Too many women encounter roadblocks to breastfeeding success. We can remove those roadblocks by asking for change in laws, policies and regulations. We can call for changes in the way breastfeeding is supported in public and private institutions by being advocates for breastfeeding mothers, babies and families.
- Support nursing mothers in the workplace
One third of new mothers return to work by 3 months post-partum. They need legislation and employee policies to safeguard their need for time and space to express breastmilk during the work day, or to breastfeed their baby if available. Baby-friendly workplaces can benefit employers as well as babies by helping employees feel more at ease and able to focus on work when their baby’s needs are met.
- Advocate for improved maternity leave
Paid maternity leave allows mothers to stay home longer, helping to foster breastfeeding and establish a good milk supply. Healthy mothers and babies use fewer healthcare dollars and employees are more productive when their family’s needs are met.
- Support public health funding
Funding for public health efforts to increase breastfeeding rates, including efforts to make all maternity hospitals Baby Friendly, will pay off with healthier babies, mothers and families.
- Know your rights
According to the Ohio Revised Code, title 37 ch. 3781, Women in Ohio have the right to breastfeed their baby wherever the public is invited in and would otherwise be accommodated. Under Ohio law, a place of public accommodation is defined as follows (Sec. 41 chapter 4112.01): “Place of public accommodation” means any inn, restaurant, eating house, barbershop, public conveyance by air, land, or water, theater, store, other place for the sale of merchandise, or any other place of public accommodation or amusement of which the accommodations, advantages, facilities, or privileges are available to the public.”
- Raise your voice
Let your voice be heard! It is very important that our elected officials, state health departments, hospital executives, employers, and insurers hear the public ask for better breastfeeding support.
- Be effective
Learn what language works best for breastfeeding advocacy, whether writing letters or talking to peers and colleagues. Some suggestions, adapted from a 2007 article by Melissa Bartik:
- Identify yourself as a concerned citizen, parent, or health care provider, not a “lactivist.” Policy makers need to recognize breastfeeding as a mainstream health and family issue.
- Use calm and measured language and always sound professional.
- Instead of the “benefits” of breastfeeding, talk about the “risks” of not breastfeeding. Example: instead of breastfeeding “preventing” breast cancer, note that breast cancer risk increases with shorter durations of breastfeeding.
- Avoid describing breastfeeding as “ideal,” “perfect,” “optimal” or “special.” These words make breastfeeding sound unattainable. Most people are content with just “normal” or “regular.”
- Reframe, don’t react. Keep control of the message instead of responding to charges and attacks.
- Breastfeeding is a public health issue, just like smoking, safe sex, and seatbelts. Don’t talk about personal cases, but the broad benefit to society indicated by statistics.
- Remind policy makers breastfeeding is the recommendation of medical professionals.
- Include specific statistics: saying “babies who are formula-fed have double the risk of diarrhea” sounds informative and scientific.
- Explain how policies impact breastfeeding success and duration.
- “Choice” is a disguise people use to avoid admitting they are being persuaded by advertising.
- Focus on unethical behavior: marketing of commercial products that undermine breastfeeding should not be promoted by healthcare professionals. Sample bags, coupons, or marketing freebies have no place in healthcare settings. Ask: “Why are hospitals marketing baby formula?”
- People worry about making women feel guilty. But instead of seeing breastfeeding failure as personal, women need to see how their efforts were undermined by roadblocks. Turn guilt into anger, and anger into a voice for change.
- Contact your legislator
Breastfeeding Advocacy Organizations
- United States Breastfeeding Committee, national organization for collaborative action to support breastfeeding.
- In addition, you can contact coalitions in other states and US areasthrough the USBC.
- National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy, national breastfeeding advocacy.
- Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, MD support for breastfeeding.
- Best For Babes, to eliminate “booby traps” that undermine breastfeeding.
- Moms Rising, advocacy for a variety of women/family issues.
- Ban the Bags Campaign to remove infant formula advertising and marketing that undermines breastfeeding from hospital gift bags.
- International Baby Food Action Network, including information in support of the WHO Code for the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.
- United States Lactation Consultant Association
Breastfeeding Reference Information
- Baby Friendly USA
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention Breastfeeding Information
- Unicef in Action, information about UN programs, research and support for breastfeeding worldwide.
- Mother-Friendly Care: Coalition for Improving Maternity Services
- Breastfeeding Promotion and Support in WIC, the USDA Nutrition Program.
- HealthyPeople.gov, Maternal, Infant and Child Health section, a Department of Health and Human Services program that provides our baseline standards for breastfeeding goals.
- WomensHealth.gov, a Department of Health and Human Services program.
- World Health Organization Growth Standards. The actual charts are inside the Standards link, under “Indicators.” “The new growth curves are expected to provide a single international standard that represents the best description of physiological growth for all children from birth to five years of age and to establish the breastfed infant as the normative model for growth and development.”
- EMPower Breastfeeding, improving breastfeeding support in US hospitals, from the Centers for Disease Control in partnership with the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute (CGBI) and Population Health Improvement Partners (PHIP).