Threats, Lies, and Babies’ Lives

The Mess America Has Made for Breastfeeding Families

On July 8, the NYT published an article amplifying a report originally published by Amruta Byatnal‏, stating that President Trump’s administration opposed the introduction of a resolution to encourage breastfeeding at the World Health Assembly in May. The internet immediately responded with shock, confusion, and outrage.

How did we find ourselves in this position where the US, a developed nation that has the power to do so much good, is not supporting a worldwide resolution to encourage breastfeeding? Sadly, this prioritization of corporate profits over the health and wellbeing of our most vulnerable citizens — babies — is not simply a product of the current administration. The US has never adopted the WHO Code since its inception in 1981.

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Due to worldwide declining rates of breastfeeding in the 1970s, the World Health Organization and UNICEF developed and published the WHO Code for Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, a public health policy that aims to protect mothers and babies, in May, 1981. “The Code,” as it is known, outlines the basic principles of a strategy to promote breastfeeding, the safe use of breastmilk substitutes such as commercial formula, and ethical practices for corporations selling products that can discourage and undermine breastfeeding. The Code is not legally enforceable unless adopted into legislation, a measure which 84 countries have undertaken, including Canada and Australia, as well as most of Africa, Asia, Europe (even Switzerland, home of formula giant Nestle), and South America. The United States is the only modern democracy that continues to refuse to adopt this code as legislation, aligning with nations such as Somalia and Kazakhstan, showing favor for corporations’ profits over public health.

According to reports, at this year’s World Health Assembly,  the US not only failed to adopt these measures but sought to weaken the resolution’s phrasing globally and even went so far as to threaten Ecuador with punitive trade policies if they introduced the measure.

According to the World Health Organization, protecting and promoting breastfeeding to optimal levels would save 820,000 child lives per year by preventing deadly illnesses such as pneumonia, diarrhea, and necrotizing enterocolitis as well as decreasing the instances of SIDS related deaths. Protecting and promoting breastfeeding would also save 20,000 global maternal lives per year by decreasing breast cancer rates. When mothers are breastfeeding, they miss fewer days of work, and children have fewer bouts of illness.  Additionally, optimal breastfeeding could save the United States over $2.4 billion per year in healthcare costs.

These measures set forth by The Code have an incredible impact on breastfeeding rates. In a breakdown of how formula marketing impacts families, the Best for Babes website states,

Tremendous damage to mothers and babies occurs when formula companies market their products directly to parents through hospitals, physicians, health care professionals, and networking, peer support and “education” groups (such as expecting mother “classes”, lunches or events). We love to claim we are savvier at looking past the claims of a print ad or commercial – even when studies show us that rates of breastfeeding decline when formula advertising increases–but it is undeniable that we are easily influenced and persuaded by our trusted doctors, family members, and peers.

The Code does not restrict families’ access to breast milk substitutes in any way or refute the fact that infant formula is a reasonable substitute for babies when breast milk is not available. What the Code does is recommend a set of guidelines to protect families from predatory marketing from formula companies. 2

 

What do we mean by predatory marketing? Predatory marketing practices are activities that are intended to harm or eliminate the competition. In this case, the competition for formula companies is breastfeeding. This means that formula companies actively engage in practices that are intended to harm or eliminate breastfeeding to increase their profits. This is not rhetoric; studies have shown time and time again the negative impact that formula samples have on breastfeeding rates. This is also seen in formula companies’ advertising campaigns specifically aimed at breastfeeding mothers — you may know it as formula designed for supplementing. The physiology of lactation is well understood and any time feeding at the breast is interrupted, a woman’s milk production is negatively affected. It’s also no coincidence that formula companies send out coupons for their products five to six weeks after a baby is born, right around the time that the majority of American women return to work and must express milk if they want to continue breastfeeding.

Even for formula feeding families, these marketing practices are harmful. Because of the exorbitant amount spent on marketing, commercial formula costs to the consumer are exponentially higher than their actual production cost. Families who are given free formula samples in the hospital are likely to stick with those brands, which on average increases the cost of infant feeding by $700 a year. What happens when a family is not supported in breastfeeding and can’t afford the cost of formula? Many families turn to watering down formula, introducing less nutritious foods too soon, or underfeeding to try to stretch the formula they can afford. Globally, undernutrition is responsible for 45% of child deaths, roughly 3.1 million children per year.

The practice of bullying less affluent nations into also rejecting breastfeeding protections is an egregious ethical maelstrom that results in even higher rates of illness and death. When these nations are pressured to allow formula companies to run rampant, the insidious practices consume their population. It goes something like this: formula company advertises to parents who are told formula is cleaner, healthier, and more nutritious for their babies; parents are given free samples, which they use and, as a result, their baby spends less time at the breast; the samples run out and the parents are so economically disadvantaged that they cannot afford to continue purchasing formula, but at this point the mother’s milk supply is gone; the baby suffers malnutrition and the parents suffer greater economic strain trying to keep their baby alive. All of this could be prevented by the protection and promotion of breastfeeding, which is free.

Today President Trump tweeted, “The failing NY Times Fake News story today about breast feeding must be called out. The U.S. strongly supports breast feeding but we don’t believe women should be denied access to formula. Many women need this option because of malnutrition and poverty.”

This position demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of the resolution. As mentioned already, the Code in no way denies access to formula for families who need or want it. Furthermore, women who are malnourished and / or impoverished are those most protected by the Code.

Here’s what you can do right now to increase awareness and understanding of why the Code is so important for our babies, our mothers, our families, our nation, and our world:

 

Mobilize. 

Join in the Babies’ Heath Before Corporate Wealth Nurse In and Protest on August 5, 2018! Invite your friends! We will gather at state capitol buildings and the US Health and Human Services building in D.C. to demand that we promote, protect, and support breastfeeding as a public health issue.


Share this to social media: post, tweet, tag!

@WhiteHouse, @realDonaldTrump, and/or @POTUS
#WhiteHouse
#realDonaldTrump
#POTUS
#BabiesHealthOverCorporateWealth
#MilkyMommasMobilize
#BabiesOverBillionaires
#WHOcares
#BabiesOverBottomLines
#ProtectBabiesNotProfits
#SafetyNotSanctions

Donate.

Contributing money combats corporate lobbyists and promotes and amplifies real world efforts by grassroots movements. Support our efforts here:

Write letters and emails.

Email the Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary@HHS.gov
Click here for a sample script

Show up in person.

Hand deliver these messages or request to speak to your representatives face-to-face.

 Contact the media. 

If you’re a lactation professional, contact your local news and offer to be interviewed as an expert.

If you’re not a lactation professional, contact your local news and media outlets and demand coverage of this issue.

 

Whatever method you choose, we need you to take action now. Breastfeeding has never been in the news like it is today – and we need to harness this buzz before the formula companies use it to push us even farther back. Breastfeeding is under attack. Tweet, post, tag, donate, attend – whatever you can do, for the love of babies, do it now.

 

The original proposed Resolution can be reviewed here
The approved Resolution can be viewed here

Updated 7/11/18 to reflect the original source of the reporting

Sample Letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar

Email Secretary Azar today to demand that the USA promote, protect, and support breastfeeding. Please feel free to edit this script. Thanks to Heather Harris for the script!

Dear Secretary Azar,
I have read today in the NYTimes about the US delegation to the World Health Assembly concerning the International Code Of Marketing for Breast-milk Substances. I was appalled at learning that not only did the US delegation not support wording calling on the government to “protect, promote, and support breastfeeding” and restrict food products other than breastmilk, it in fact bullied (threatening removing aid and introducing punishing trade measures) the sponsoring country of Ecuador into dropping the resolution.

Breastfeeding is a public health issue. It affects everyone and is important for our world and our countries’ health. On our government’s own site is listed the many benefits including lower asthma, diabetes, SIDS, and many more. https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/making-decision-breastfeed. As a country we should be doing everything we can to promote and protect breastfeeding.

Please speak against this action by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Sincerely,

Our Values

Milky Mommas Inc has established the following eight values as the heart of our organization’s purpose.

 

Equity

Accessibility

Inclusivity

Compassion

Kindness

Respect

Accountability

Excellence

Equity – Increasing representation of minorities in trained lactation support and working to overcome and dismantle barriers in underserved populations.

 

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Accessibility – Using technology to innovate lactation support and pioneer new communities and resources in the digital world, and resolving first food deserts by sponsoring new lactation professionals in communities of greatest need.   

 

Inclusivity – Aligning as allies of the LGBTQIA community and honoring the unique path of each family to breast milk feeding.

 

Compassion – Honoring the right of each family unit to pursue and preserve their best health through breast milk feeding, and meeting each family where they are to provide nonjudgmental counseling and support.

 

Kindness – Fostering goodwill within the culture of our community and promoting the protection of human dignity in lactation support.

 

Respect – Working in collaboration with health, medical, legal, government, and fellow lactation professionals to promote breast milk feeding, and treating all interactions within our digital community with the same tact as we would an in-person interaction.

 

Accountability – Staying abreast of current research which involves or impacts the field of lactation support, and reflect the best available evidence in counseling practices, advocacy, and education.

 

Excellence – Training volunteers to exhibit professionalism in all affairs of the organization, exemplify the highest level of integrity, and adhere to an established Code of Ethics.

Milky Mommas and the WHO Code

 

  • Milky Mommas, Inc. affirms the importance of the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes as a beacon of public health policy.

     

  • Milky Mommas, Inc. strives to align with the spirit and the letter of the WHO Code in all of its affairs.

     

  • Milky Mommas, Inc. commits to reasonable due diligence in determining that any potential partnership is free from ethical conflicts of interest in terms of interpreting and applying the Code and otherwise.

     

  • Any potential partnerships, sponsorships, donations, grants or support of any kind, both financial and otherwise, will be investigated, discussed, and voted upon at the discretion of the Board of Directors of Milky Mommas, Inc. to determine current eligibility with the criteria outlined in the WHO Code, and any internal criteria. The Board of Directors reserves the right to revisit the results of this determination at any time.

*NEW* Idaho Breastfeeding Protection Law!

Congratulations Idaho on joining the rest of the states, and passing a law to protect breastfeeding mothers from prosecution for public indecency for nursing or expressing milk in public. This is a HUGE victory for Idaho Mommas, and for all of us supporters nationwide. The law goes into effect on July 1, 2018.

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This law is really special because it specifies that mothers expressing milk for the purpose of feeding a child is protected. Pumping mommas- do your thing!

Idahoan Mommas – be sure to download our business-card-sized Breastfeeding Rights card. This simple tool can give you confidence while breastfeeding in public, and allow you to educate others on your (and their!) rights to breastfeed Anytime, Anywhere. Print, share, and keep a couple copies in your wallet to empower breastfeeding mommas you may meet!

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Did you know we have these Breastfeeding Rights cards for all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico? You can check out the full album to print and download your state’s card here.

Nurse and Pump on, Milky Mommas – you rock!

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Nationwide Nurse-In 2018 – {Free Printables}

Nationwide Nurse-In Scheduled at locations across the country Friday, April 27, 2018!

Find the info for an event in your state here!

In the United States, mothers have the right to breastfeed their babies ANYTIME, ANYWHERE. Period.

So why are we still being asked to cover? To go to the car or the bathroom? To “just pump” or “stay home to do that in private”?

We’ve created a simple tool to help YOU feel confident in your rights when breastfeeding in public. These FREE business card-sized printables will fit right in your wallet, so that if you’re challenged, you can present the card to educate and inform the public.

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Print these out for your milky friends and co-workers, for  your OBGYN or WIC office, or have extra copies with you to share with nursing moms you meet!  You can even take these files to VistaPrint or your local office supply store to have the cards printed front and back, with our sleek “I am a Milky Momma” design on the reverse side.

Every state is included in our album, as well as the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico!

Download the card for your state HERE: https://photos.app.goo.gl/lqlOv5i7hpEEunuw2

 

The info for this year’s Nationwide Nurse-In is below… check it out, and don’t miss out on this opportunity to meet other nursing moms and assemble to advocate for our rights!

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The 4th annual Nationwide Nurse-In brings attention to breastfeeding laws to help end discrimination and harassment associated with public breastfeeding and the workplace pumping needs of mothers.

This year’s event is particularly relevant given the ongoing executive action to repeal the ACA, which provides mothers with time and accommodations to express breastmilk at work. Mothers may again be dependent on state laws to provide workplace pumping time and accommodations. Unfortunately nearly HALF of our states do not have workplace pumping laws and even fewer have laws that provide adequate protections. This leaves many thousands of working mothers vulnerable! Without appropriate advocacy and protection of these needs, the ability of mothers to continue to breastfeed is compromised. This is a critical and costly public health issue; according to the CDC, low rates of breastfeeding add more than $3 billion a year to medical costs for mothers and children in the United States.

Nationwide Nurse-In is partnering with Milky Mommas Inc. non-profit, a global community dedicated to helping women meet their breastmilk feeding goals by providing online support & current, evidence-based information. With the help of Milky Mommas, Nationwide Nurse-In is striving to help families through their entire breastmilk feeding journeys.

This event takes place across the United States at State Capitols and other law enforcement locations. This year’s theme is “Spread the Word!” Nationwide Nurse-In is working to educate as many people about the laws protecting mothers to nurse in public and express milk in the workplace. Nursing/pumping mothers and their allies are invited to attend and show their support and educate the public and government representatives.

Mothers & allies will be at their respective locations, nursing their babies and spreading the word about the laws that protect nursing in public and the workplace and advocating for adequate enforcement of these protections.

 

“Given the importance of breastfeeding on the health of mothers and children, it is critical that we take action to support breastfeeding. Women who choose to breastfeed face numerous barriers—only through the support of family, communities, clinicians, healthcare systems, and employers will we be able to make breastfeeding the easy choice.”

Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH U.S. Surgeon General

 

Never Again, Here it Comes

I’m 38 years old; I have 5 yo twins and a 10 month old; I’m a Certified Lactation Counselor and an advocate for equitable and accessible lactation support; and I have breast cancer.

In late January my husband felt a lump in my breast.

On Friday, February 9th, pathology confirmed that I have triple negative breast cancer.

In 2 days, I start chemo. That’s 41 hours until I can never nurse this baby — any baby — ever again. Today I’m laying around soaking up every last second, with our bodies curled into one another.

 

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As the clock ticks down and the details fall into place so there’s nothing left to arrange and no tasks to focus on, I’m left to sit with terrible grief and anxiety.

Nursing my 10 month old has not been very pleasant the last several days. My chemo port site is still sore; he’s jet lagged and fussy and out of his routine; he’s started standing on his head and waving his behind around to fight sleep at the breast. A few times a dark and ugly part of myself has thought, at least this will be over in a few days. But at my core — the part that’s not worn down by terror and exhaustion — I’m devastated that this stage of our relationship is coming to a screeching halt and that there will be no last-minute reprieve. This is happening. It’s real.

Never again will I comfort him at the breast. Never again will I feed him from my own body. Yes, we’ll still be bonded and of course he’ll still be nurtured and nourished, but I’ve never *not* mothered through breastfeeding and nothing short of an actual life or death crisis could have made me stop before he was at least two years old. Neither one of us is ready.

Ready or not, here it comes. 💔

Meeting Milestones ~ {Free Downloads!}

There is no greater feeling than when you reach your goal, especially in breastfeeding. The early days can be so hard, and for some the trials don’t end there. It takes commitment, perseverance, and passion to continue breastfeeding in the face of challenges.

So lets celebrate!

We have designed this set of beautiful phone backgrounds to help you show off your breastfeeding achievements. Whether you’re exclusively breastfeeding, combo feeding, pumping and nursing, exclusively pumping, chestfeeding, donating breast milk, feeding donor breast milk, you deserve to be celebrated! You’ve given your baby breast milk, and #everydropcounts.

So show off. You’ve earned it! Download these gorgeous images and update them as you persevere through the weeks, months, and years of your journey. You go Momma! ❤

Download the whole set here, or click to save individual images that celebrate your latest milestone.

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Check in with us again soon, as we start rolling out more fun free pretty things to celebrate YOU and your journey ❤

Black Women Breastfeeding – Jasmine

Today we’re hanging out with Jasmine! Thanks for celebrating Black HERstory month with us! Check it out ❤

 

What has your breastfeeding journey been like?

My breastfeeding journey has been challenging mentally but manageable physically.

I feel like that is the perfect way to say it. Breastfeeding can be challenging! Did the women in your family breastfeed?

My mother said she tried to nurse me for one day but was in too much pain from c-section recovery. Then she nursed my little brother for 3 months. My Aunt said she pumped for 6 weeks until her youngest was released from the hospital. My sister in law nursed both of her children for over a year, she is white.

 

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It sounds like you’re blazing a trail for the next generation! What made you want to breastfeed?

My sister in law was the first person I really noticed and learned about breastfeeding from. I think she sparked my interest in learning about it. I learned more about it in college because I’m a birth-kindergarten education major. I learned about all the benefits of breastfeeding in college child development courses mostly.

 

Its awesome that you have your SIL to support you! What is the biggest bf challenge you’ve overcome?

The biggest breastfeeding challenge I have overcome was when I had to put my son in daycare and they had such strict rules about the way they handled breastfed babies. My son cluster fed at home at random times. Sometimes he would drink 1 ounce at a time other times 2.5 ounces. They needed to feed him on a schedule and if he didn’t finish a bottle they would dump my precious milk and it was very hard to keep my supply up because I only produce what my son would eat and nothing more. I ended up having to change daycares that would meet our needs and it was very stressful.

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How frustrating! I’m glad you found a childcare provider who would support your breastfeeding relationship. Who are your biggest supporters?

My mother supported me all the way with breastfeeding she always sent anything she thought would make us more comfortable , whether it be nursing clothes, pillows, lactation tea & cookies. She was my cut man during the process.

My husband cooked all my meals and kept me comfortable, despite his uncertainty about me nursing in public he never discouraged me breastfeeding. Any decision I made regarding breastfeeding he supported the best way he knew how.

Supportive partners are worth their weight in gold! Tell us your favorite story about an experience with breastfeeding.

I don’t have a favorite story but I do remember always dreading going out in public with my baby because I was worried people would say something when I nursed him. So far no one has ever said anything to me or even seemed to notice when I nurse him. It made going out a little less stressful.

That is so common. Good for you for pushing through it! Is there anything else you’d like to share or encourage other moms?

I had to advocate for myself a lot during my breastfeeding journey. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in. The more confident you are ,then more than likely, no one will even think to question you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We all have to stick together. I wouldn’t have made it this far if I didn’t have some milk donated to me because my freezer supply diminished when I started taking my son to daycare and I couldn’t keep up by pumping. Just asking for 50 ounces every now and then helped relieve so much stress and increased my supply!

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Thanks for checking in with Jasmine and our blog team today. Happy Black History Month! Or should we say- Black HERStory ❤

The Elephants

The sun beats down, dust swirling as pain surges through your body. Vulnerable and wounded, you’re unable to stand. Predators have left you torn, and vultures begin to circle overhead. Gathering strength, you try to stand but collapse again. The thunder of feet causes you to open your clenched eyes, lurching to awareness. Shadows pass over you as huge figures block out the light. Have the enemies returned? No. Allies have arrived.

Side by side, backs to you, your community encircles to protect you. No predator stands a chance against this impenetrable ring of females. Stomping, trumpeting, tusks brandishing, it is clear that no danger is a match for these fearless defenders. Rescued, relief washes over you as you rest and heal. When your strength returns, upheld by this sisterhood, together you march proudly home.

This is the scene as an elephant faces a predator, soothes an injury, or gives birth to her baby. Protected by a ring of others, elephants experience these life changing moments safely surrounded by their community. They guard each other, support one another, reinforce each other in weakness, and celebrate together in victory.

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Milky Mommas is built on the foundation of this Elephant story.

We encircle our sisters as they pass through the most challenging hours, days, and seasons of life. None of us is ever alone, no matter how grueling the trial. There is nothing as formidable as a community of women, committed to doing life together.

When you bring your baby home and feel completely overwhelmed? We’ve been there.

When you’re up at 3am with a child who just won’t nurse to sleep? Your sisters are up too.

When you reach an important milestone and nobody else understands? We get it.

We show up.
We protect.
We defend.
We stick around through the hard stuff.

We lock arms to protect the momma in pain.

We lift up the momma in the midst of trials.

We laugh, we mourn, and we celebrate- together.

 

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One of our sisters is in the midst of a dark season- something no woman should face. We will not let her face it alone. Please join us in support and love of this momma, as we walk with her through the darkness- as we surround her with protection, support, and love.

 

 

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Subscribe to this blog to be notified as we host this momma as a guest blogger. She’ll share her heart with us while she bravely takes on a challenge no woman ever should.

She is walking through the fire- please join us as we walk with her.

 

 

(Featured Image Credit – David Yarrow)