Ask Michele Bachmann: Is $15 Million Too Much for Breastfeeding?

120 leading organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians, have signed a Breastfeeding Appropriations Letter urging Congress to direct $15 million in Fiscal year 2012 to breastfeeding.  The letter was sent to Congress on March 7 and the funds would come from the Prevention and Public Health Fund and would be primarily used to increase the numbers of BFHI (Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative) maternity centers and to increase the numbers of new mothers receiving outpatient support.  With most mothers unable to surmount the barriers to exclusive breastfeeding in the first few days postpartum (recall that the CDC found that most hospitals score a “D” on breastfeeding support), removing the HOSPITAL Booby Traps would have a greater impact than virtually any other intervention.  Less than 4% of all births occur in BFHI maternity centers, which means adverse health consequences for millions of moms and babies–and a lot of needless trauma and suffering–each year.

Breastfeeders Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann: Courtesy CBS News, Credit: Getty Images/Mark Wilson; Mario Tama

Will this request become politicized, as was the recent IRS decision allowing tax breaks for breastpumps?  Will Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin and Michelle Obama be piping up? 

 I certainly hope so, because it would mean that the media would jump on the issue and there would subsequently be a greater awareness of the tremendous need for breastfeeding funding.  But instead of politicizing this issue, I hope Bachmann, Palin, and Obama, all of whom breastfed, will share their stories of the booby traps THEY faced, and how they overcame them.   I think that the media would be just as fascinated and engaged in hearing their personal stories, which surely millions of mothers can relate to, regardless of their political affiliation.  (While they are at it, maybe they will ask Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton and Tipper Gore to share their breastfeeding stories too.)   It would go a long way towards educating the public about the cultural and institutional barriers to breastfeeding and help tremendously to normalize nursing.   It would help shift the pressure OFF moms and on to the ridiculous hurdles to health and the best start to life faced by mom and baby. 

In the meantime, while we’re waiting to see if they media picks this up, YOUR voice is critical in making this funding happen.   Please let your legislators know that you support the new Breastfeeding Appropriations Letter and that you want them to support it too.   Let them know that most moms (75%) want to breastfeed but are not able to achieve their personal goals or the goals recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (and practically every other medical and health organization worldwide) because they are being actively undermined and prevented from exercising their human and health rights.  Let them know that the way  it is scandalous with devastating health, human and environmental consequences.   It is like telling moms to run a race for their health, giving them stilettos instead of running shoes and throwing tomatoes at them.

Here’s how to do it:  The U.S. Breastfeeding Committee has put together a SUPER fantastic toolkit to help you take these actions:    

Click here to get contact info for legislators

1.   CALL.   There is simply no more effective communication than calling your representatives and legislators.  If you can’t call, write or fax (preferably not email but email is better than nothing). If you can meet their staff in their offices, even better.  Use this link to find their contact info or click on your legislator if listed below. Note that legislators are unlikely to be receptive to contact from people outside their districts, so focus on your own legislators.  Legislators care about what their constituents want!   Specifically, if you are constituent of one of the key positions on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees (see toolkit handout #8), we urge you to  contact their offices. If your legislator is not one of the Committee members, it would still be helpful to let them know that funding for breastfeeding is important to you, and they may be able to help influence their colleagues

2.  ASK them to support the Breastfeeding Appropriations Letter.  For a copy of the letter and the accompanying briefing document, see #1 and #2 in the USBC Toolkit.  For tips on how to talk to your legislators, see #3.  For a handy-dandy summary of why this is important, see the one-pager, #7.

3.  REMIND your legislators that the Surgeon General just called for multiple action steps to improve our nation’s poor breastfeeding duration, and these steps require funding and infrastructure. The Surgeon General identified breastfeeding as as one of the most effective means for preventing disease and slowing growth in health costs, according to The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding (SGCTA), just released in January 2011 (see handout #4 in toolkit).  Remind them that breastfeeding is non-partisan, and benefits moms, babies, our nation and the environment.  Remind them that  breastfeeding is good for building competitive workforces, and a competitive global economy.

4.  COMPARE  your state to other states, using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Report Card, see #5 in the toolkit.  If your state is doing great, complement them on their leadership.   If your state lags, tell them this is an oppportunity to go down in history as being a champion for moms and babies!   This is about helping moms achieve their goals, whether that is to breastfeed for 2 days, 2 months, 2 years or not at all.

5.  THANK them and let them know you will be following up and spreading the word. 

We know that this is more time-consuming than “liking” a facebook page (hey, someone should set one up for this!!) but we hope you will take the time to take action.     Thank you and let us know how it goes!



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10 Responses to Ask Michele Bachmann: Is $15 Million Too Much for Breastfeeding?

  1. Noel says:

    The problem is that regardless of these women all breastfeeding, the P word and the B word will go against Mrs. Obama if she supports it. Even if its the right thing to do, those two vapid political mouth pieces will say its wrong and that gov’t should be spending money else where.

    Well P-word and B-word, how about the 850 million dollars the US gov’t spends on formula for the WIC program every year? Don’t you think that a little 15mil to promote the normal way to feed a baby is worth it?

    I sure think so.

  2. Hannah says:

    I’m not sure how I feel about the issue. For one, I must say I dislike being fed, what to say, what to believe in support of an issue for all intents & purposes appear to be a good thing.

    15 Million isn’t going to address the hospital policies (4 hour feeding schedules) that pressurize nurses into pushing formula on new moms. It isn’t going to change the fact that hospitals are stomping grounds for formula companies.

    I for one, am tired of politians throwing $$ on hot topics of the moment because it makes them look good. Whose to say the $$ will actually be used as its intended. I bet the bulk of it will go to “administrative costs”.

    I don’t mean to be a nay sayer, but as a breast feeding mom, I have zero trust in politics. I truly believe that creating baby-friendly hospitals need to start @ their policies…you don’t need 15 million to do that.

    On another note, I’m not sure why Sarah Palin/ Michele Bachmann would want to share their BFing stories, they made it abundantly clear that they are ready & willing to stomp all over BFing in the name of politics. Besides, can Palin who once promoted breast feeding month as governor be trusted and believed?

    Her hypocrisy is distasteful. I wouldn’t believe her if her tongue was noterized.

    • Bettina says:

      Getting hospitals to convert to BFHI requires training of hospital staff in evidenced-based breastfeeding information and the Ten Steps. $15 million would pay for that re-training and accreditation as BFHI which means an end to the formula companies’ stomping grounds (I like the way you put that!). This is not politicians throwing $$ on hot topics. This is a request from the breastfeeding community that has been worked on for years, well into the last administration.

      • Hannah says:

        In that case…ignore my most recent comment!

        This is a solution I can get fully behind. Hospitals are where it starts and its where it should end. :)

  3. Christina says:

    I couldn’t agree more Noel!

  4. Hannah says:

    Whether you publish this comment or not, is clearly up to you. However I wanted to add in addition to my previous comment:

    Because it has been decided that speaking to legislators about 15 mil for breastfeeding is an answer, does not mean that one, like myself, who disagrees with the method of solving the very real problem of low breast feeding rates, has disregard for the issue(s) at hand.

    With all due respect to the fine work of your organization, I simply don’t agree $$ is the answer. I believe it will have the opposite affect. It will attract the wrong kinds of people for the wrong reasons and compound the problem even more. Whether we like it or not, BFing HAS become a politcal issue. 15 mil will only make it official.

    Sure the $$ can support moms in BFing after they leave the hospital.

    I would prefer to use $$ for real solutions that are the root of the problem and not treat the symptoms.

    The real problem is the lack of baby-friendly hospitals and their anti-breastfeeding policies. This was the original point of Michelle Obama…everyone seems to have forgotten that.

  5. Hannah says:

    Whether you publish this comment or not, is clearly up to you. However I wanted to add in addition to my previous comment:

    Because it has been decided that speaking to legislators about 15 mil for breastfeeding is an answer, does not mean that one, like myself, who disagrees with the method of solving the very real problem of low breast feeding rates, has disregard for the issue(s) at hand.

    With all due respect to the fine work of your organization, I simply don’t agree $$ is the answer. I believe it will have the opposite affect. It will attract the wrong kinds of people for the wrong reasons and compound the problem even more. Whether we like it or not, BFing HAS become a politcal issue. 15 mil will only make it official.

    Sure the $$ can support moms in BFing after they leave the hospital.

    I would prefer to use $$ for real solutions that are the root of the problem and not treat the symptoms.

    The real problem is the lack of baby-friendly hospitals and their anti-breastfeeding policies. This was the original point of Michelle Obama…everyone seems to have forgotten that.

    Thank you for listening.

  6. I think this is a great start but definitely not the answer. Yes the first few days in the hospital are key, but it really is the weeks after the birth that are really crucial to succesful breastfeeding. Not sure if throwing 15 million to hospitals will really help. Perhaps legislation that prevents formula companies from marketing in hospitals and dr. offices would be a great start. Or instead of WIC handing out cans of formula they are better educated on breastfeeding. Changing our entire mindset from formula feeding will never be an easy task that you can just throw money at.

    • Bettina says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Shanon. We agree that the weeks after birth are crucial, but if hospitals continue to get moms off to a bad start it puts moms at a disadvantage from the get-go. The proposed funds include follow up after birth. Making more hospitals BFHI (Baby-Friendly) MEANS they don’t participate in marketing formula. And no, it is not an easy task to change the cultural mindset, but starting with hospitals is a profoundly great place to start–their breastfeeding initiation and continuation rates are phenomenal!!

  7. Erin says:

    I was fortunate enough to have my second child at a breastfeeding-friendly hospital and I can absolutely say that it was crucial to our breastfeeding success. I gave up on breastfeeding my first child after a month because it just got too frustrating for both of us. But we got so much support at the hospital and had a follow up visit 3 days after going home that made all the difference in the world. Every nurse at the hospital goes through breastfeeding training and they have a lactation consultant see every mother who wants to breastfeed before leaving the hospital. And we were never given any samples of formula. If the 15 mill really goes to improving the hospitals then I think it is well spent.

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