hoping to see?

The Director of Health of my state met with our state Lactation Consultant chapter in early August, and within two weeks convened a high-level meeting of organizations to begin discussions on moving BFHI ahead. That’s amazing progress! Several states have conducted in-depth surveys of maternity facilities (in addition to encouraging hospitals to respond to the Center for Disease Control’s mPINC surveys), developed interim goals and local incentive programs, held Hospital Summits, and more.  Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) is a national survey of maternity care practices and policies that is conducted by the CDC every 2 years beginning in 2007. The survey is mailed to all facilities with registered maternity beds in the United States and Territories.  I expect the Call to Action will resonate with and inspire the entire public health professional community, at every level.

Why is this Call to Action coming at a critical time?

I’m tempted to say “It’s about TIME!” The momentum for breastfeeding has escalated in the past ten years in the US, partly due to the collaborative work of the US Breastfeeding Committee. The economic conditions are encouraging everyone (individuals and companies) to re-think spending patterns; health decision-making is becoming more transparent; and virtually everyone is calling for better health outcomes. Over 40,000 IBCLCs around the world are working with other health care providers to provide the up-close one-to-one clinical support for mothers and babies. Without this rich network of support, mothers would face far more avoidable problems.

How will the Call to Action impact not only hospital-based lactation consultants, but lactation consultants in private practice, as well?

There’s something in the Call to Action for everyone. As an lactation consultant in private practice myself, I was thrilled to see a call for appropriate reimbursement for my services as an LC, regardless of other credentials or licenses. I’m currently in graduate school and was very excited to see a call for more research on breastfeeding. The Call to Action’s recognition of lactation consultants as important players on the health care team was extremely gratifying.

Linda J. Smith, BSE, FACCE, IBCLC, FILCA
Bright Future Lactation Resource Centre Ltd.
6540 Cedarview Ct., Dayton OH 45459-1214
Phone (937) 438-9458   Fax (937)-438-3229
www.BFLRC.com

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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

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