When NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg put support behind the Baby Friendly Hospitals Initiatives, I was fit to bust. It was one of those moments that I felt we were making progress in getting critical support in place for mothers to have a successful go at breastfeeding. Despite asinine and uninformed commentary from the likes of Whoopi Goldberg, we know that BFHI has meant higher initiation and continuation rates by women who would ordinarily not receive adequate institutional support for breastfeeding, especially low-income and African-American women. As a breastfeeding advocate in NYC, this rocks my socks.
However, on the national scale, we have a huge problem on our hands. If we don’t put the pressure on our elected officials, Congress is set to pass a budget that would eliminate all funding for the largest breastfeeding support program.
This bill sets aside over $6.9 billion for the WIC program, which spends hundreds of millions ($850 million to be exact in 2009) on formula, but earmarks ZERO for the breastfeeding support program.The WIC peer counselor breastfeeding support program, ” address[es] the barriers to breastfeeding by offering breastfeeding education, support, and role modeling.” The amount sought for the continuation of this program in WIC centers across the country is only $60 million, less than 1/14th of what the WIC program spends with formula companies.
As formula companies continue their attempts simulate breastmilk by adding things like DHA or probiotics, the WIC program is basically bullied into spending above their contract amounts for more expensive products with no proven benefits. Yet, we know the unparalleled benefits of breastfeeding for both baby and mom. According to the USDA, the WIC program is intended to address the “supplemental nutritional needs of low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, non-breastfeeding postpartum women, infants, and children up to five years of age who are at nutritional risk.” Annually, they do this for about 53% of all infants born in the US. Without the breastfeeding peer counselor program, they will clearly fall short for many.
Please take a moment to read more and send a letter to your Representative through MomsRising before this budget is finalized next week.
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