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ABC - Advocacy, Breastfeeding, and Communication!

Tina Sherman's picture

I am excited to be at the 8th Annual California Breastfeeding Summit on Advocacy, Breastfeeding, and Communications!  Today's conversations were engaging and thought provoking.  I attempted to capture some of the conversations and will share a few snippets.

Karen C. Ramstrom from the CA Department of Health spoke about the Status of Improving Hospital Breastfeeding Support Policies and Practices.  I was awfully excited to see that the Vision for Breastfeeding in California 2035 included an expansion of paid leave and workplace accommodations for breastfeeding moms.  We know that while 4 out of 5 U.S. mothers start out breastfeeding, less than half are still breastfeeding at 6 months postpartum. Moms of color struggle even more. We know that lack of access to paid family and medical leave, lack of lactation support and education, and lack of workplace accommodations are some of the reasons why many women fall short of meeting their breastfeeding goals. 

The good news is that there is a solution!  Check out and share MomsRising's video that highlights the difficulties moms have meeting their breastfeeding goals and check out the the CA Public Health Department's Breastfeeding Initiative Website for details on making breastfeeding the community norm for infant feeding in California exclusively for six months and up to at least the first year of life.

M. Jane Heinig, PhD, IBCLC, from UC Davis Human Lactation Center spoke about The Evidence for the New World Health Organization Maternity & Newborn Care Breastfeeding Guidelines.  Her conversations about the importance of evidence based information was compelling and much needed in today's environment.  "There is no truth in science. It is all related to evidence."

Jennifer Hahn-Halbrook, PhD, from UC Merced shared her research on the Factors Underlying Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Breastfeeding. Her exploration of the cultural factors that cause health disparities added additional layers to some of the data that currently explores racial disparties in breastfeeding. My big take away - grandmothers are key! In her research - a family history of breastfeeding led to English speaking Hispanic mothers being more likely to initiate breastfeeding than black or white mothers. 

Dr. Hahn-Halbrook also explores the racial biases that providers and other caregivers have and how that undermines mothers' efforts to breastfeed. While we absolutely need to address racial biases, I also firmly believe that we need to recruit and train more people of color in birth and lactation spaces.  

Pamela Mejia, MS, MPH, from the Berkeley Media Studies Group, focused her presentation to answer the question Do Formula Marketers Use Social Media to Undermine Breastfeeding? Formula companies are increasingly using immersive digital tactics. Some of the claims that formula companies make focus on health, compare formula to breastmilk, use options and choice language, and feed on the hopes and fears of parents. Furthermore Mejia asks, 'are formula companies fueling the mommy wars?' I'll propose that maybe there aren’t actually mommy wars, but a fabricated “war” to build a business.

Finally, the afternoon wrapped with Kimberly Seals-Allers exploring Facts vs. FIB: Countering Misinformation and Fear-Based Anti-Breastfeeding Campaign.  Kimberly stresses the importance of separating the act of breastfeeding from the experience of breastfeeding. From Kimberly's post early last year entitled Does Breastfeeding Kill or Does Fear Mongering Work -  "Succumbing to scare-tactics without carefully considering the systemic failures and all the facts, including examining those who are peddling it, won’t get any of us anywhere in making true changes to the system that failed...."

Check out the California Breastfeeding Coalition's website for more information on the Summit and the great work they do. You can also follow the conversations on Twitter and Facebook using #CABFSummit18 and be sure to check out my recap of day 2!

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