Ashley Gonzalez ->
Having been my very first time attending the USBC National Breastfeeding Conference & Convening, I was truly amazed at the experience. I’m very grateful that KBC gave me the opportunity to attend this conference that would enhance my knowledge base to serve my community. Each session had fantastic speakers and sparked very intense, tough conversations that I believed necessary for the work we choose to do. I really enjoyed how all the sessions were respectful of so many backgrounds and cultures because it made me feel that I could have a safe space to express any concerns and questions. The stories that I heard from speakers stuck with me because of how inspiring they were and made me reflect on how much more work needs to be done in this country for breastfeeding people. Being part of a coalition in my community, my aim is to keep educating myself because those I serve go through so many adversities, and they deserve to have someone with their best interest at heart.
I want to thank the Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition for allowing me to take part in this conference for my very first time and another huge thank you to each of the speakers of the USBC for their time. Look forward to hopefully having another opportunity to participate at the next conference!
As a second-year attendee of the United States Breastfeeding Committee conference, I was a bit more prepared to embrace the tough conversations we have instead of the scientific facts I was expecting in my first year of attending. I love breastfeeding and I yearn to achieve equity and all that I do. I love that this conference not only educates on breastfeeding but provides a safe space for all diverse backgrounds. Being in rural Kansas, this conference always makes me think about the obstacles I do not have to face every day. It urges me to be a champion and have hard conversations. I am in awe of the respect paid to different cultures. This year I actually found myself mentally preparing for the conference. Some of the stories heard were heartbreaking and yet so inspiring. Last year I vowed to speak up for those being held back, to sit in silence and try to feel the pain and/or in the words I hear, and I’m proud to say that I did my very best to keep that promise to myself, to this community. Thank you Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition for giving me this experience once again and thank you to the USBC for providing an eye-opening, educational conference.
By Danielle Ast ->
I want to thank the KBC for allowing me to attend the USBC 2022 Conference & Convening virtually. All three days of the conference were inspiring, educational, and motivating. In the last session of the conference, Dr. Larry Grummer Strawn and Nina Chad presented Predatory Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes: A Global Perspective from the World Health Organization about the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk substitutes stands after 40 years of being adopted. The code aims to protect and promote breastfeeding and ensure the proper use of breastmilk substitutes through appropriate marketing and distribution. This presentation felt timely and relevant because of the current formula shortage in the United States.
The United States, home to many of the world’s largest formula manufacturers, has not implemented the Code. Dr. Grummer Strawn reminded the group that women choose not to breastfeed for other reasons than direct marketing, including poor healthcare support, work constraints, inadequate maternity protection, preference, and more. The industry spends $3-5 billion on aggressive and unethical formula marketing, which undermines the effort to improve breastfeeding. These marketing practices impact many of these areas because they are more than ads but include lobbying policymakers, impacting scientific research, and influencing health care providers.
They dived into the three recent reports to help us understand how marketing impacted decision-making. The one I found the most interesting was How the marketing of formula milk influences our decisions on infant feeding. The research studied over 8500 women and 300 health professionals across eight countries. 51% of the families surveyed reported they were targeted by marketing from formula companies. The report finds that industry marketing techniques include unregulated and invasive online targeting, sponsored advice networks and helplines; promotions and gifts; and practices to influence training and recommendations among health workers. Parents’ and health workers’ messages are often misleading, scientifically unfounded, and violate the International Code.
By Ahkeya Howard ->
As usual, the 2022 USBC National Breastfeeding Conference & Convening did not disappoint. I loved the I am poems and I cannot wait to try them out as an icebreaker-type activity. This conference demonstrates how and why the work we do is so important. Again, I love how this conference makes you go deeper and think outside the box. Who would think of food pantries as a source of lactation support and being able to stand in the gap for breastfeeding families? I love learning from so many experiences and perspectives and seeing what other coalitions are doing. One of the speakers said it best; it is about changing things for the generations to come. I look forward to being more involved with my coalition and being a part of this work.
By Caroline de Filippis ->
Of course, breastfeeding and human feeding are critical to reducing infant morbidity and mortality, childhood and adolescent overweight, obesity, chronic disease, returning type 2 diabetes, and returning ovarian cancer. Yet this is only scratching the surface. Breast and chestfeeding are healing intergenerational trauma of Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. Not so much as a lost tradition, but as a dormant tradition that is being reclaimed by entire populations still suffering to this day from White Supremacy.
As allies, we must listen. We learned to listen to families, our communities, and organizations to best craft our missions. Now we must pay close attention to what is being shared and raise our voices not to torment further the survivors of genocide and slavery, but to amplify their message. The people feeding babies know better what they need to continue to do so, they have identified the struggles, and their message is clear.
Knock on the door, pick up the phone, get attention, and share your ideas. Find out what it is that others are doing, zoom out, and find common grounds (food is a good start). Services, in general, are moving to be more strategic, collaborative, and cross-jurisdictional. Good, involve everyone you can think of, get funding in ways you had not thought of, build a deeper bench of champions, and share data (accurate, non-racist data) back with the community. Make sure the data tells the stories of the people it serves. If you’re not invited into a space, move on, and give your resources to people from the community you seek to help. Keep making sure you are serving everyone, not just a portion of the population. There is enough work left to be done for everyone. Breast and chestfeeding parents are still facing struggles when on jury duty, when enrolled in our universities, or when faced with a multi-billion formula industry.
Whatever you do, start with respect: we listen before we speak, we acknowledge our differences, and we are holding space. We make sure we are acknowledging the ancestral and cultural experience of trauma. Because there is a need for a systematic overhaul, to move away from capitalistic practices by providing time and space for healing. Part of the healing is in the acknowledgment, knowing the history, and teaching the children the truth. Healing requires us to sit in our mess sometimes, requires us to be uncomfortable, to undo and unlearn everything we thought we knew about who we are. It’s painful. So educate yourself and others. Document the problem and disseminate information. Advocate for legal solutions and work toward institutional policies. Above all, remember that we are stronger together, building on each other resources and strengths. Our work is more sustainable when we focus on community over competition.
By Netta Thompson ->
I was so very honored to be selected by the KBC to attend the USBC conference. I met many amazing people who are all doing this important work of dismantling the systems that have historically not provided respectful and compassionate care to the BIPOC community. The first day really homed in on the importance of producing more lactation professionals of color. It is a call to action; we are the change that we seek and we are the ones that can make these changes! The time is now for us to flood the field with more black, brown, indigenous, lgbtqia+ people in the field of lactation. It was amazing to see the work that the KBC has been doing with Color Filled Breastfeeding initiative in Kansas. I encourage everyone to attend The B.L.A.C.K. Course that is led by some wonderful black women who really dive into the historical trauma and the impact that it has had on our black breastfeeding families and communities. The biggest call to action that I received from the conference is the call to white IBCLC’s to mentor more BIPOC students to make way for the future of lactation. We need medical organizations to realize that an IBCLC does not have to be an RN. That really takes a lot of well qualified, educated BIPOC women out of the running when it comes to filling the gap in the lactation field. Representation is important and it matters.
The second day of this amazing conference really focused on decolonizing language. I must say that in one of the sessions things did get pretty spicy! The reality is that so many people cannot remove self and see the bigger picture. So many people haven’t done the internal work that is needed and are often triggered by conversations regarding how black and brown bodies have been treated on this land. How our women were used as wet nurses often to the detriment of their own children. Yes many of us were not around then but the effect it has had on our BIPOC communities is still being seen today. I would ask that white allies really sit down and do that integral work and ask yourself why do you feel triggered when the discussion questions white privilege. Don’t try to diminish the lived experience of us, the BIPOC community as we are still facing so many battles in the medical field. There was some discussion about gender identity and I think that as lactation professionals this is an important discussion. The medical field hasn’t completely caught up to all of the changes that have been occurring surrounding gender identity but I feel as lactation professionals we should absolutely be doing the work to be more inclusive with our language and continue to educate ourselves in this arena. Perhaps changing words like breastfeeding to lactation, human milk feeding, sacred food, body feeding, or chest feeding to be more inclusive or other creative ways. The Human Rights Campaign has a glossary of terms for use at hrc.org/resources/glossary-of-terms.
On day three, realizing that in this great country our maternity leave is one of the poorest in the world says a lot. With all the discussion around abortion and our women being told what to do with their bodies, it is appalling. The lengths that lactating families have to go through to provide what we know to be the best for our babies is so sad. Collectively we should be lifting our voices to make sure that our lactating families are getting the time that they need at work to be able to pump and not be penalized for it. This discussion is a must-have in all fields, we need to be contacting our state legislators to ensure that the families that we serve have a voice about how they choose to feed their babies. These working families should never be shamed or penalized for pumping and it happens all too often which then leads to these human milk feeding journeys being shortened.
By Shalese Clay –
What an experience! The USBC National Breastfeeding Conference & Convening 2022 was not at all disappointing. I would first like to thank KBC for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this amazing conference. I have taken away so much knowledge about issues that sometimes slip my mind. Some topics that were meaningful to me were “The Time Is Now” where they spoke about Public Health being crucial to achieving food equity first! All the roundtable conversations were fantastic and were the highlight of the conference for me. ‘’ Facilitating improvement and reducing disparities” I value the different perspectives and conversations when we talk about reducing health disparities in our community. This topic was near and dear to my heart, and it gave me some new things to think about. The “Decolonizing Lactation” Those sessions were very powerful and eye-opening. Every speaker brought a wealth of knowledge to all of us, and I am very honored to have been a part of this conference. I can honestly say that every session had a mission and a purpose and it was executed very well!
By Suzanne Bentley ->
Attending this conference was a unique experience for me due to the types of sessions that were offered. I am so accustomed to the research-based medical type of presentations that this was a new experience for me. The sessions explored the culture surrounding breastfeeding and the real-life experiences of different groups who breast/chest feed. I was struck by two words, racism and colonialism. They are not often spoken of in the academic and health care world that I work in. I appreciated the space to listen to how those two realities have affected generations of individuals and families. Because of attending the conference, I explored my family history to see if they participated in those forms of oppression. My family came to this country in the 1800’s from Germany, Denmark, and Scotland and settled in the west. They were fleeing oppression in those countries from people in power. My relatives who settled in Wyoming homesteaded there and raised cattle. Those lands are part of the Medicine Bow mountains and had been home to indigenous people. So not only did my family take ownership of land that had been theirs, but my great-great grandfather drove freight wagons in the west and was reported to have been an “Indian fighter.” So, leaving a country due to oppression and then participating in it in a new country seems so wrong. It is as if on some level it is about survival and seeking the resources necessary to live. But it also seems like we think we have to deprive others in order for us to gain these resources. We have lost the communal mindset that says that we are only as “wealthy” as the least among us. Unfortunately, our culture of individualism and capitalism perpetuate gaining and holding on to privilege (land, resources, power) at the expense of others. So, I did not come away with increased technical knowledge related to human lactation. I came away with a greater understanding of others’ perspectives and how my family history may have contributed to that reality.
By Laura Liddile ->
Two top takeaways from the USBC National Breastfeeding Conference & Convening 2022 are Supporting Lactating Students and Data Genocide: The Impact of Colonial Data Practices on Communities. These two areas provided valuable information and are important in supporting our community.
Brenda Bandy and Jessica Lee discussed supporting lactating students and provided amazing resources! Many students are women of childbearing age, yet many schools do not know how to support lactating students. We can do our part in educating schools and parents on lactating student rights. Sharing with them that providing time to pump/breastfeed is a medical necessity and is covered under Title IX. This will ensure that lactating students’ absences will be excused when the student is absent to express breast milk. But.. this often leads to students asking, “Where can I pump?”. Some schools may not have a space designated for lactating students, but they will have a space available for lactating employees. Parents can ask their schools for access to these areas, to ensure the student’s ability to continue their education and be in line with Title 9.
Camie Goldhammer and Abigail Echo-Hawk discussed Data Genocide: The Impact of Colonial Data Practices on Communities. This is not a well-known topic, but it is so important! Especially when protecting our communities. The US has poor standards when it comes to data collection. Especially when it comes to indigenous people. What has been happening is these communities are getting categorized in the “other”, or “multiracial” categories. Which then ends up erasing their information for their ethnicity and population. How can we support a community, and know their needs, and their risks if their data is being collected in a melting pot? We can start by eliminating these “other” and “multiracial” categories, by not guessing one’s ethnicity, and by pushing the implementation of OMB standards to ensure data collection and reporting adequately captures one’s racial identity.
USBC and all of the speakers did an amazing job this year! It was such an amazing experience, with so much valuable information! These are just two of the many topics that we discussed over the 3-day conference.
Lindsey Vignery ->
The USBC allowed participants to share information and experience with other breastfeeding champions all over the nation. The first conference day focused on community collaborations and both the ability and the responsibility to provide a bandwidth of support that captures and reinforces the culture of that community. One of my favorite sessions of the conference shared the amazing work of the Healthy MOMS program and how community collaboration is improving breastfeeding outcomes for Pennsylvania mothers struggling with opioid addiction. The Wright Center Healthy MOMS program brings stakeholders from healthcare, legal organizations, and social service organizations to one common table to support women in a unique and comprehensive model. With outreach in a variety of sectors, the program has been able to reach pregnant women earlier in pregnancy, allowing for more expansive education, and increased opportunities for support. Communication, screening, and early detection are the core of the model which provides medication-assisted treatment, behavioral health services, case management, and a variety of social services. The key to program success has been the removal of the stigma that often follows mothers with Substance Use Disorder. This allows participant trust and open communication that is necessary for improved maternal and infant outcomes. Improved outcomes showed infants with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome exhibiting fewer symptoms, needing less pharmacologic treatment, and requiring shorter lengths of stay. This session piqued my interest as my organization regularly works with women who might benefit from a similar collaboration.
The second and third days of the conference focused on the history of breastfeeding in the US and the action needed to shape a better future. I found both days a wealth of information and perspective very different from my own and invaluable as such. I was encouraged to see some recommended future work that my organization is already working towards, and new innovative solutions to remove barriers to breastfeeding education and support.
Gina Slayden ->
I truly enjoyed the opportunity to attend the National Breastfeeding Conference in June. There were a variety of topics that had such great content and I enjoyed them all. I would really like to share one specific topic that really appealed to me and made me stop and realize just how important this topic is and has become.
Decolonizing Language Exploring Intent and Impact – Language and communication are a large part of connecting with our patients. This topic made a huge impact on me in my profession as an IBCLC as well as on a personal level. I recall a genetically born female patient who delivered a baby and referred to herself as “male”. Her partner was also male. I visited with the couple during rounding to discuss breastfeeding. Without hesitation and more out of habit, I referred to the delivering individual as “mom” and was quickly informed she was not “mom”. On more than one occasion during my visit, I unconsciously referred to the delivering individual as “she” and “her” while providing breastfeeding education. When leaving the patient’s room, I remember feeling like I let the patient down by using the wrong pronoun to address the delivering patient. Because of this experience, I am now very careful to address patients and strongly feel more education on this topic is needed. Thank you so much for this experience.