Month: August 2021

Black Breastfeeding Week: The Big Pause: Collective Rest for Collective Power

Today marks the beginning of the ninth annual Black Breastfeeding Week, which takes place from August 25-31. Black Breastfeeding Week was created in 2013 to eliminate racial disparities in breastfeeding through increasing diversity in the lactation field, celebrating Black lactation supporters, breaking down stereotypes, and building a community of support.

Founders Kimberly Seals Allers, Kiddada Green, and Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka introduced this year’s theme, The Big Pause: Collective Rest for Collective Power, on Facebook. Kimberly explains, “What a year it has been…an ongoing pandemic, the wave of racial uprisings, our continued fight for Black lives, the ways that mothers have been forced out of the workforce, and the ways that we’ve been overwhelmed with parenting, birthing, breastfeeding, schooling, nurturing, all the things…one thing is clear: we are tired.”

The need for collective rest highlights the relentless efforts of Black lactation supporters in helping families meet their breastfeeding goals. All over the United States, Black women and men are leading innovative programs that are making an impact on breastfeeding rates.

One such program, All Moms Empowered to Nurse (AMEN), started in a predominantly-Black neighborhood with low breastfeeding rates in Cincinnati, Ohio. Breastfeeding moms in the neighborhood can become Breastfeeding Champions and lead support groups, which create a source of community and family support in an under-resourced area. Since AMEN started in 2017, breastfeeding rates in the neighborhood have increased by 12%.

Over the years, the work of Black lactation support providers has made great strides in closing gaps in breastfeeding rates. At the inception of Black Breastfeeding Week in 2013, 66.3% of Black infants in the United States were ever breastfed, while 84.3% of white infants were ever breastfed. By 2018, the gap had narrowed significantly: 75.5% of Black infants were ever breastfed, while 85.3% of white infants were ever breastfed.

Here at 1,000 Days, we are thrilled to celebrate Black Breastfeeding Week as we fight alongside our partners for policies and programs that will enable all families to meet their breastfeeding goals. To learn more about Black Breastfeeding Week celebrations and how you can support the work of Black lactation leaders, follow Black Breastfeeding Week on Facebook or @BlkBfingWeek on Instagram and Twitter. For more information on lactation support programs in the Black community, check out Breastfeeding Medicine’s Special Issue on Breastfeeding and the Black/African American Experience in February 2021 and June 2021.

What We’re Watching in Congress – August 2021

August is usually a quiet month on Capitol Hill, as lawmakers return to their states and districts for the summer work period. But this month has seen a flurry of activities on a number of priorities central to the wellbeing of families in the 1,000-day window. Central among these is progress towards the passage of a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, comprising the majority of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. While there is much work to be done before these provisions are finalized, this is exciting progress towards the “once-in-a-generation investment in our families and our children” that President Biden has called for. The team at 1,000 Days will continue to monitor this process and work closely with partners and lawmakers to advance priorities to improve the health and wellbeing of birthing people, young children, and their families.

Last week, the Senate voted to advance both a bipartisan “hard infrastructure” package and a budget resolution that marks the first step towards a sweeping, $3.5 trillion investment in American jobs and families. Shortly after, House Democratic leadership announced that they would interrupt their regular August district work period to vote on the budget resolution and begin working on the underlying details on that package. Many specifics have yet to be determined, but here is what the package is expected to include to support moms, babies, and their families–

  • Investments in maternal health and health equity
    • Key provisions of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus
    • Extension of postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days to 1 year
    • Efforts to address the Medicaid coverage gap
  • Establishment of the first national paid family and medical leave program
  • Extension of the expanded Child Tax Credit
  • Investments in child care and universal pre-K
  • Additional funding for child nutrition programs
  • And much, much more…

Right now, lawmakers in the House and Senate are working to finalize the details of these provisions. There is a long path forward before this bill can be signed into law, with many hurdles to clear, but if passed, this will be the largest investment in American families in a lifetime. 1,000 Days will continue working to build support for these important programs and to ensure that the voices of moms, babies, and their families are heard and considered as this legislation moves forward.

Historic SNAP Benefits Increase is a Win for Moms & Babies

This week the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a permanent increase to benefit levels for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beginning on October 1, 2021. As a result of this increase, which was based on a long-overdue, evidence-based update to the way SNAP benefits are calculated, the average benefit will increase by $36.24 per person, per month, or $1.19 per day – the largest increase in the history of the program.   

At 1,000 Days, we celebrate this change, which will make a real difference in the lives of millions of moms and babies around the country.   

Good nutrition is critical to support the health and well-being of women and children during the first 1,000 days and beyond. But, millions of families in the United States lack consistent access to healthy food. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic recession hit, nearly 1 in 7 households with children were food insecure. When moms and babies lack adequate nutrition during the 1,000-day window, it puts their health and well-being at risk.  

Research shows that SNAP improves families’ access to the nutrition they need to thrive, ultimately resulting in improved health, educational, and economic outcomes. (For more information on why SNAP matters for a healthy first 1,000 days, see our brief.) However, the reality is that SNAP benefits have long been insufficient for many families to achieve a healthy diet.  

At 1,000 Days, we are committed to ensuring parents and caregivers have the resources they need to access good nutrition. That’s why we advocate for federal nutrition programs like SNAP to be fully funded, available to all moms and babies who need them, and designed to best meet the needs of today’s families – and that’s why we applaud the Biden administration for this week’s announcement.  

To ensure the health and well-being of families in the United States, we must continue to invest in the policies and programs that they rely on to access nutrition, care, and support during the first 1,000 days. 

1,000 Days & DC WIC Celebrate National Breastfeeding Month

August is National Breastfeeding Month, when 1,000 Days and our partners work to build awareness and support for the policy and practice changes that are needed to enable everyone to meet their breastfeeding goals.

This year, we are teaming up with the District of Columbia WIC State Agency (DC WIC) to highlight how the WIC peer counselor program supports breastfeeding parents.

Breastfeeding peer counselors provide support and counseling to WIC mothers. They are moms from the community who have breastfed their own babies, and as a part of the WIC team they serve as a role model for families, connect with and provide encouragement to moms, and help mothers manage common breastfeeding concerns.

In celebration of National Breastfeeding Month, peer counselors from DC WIC are participating in the #BreastfeedingIs campaign launched by 1,000 Days and the National WIC Association. They are sharing what breastfeeding means to them and why it is so important to support their clients along their breastfeeding journeys.

Follow along on social media to hear their stories: @1000Days (Twitter & Facebook) and @first1000days (Instagram) + @dcwic (Instagram)

Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Breastfeeding Week: Reclaiming Our Tradition

AANHPI Breastfeeding Week’s official logo, art by To-wen’s 8-year-old son

August 15-21 marks an exciting milestone: the first nationwide Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Breastfeeding Week. To celebrate, Wendy Fung and To-wen Tseng shared their thoughts with us about AANHPI Breastfeeding Week. Both Wendy, a WIC supervisor, and To-wen, a TV reporter-turned-freelance writer, are founding members of the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Breastfeeding Task Force.

AANHPI Breastfeeding Week has been in the works since 2017, when the API Breastfeeding Task Force was started in Los Angeles. Through the advocacy of many individual volunteers and agencies, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors declared the third week of August 2020 to be API Breastfeeding Week. In just one year, advocates have brought the week to the entire United States.

Through AANHPI Breastfeeding Week, Wendy and To-wen hope to “raise awareness of breastfeeding and to combat breastfeeding stigma in AANHPI communities.” This year’s theme, Reclaiming Our Tradition, highlights the cultural shift in AANHPI communities toward viewing infant formula as superior to breast milk or as a sign of higher socioeconomic status. They explain, “while breastfeeding is traditionally a common practice in most Asian countries, Asian American women have been shown to introduce foods other than mother’s milk to their infants earlier than any other ethnic group, according to a 2016 study.” They are working to reclaim breastfeeding through the first six months of a baby’s life as the norm for the AANHPI community.

Another goal of the week is to “connect mothers and to form a sense of ‘village’.” The API Breastfeeding Task Force, in collaboration with PHFE WIC, has released a campaign with videos of AANHPI-descent mothers saying “I breastfeed” in their preferred language. Forming a sense of village is important because surveys indicate that more than 90% of new mothers feel lonely after the birth of their first child. “Through events like AANHPI Breastfeeding Week, we realize that none of us is alone.”

Wendy and To-wen remind parents that “this is YOUR week, so go ahead, make noise and show up. Breastfeeding parents and babies become healthier and build stronger bonding, one breastfeeding session at a time. So it’s worth celebrating, no matter how long you breastfed: one day, three months, or six years. This week, tell yourself and other breastfeeding parents in your life, “Good job!” You deserve it.”

To-wen says that one of the joys of AANHPI Breastfeeding Week is the ability to celebrate her own breastfeeding experience, as a mother of Asian descent who has breastfed two children for a total of five years. She goes on, “and celebration is always more fun when you celebrate with those who share the same experience and values with you!” Her family has even gotten involved in the celebration: her 8-year-old son designed this year’s logo for AANHPI Breastfeeding Week.

The work will not be done when the 2021 AANHPI Breastfeeding Week is over. Two of the biggest barriers to breastfeeding Wendy and To-wen have observed in the AANHPI community are aggressive marketing of infant formula and lack of cultural humility in lactation support. To continue the work, they invite lactation professionals “to recognize the AANHPI breastfeeding families they work with, to talk and listen to them with [an] open heart, to try to understand them and find out how to better support these families.”

Breastfeeding-Related Bills We Support in the 117th Congress

August 1st marked the beginning of National Breastfeeding Month and World Breastfeeding Week. All month long, 1,000 Days is celebrating breastfeeding in the U.S. and around the world and highlighting the policy changes that are needed to ensure all families can meet their breastfeeding goals.

This year’s theme for National Breastfeeding Month, Every Step of the Way, highlights the importance of anticipating and meeting the needs of lactating families throughout the breastfeeding journey. At 1,000 Days, we know that supporting families every step of the way requires Congressional action to increase access to healthy food, culturally-competent health care, and employee protection, all of which can help families meet their breastfeeding goals. Below is a list of current breastfeeding-related bills we support. We believe these bills will help anticipate and meet the needs of all lactating families in the United States.

Federal Nutrition Programs
H.R. 2011 / S. 853, the Wise Investment in Children (WIC) Act

This bill would extend eligibility for postpartum women to receive benefits under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to two years postpartum, extend the program certification window to two years to reduce attrition, and allow children to receive WIC benefits through their sixth birthday.

Access to Quality, Comprehensive Health Care
S. 1977, the Improving Coverage and Care for Mothers Act

This bill would expand eligibility for Medicaid to all who are pregnant or within one year postpartum. It would also authorize Medicaid to extend coverage of services provided to include lactation consultants. As the bill highlights, a lactation consultant is a health professional trained to focus on the needs and concerns of a breastfeeding mother and baby, and to prevent, recognize and solve breastfeeding difficulties.

H.R. 3407 / S. 411, the Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness (MOMMA’s) Act

This bill would expand eligibility for Medicaid up to one year postpartum, and for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) up to two years postpartum.

Pregnant and Postpartum Women in the Workforce
H.R. 3110 / S. 1658, the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act

This bill would expand access to accommodations for expressing breast milk in the workplace, extending protections in the 2010 Break Time law to 9 million currently excluded workers, including teachers and nurses.

H.R. 1065 / S. 1486, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

This bill would require employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees who are pregnant, recovering from childbirth, or who have related medical conditions. It would also prevent employers from discriminating or retaliating against employees who need reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

Health Equity
H.R. 959 / S. 346, the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act

This bill would comprehensively address every dimension of the Black maternal health crisis in America by making critical investments in social determinants that influence health outcomes and confront issues of systemic racism in the medical system. It would also establish grant programs to increase the number of perinatal health workers – including lactation consultants and dietitians – who offer culturally congruent support.

Paid Family and Medical Leave
H.R. 804 / S. 248, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act

This bill would provide comprehensive paid family and medical leave of up to 12 weeks to all workers in the United States. Categorically recognizing paid leave as a public health imperative, this bill has the potential to transform the lives of moms and babies. As research shows, paid leave supports breastfeeding initiation and duration in a number of ways. For example, a mother is more than twice as likely to stop breastfeeding in the month she returns to work compared to a mother who has not yet returned to work.

Recap: Congressional Briefing on the COVID-19 Recovery and Malnutrition

On August 21, 2021, 1,000 Days, Bread for the World, the Micronutrient Forum and Standing Together for Nutrition (STfN) hosted a Congressional briefing on the COVID-19 Recovery and Malnutrition. Global recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic are increasingly urgent in light of a looming malnutrition crisis that threatens the futures of an entire generation of children.

Modelling done by the STfN, a collective group of nutrition, economic, food, and health system experts, that was published in Nature Food, shows that, by 2022, there will be an estimated additional 13.6 million wasted (severely malnourished) children, additional 3.6 million stunted children, and 283,000 additional deaths of children, with the most severe consequences for young children and their mothers. Economic losses attributed to childhood stunting and mortality translate to future productivity earnings of 44 billion USD.

The August event featured remarks from Congressional nutrition champions Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan and Congresswoman Young Oak Kim on the impact of COVID-19 on malnutrition and food insecurity around the world and the recent legislation they co-sponsored to address this crisis, the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act of 2021.

The event featured the following nutrition champions (in order of appearance):

  • Blythe Thomas, Initiative Director, 1,000 Days, an initiative of FHI Solutions
  • Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan
  • Congresswoman Young Kim
  • Jordan Teague, Interim Director for Policy Analysis & Coalition Building, Bread for the World
  • Dr. Rebecca Heidkamp, University of Johns Hopkins, Standing Together for Nutrition Consortium
  • Abdoulaye Ka, Government of Senegal
  • Shawn Baker, Chief Nutritionist, United States Agency for International Development

Watch the recording here.

1,000 Days Statement on Budget Resolution Passage

Early this morning, the Senate voted to advance a $3.5 trillion budget resolution, taking a crucial first step toward the “once-in-a-generation investment in our families and our children” called for by President Biden. While there is much work to be done, this is encouraging progress toward securing paid family and medical leave for all, critical investments in maternal health and health equity, and a more secure future for all families. 1,000 Days will continue to work closely with partners and our allies in Congress to build support for this important package.

Blythe Thomas
Initiative Director
1,000 Days, an initiative of FHI Solutions

Indigenous Milk Medicine Week: Nourishing Our Futures

1,000 Days respectfully acknowledges that our offices are located on the traditional lands of Piscataway and Nacotchtank people. Artwork by Erica Pretty Eagle Moore: @ericaprettyeagle.

The third annual Indigenous Milk Medicine Week is taking place this week, August 8-14. Formerly known as Native Breastfeeding Week, the weeklong celebration has now evolved to be more inclusive and to emphasize the healing power of those who breastfeed or chestfeed.

Native American children are breastfed at lower rates than the United States average. According to the CDC, 84.1% of all infants in the United States ever breastfeed, while only 80.7% of Native infants ever breastfeed. By six months of age, this disparity widens: only 19.6% of Native infants are exclusively breastfed, lower than the United States average of 25.6%.

The ongoing effects of historical trauma and structural barriers to accessing lactation support have affected breastfeeding rates. Family and community bonds were interrupted by the United States government’s forced relocation and assimilation programs, reducing the community’s ability to pass down traditions like breastfeeding. There are also few Native American lactation professionals in the United States, and other healthcare professionals are often more focused on issues like substance abuse than on lactation.

Indigenous Milk Medicine Week aims to help the community heal from this collective trauma. Courtney Peyketewa, a member of the planning committee, explains that Indigenous Milk Medicine Week exists “to increase support and resources, promote healing and wellness, and to provide stories and knowledge to the limited data regarding Native breastfeeding/chestfeeding and lactation.”

Learn more about Indigenous Milk Medicine Week by following @IndigenousMilkMedicineWeek on both Instagram and Facebook. Throughout the year, these accounts build community for Indigenous lactating parents and lactation supporters through statements of encouragement, news, and artwork that shares the joys and beauty of Indigenous breastfeeding and chestfeeding. Other social media channels uplifting Indigenous breastfeeders and chestfeeders include @CihuapactliCollective and the Navajo Nation Breastfeeding Coalition.

Looking beyond Indigenous Milk Medicine Week, there is more to be done to honor the power of Indigenous milk medicine and ensure that all families can meet their infant feeding goals. For example, more research involving or led by community stakeholders and elders is needed to inform lactation policies and programs. And importantly, all lactation support professionals need to practice cultural humility when working with Indigenous families.