Booby Traps Series: Let’s give thanks for this year’s Booby Trap-busting developments

This is the 62nd in a series of posts on Booby Traps, made possible by the generous support of Motherlove Herbal Company.

You might think that writing each week about Booby Traps would make one feel pretty discouraged.

But I’m feeling more optimistic than ever these days.  Everyone, from moms up to the Surgeon General seems to be focused on eliminating barriers to breastfeeding success, and it shows in the progress that’s been made recently.

And these are on top of the many victories of the previous year, which we celebrated last year during World Breastfeeding Week.

So let’s give thanks for a number of developments since then:

Federal pumping law upheld.  However you feel about it, the Affordable Health Care Act contained some important advances for nursing moms.  Those advances were in jeopardy until the Supreme Court upheld the law this summer.  The law requires many employers to accommodate nursing moms wishing to pump at work, and was the basis of the mandate that insurance companies cover, at no charge, breastfeeding support and pump rentals, starting in August of this year.

Baby Friendly on the way inAccording to the CDC, in 2008, less than 2% of births occurred in Baby Friendly facilities, but in the last 4 years that number has more than tripled to 6%. Yes, I know that 6% is still paltry, but the rate of growth is worth celebrating.  And thanks to a CDC grant program, and many other initiatives ranging from Mayor Bloomberg’s in New York City to Kaiser Permanente’s in California, there are many, many hospitals in the Baby Friendly queue.  So we’ll continue to see this upward trend for many years to come.

Formula “gift” bags on the way out.  How do we know that more and more hospitals are giving the formula bags the boot?  Yes, research has been pointing to a decline.  But we know it because you told us!  3,000 of you completed Best for Babes’ survey on this topic, and here’s what you told us, broken down by birth year:

  • 2009:  75% offered a bag in the hospital
  • 2010:  67% offered a bag in the hospital
  • 2011:  56% offered a bag in the hospital
  • 2012:  47% offered a bag in the hospital

Breastfeeding rates keep going up.  The CDC reported this year:  “Breastfeeding rates continue to rise, with increases of about 2 percentage points in breastfeeding initiation, and breastfeeding at 6 and 12 months. Breastfeeding initiation increased from 74.6% in 2008 to 76.9% in 2009 births. This improvement in initiation represents the largest annual increase over the previous decade. Breastfeeding at 6 months increased from 44.3% to 47.2%; breastfeeding at 12 months increased from 23.8% to 25.5%.”

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) adopts stronger breastfeeding policy.  Calling it a matter of public health, not a lifestyle choice, the AAP published its revised breastfeeding policy.  Among the highlights:  exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for 6 months (not 4-6 months as previously written), the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding (the foundation of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative) are endorsed, and the WHO growth charts are promoted.

Breastfeeding has its first celebrity event.  We held the first ever celebrity event promoting breastfeeding and toxin-free living this spring, with hosts Kelly Preston, Laila Ali, and Jenna Elfman.  Held in partnership with Healthy Child, Healthy World, the event at Jenna Elfman’s home was a big leap forward in giving breastfeeding the makeover it deserves.  Host Jenna Elfman said, “Education and awareness are the first steps.  No one can do everything, but everyone can do something, and every action counts.”

Donor milk becomes NICU standard of care.  Buoyed by research showing that donor milk can save lives, more and more hospitals are making donor milk the standard of care for preemies born before a certain number of weeks gestation or below a certain birth weight.  The non-profit milk banks have been victims of their own success; with demand rising they’ve seen increasingly frequent shortages.

California passes first breastfeeding employment discrimination law. In September, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 2386 (Allen) which prohibits discrimination in employment and housing on the basis of breastfeeding or conditions related to it (pumping at work, for example).  Yes, it’s a sad sign that we need a law to stop this from happening, but the this new law picks up where federal law falls flat.  For more on this complex subject see this podcast interview I did on the topic.

Renewed focus on racial disparities.  Highlighted by the Surgeon General’s CAll to Action to Support Breastfeeding, and championed by websites like Blacktating and Black Breastfeeding 360 and organizations like the Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association, a discussion of racial disparities in breastfeeding is taking place.  It’s about time.

And the list could go on for quite a while:  WIC adopts the WHO growth charts, Breastfeeding USA comes into its own as a new mother-to-mother support organization, pumping accommodations for medical board testing are required in Massachusetts, and we launch our own nursing in public harassment hotline!

Obviously, we have a ways to go to eliminate the Booby Traps, but we also have a lot to be thankful for this year, wouldn’t you agree?

Which of these developments – or others we left out – are you the most grateful for?



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