March Madness!

Robbie Gonzalez-Dow, MPH, RD, CLE, 
California Breastfeeding Coalition

March Madness is here!  Around the country, people are getting ready to fill out their brackets for the annual NCAA college basketball tournament.  In the world of breastfeeding advocacy, the tournament of removing breastfeeding barriers begins!

First on the court is a new legislative bill, AB 302/Garcia that would respect and uphold the rights and education opportunities of pregnant and parenting pupils, including providing lactation accommodations. ACTION: Keep a look out for future action alerts for letters of support. Read more about the bill here.

Second on court is the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). The BHFI is based on the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. Once a hospital successfully implements all Ten Steps, it is eligible to receive the prestigious Baby-Friendly designation. California leads the way with the most Baby-Friendly Hospitals in the nation and as recently highlighted by, we also have the most breastfed babies in the nation!  Due to recently passed legislation (SB 402), it is expected that more hospitals will be pursing the Baby-Friendly designation. The new law requires all hospitals with perinatal units to adopt, by January 1, 2025, The Ten Steps to Success Breastfeeding or an alternate process.  Last month Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Torrance became the 67th Baby-Friendly hospital in California. ACTION: Ask your local hospitals where they are in the process of becoming Baby-Friendly because more Baby-Friendly hospitals equals more breastfed babies, and this is a slam dunk for families in California!

Third on the court are statewide efforts to support nursing mothers at work. A month doesn’t go by that the California  Breastfeeding Coalition doesn’t get a call or an email from a mom with questions about her lactation accommodation rights or from an employer needing clarification about how to implement the law. We can help make breastfeeding work at work! ACTION: Become familiar with and utilize the new resources at the HHS Office of Women’s Health, “Supporting Nursing Mothers at Work: Employer Solutions” website. The website helps all kinds of businesses give nursing moms the time and space they need to pump at work.  Take a look- you’ll find videos, photos, and stories from all types of workplaces with simple, low-cost solutions for private space and break time for nursing moms.

Fourth on the court is the implementation of the Affordable Care Acts’ (ACA) coverage of “breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling.” Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, the implementation of the ACA is turning out to be a bit more difficult because of the lack of implementation guidance from the Federal Government. Therefore, insurance companies have the flexibility to define the covered benefits under regulations and standards which insurance companies must operate. (To learn more about this complex issue read the blog post by the National Breastfeeding Center.) So what is a breastfeeding advocate to do? ACTION: (1) Become familiar with the Model Policy for Payer Coverage of Breastfeeding Support and Counseling Services, Pumps and Supplies developed by the United State Breastfeeding Committee and the National Breastfeeding Center. This Model Policy document identifies best practices for supporting coverage of services, pumps and supplies appropriately. (2) Utilize the National Women’s Law Center Toolkit to support mothers’ access to the breastfeeding benefits. It includes a fact sheet with easy to read language and a flow chart that will help you to understand the health coverage of breastfeeding support and supplies. (3) Tell us about your experience of supporting mothers to access the breastfeeding benefits or your own experience at this link. The information you provide will help us to advocate for improving access to the insurance covered breastfeeding benefits.

Fifth on the court is the continuous breastfeeding promotion by local breastfeeding coalitions across the state. As evident from the jam-packed education calendar on the CBC website, local coalitions are busy raising community awareness about the importance of breastfeeding and educating health care providers.  As part of our statewide efforts, local coalitions are encouraged to participate in the Mother-Baby Friendly Workplace Awards in May, World Breastfeeding Week and in the media release of the Hospital Breastfeeding Rates Report, both in August. ACTION: (1) Nominate a business in your county to receive the Mother-Baby Friendly Workplace Award and plan to attend the award ceremony in Sacramento. Get the nomination form here. (2) Start planning your local 2015 World Breastfeeding Week event. Get more information about this year’s theme, Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make It Work!, and ideas for activities on the WBW website. (3) Start identifying local reporters who write about health issues and employment issues. The CBC is going to start compiling a statewide media list to improve media outreach.

Committed breastfeeding advocates and strong local coalitions are the core of our winning California Breastfeeding Coalition team.  Working together, we’re sure to see success in our tournament of removing breastfeeding barriers!

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