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.
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:
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!