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Statement in Solidarity with Indigneous Families

June 3, 2021

Dear Breastfeeding Supporters,

Like many of you, we are mourning alongside Indigenous colleagues and families as the remains of more than 215 children were found on land that was once Kamloops Indian Residential School, the largest residential school for Indigenous children in Canada (1). We know that this tragedy  is not isolated as residential schools existed from the 19th century into the 1980s in both the United States and Canada, accounting for over 200,000 Indigenous children separated from their families under harmful assimilation policies (2).

The forced separation of children and dissolution of families causes permanent emotional, psychological, and physical damage and this discovery highlights the ongoing trauma for Indigenous families (3). The deaths and subsequent lies about these deaths have caused irreversible harm to generations of Indigenous people. These children and their families deserved to live freely on their lands, without the terrorism of colonization, boarding schools, missing children, and unexplained deaths.

We stand in solidarity with the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation Community and all Indigenous families. Why must it even be said that families should not be separated and children should not be murdered? This should be the minimum expectation. In light of this, and knowing that similar atrocities occurred throughout the US until quite recently, we join the founders of Native Breastfeeding Week in calling for the US Government to bring the truth to light about the boarding schools within our borders and stand in solidarity with those calling for reparations and land back to Indigenous families (4).

We can never get back these precious lives that were stolen. But, we can heal the future. In the face of this ongoing trauma, supporting Indigenous birth and breastfeeding workers must be a central priority for all of us. In the words of Lindsey McGahey, Indigenous Breastfeeding Counselor and Indigenous Full Spectrum Doula, “The work we are doing today to reclaim traditional birth and breastfeeding practices is so necessary for us to heal the trauma and pain caused to our families by the US government. IBCs are knowledge keepers – we are healing our people through birthing practices that affirm our ancestral knowledge. As much as I am grieving, this recent news has also lit a fire in me to keep going.”

Please consider investing in Indigenous birth and breastfeeding workers who are bearing the weight of the atrocities committed at boarding schools in the US and Canada. Here are a few opportunities to invest in the people and organizations leading efforts to reclaim Indigenous Breastfeeding traditions locally:

In solidarity,
MIBFN board & staff

References

  1. Associated Press. “More Than 200 Bodies Found at Indigenous Boarding School in Canada”. CBS News. May 31, 2021. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/215-bodies-found-canada-indigenous-school
  2. Smith, Andrea. “Soul Wound: The Legacy of Native American Schools”, Amnesty Magazine, from Amnesty International website, “Archived copy.” Archived from the original on February 8, 2006. 
  3. https://www.traumainformederie.org/single-post/2018/06/20/Psychological-Impact-of-Forced-Separation-of-Families-on-Children
  4. Native Breastfeeding Week post on May 31, 2021 https://www.facebook.com/NativeBreastfeedingWeek/posts/512892150070521

Take Action to Support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

May 25, 2021

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) has passed the House! Thank you to A Better Balance: The Work & Family Legal Center, United States Breastfeeding Committee, and all the groups and organizers who are leading advocacy efforts in support of the PWFA. Now, it’s onto the Senate and we encourage YOU and all breastfeeding supporters to take action by sharing your support of this Act with your senators and community.

CALLING ALL BREASTFEEDING SUPPORTERS

TAKE ACTION!

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act makes it illegal to deny pregnant workers employment opportunities, retaliate against pregnant workers for requesting reasonable accommodations, and to force pregnant workers to take paid or unpaid leave if another reasonable accommodation is available.

Share your support of the PWFA with your senators and community!
 
Here’s how you can support:
  • Contact your senators to let them know that you want them to support this legislation or call the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and a switchboard operator will connect you directly with your senators’ offices.
  • Amplify social media posts by organizations who have endorsed this legislation like A Better Balance: The Work & Family Legal Center, the United States Breastfeeding Committee, and more!
  • Use this sample script to take action

Source:

MIBFN: Open Letter Regarding Updated COVID-19 Masking Recommendations

May 21, 2021

Dear Breastfeeding Supporters,

In light of the recent changes in CDC guidance stating that fully vaccinated people can resume normal activities without wearing a mask or physical distancing (1), and the subsequent decisions by state governments and businesses to lift their mask requirements for those fully vaccinated (2, 3), we join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and Michigan Nurses Association among others in calling for the CDC to reverse their new mask guidance in light of the ongoing health threat posed by COVID-19 (4, 5). We also call on Governor Whitmer to reverse the May 15, 2021 decision to allow individual businesses to determine their own COVID-19 mask guidance.

At MIBFN, we collaborate with organizations and individuals to bring about actionable, system-level changes that are centered on the diverse experiences of Michigan families with young children. We know that when families are centered, and especially birthing people of color, everyone benefits. Policy decisions should protect the most marginalized, not cater to the most privileged.

We see these most recent updates as a clear missed opportunity in terms of public health decision making and policy recommendation. COVID-19 is still here and still a threat to pregnant and birthing people, infants and children, and other vulnerable populations at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (6). About 1 in 3 children hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States were admitted to the intensive care unit, similar to the rate among adults (7). And yet, governmental and private organizations are now free to reduce masking requirements, putting the onus on the most marginalized individuals, including children younger than 12, to fend for their own safety. Even worse, we know that masking is preventative for both the transmission and reception of COVID-19 (8). Therefore, while many will still choose to mask, they would be more protected if everyone continued masking precautions (8). Ultimately, the new mask guidance fails to center those who experience higher rates of serious illness and death from COVID-19.

The CDC states all unvaccinated people age 2 and older “should wear masks in public settings and when around people who don’t live in their household” (8). While we appreciate this, their broader guidance influences policy-makers to determine masking is not mandatory, putting children at greater risk. The recommendations for fully vaccinated people reflects a very individual focus and not the population-level focus that is critical to public health.

Those most vulnerable within our society should always be at the heart of any public health policy recommendations. We are not advocating for masks forever. What we are advocating is that women, children, low-income families, and all BIPOC folks are at the forefront of these decisions. Had our families been centered in this particular situation, we believe the decision would be different, and lives could be saved.

Our work continues. Be well, be safe, and keep disrupting.

In solidarity,

Breastfeeding in Emergencies Working Group

   Bonita Agee, BS, CLC 

   Kaitlyn Bowen, MS, RD, LDN

   Gi’Anna Cheairs, BS

   Jennifer Day, IBCLC, RLC

   Rosa Gardiner, IBCLC

   Caty Jolley, CD (BAI)

   Shannon McKenney Shubert, MPH, CLC

   Mistel de Varona, IBCLC, RLC

   Rickeshia Williams, CLC, BD

   Vicki Wood, CLC, CLS

About MIBFN: MIBFN is a 501c3 organization that collaborates with organizations and individuals to bring about actionable, system-level changes that are centered on the diverse experiences of Michigan families with young children. Our mission is to lead the statewide collaborative actions for advocacy, education and coalition building to create a supportive breastfeeding culture. To learn more, visit mibreastfeeding.org.

About the Breastfeeding in Emergencies Working Group: This working group formed in February 2021 as a sub-group of the larger MIBFN & Local Breastfeeding Supporter Meetings and in direct response to the established need for emergency preparedness that centers Black and Indigenous breastfeeding families so that they remain a priority in the face of any and all emergency situations. The group meets bi-weekly and is open to breastfeeding supporters across Michigan. To learn more, visit mibreastfeeding.org/local-meetings.

References:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People.; 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html
  2. Schuster-Bruce C. Nearly every US state is dropping mask mandates for fully vaccinated people following new CDC guidelines. Here are the current rules in different states. Yahoo! News.; 2021. https://news.yahoo.com/8-states-lifted-mask-mandates-132430783.html

  3. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. May 15, 2021 Gatherings And Face Mask Order.; 2021. https://www.michigan.gov/coronavirus/0,9753,7-406-98178_98455-559589–,00.html 

  4. United Food and Commercial Workers. UFCW: CDC Mask Policy for Vaccinated Must Recognize Challenges Essential Retail and Grocery Workers Still Face.; 2021. https://www.ufcw.org/press-releases/ufcw-cdc-mask-policy-for-vaccinated-must-recognize-challenges-essential-retail-and-grocery-workers-still-face/

  5. Tutman, Paula. Michigan Nurses Association recommends CDC reverse new relaxed mask mandate. Click On Detroit.; 2021. https://www.clickondetroit.com/news/local/2021/05/17/michigan-nurses-association-recommends-cdc-reverse-new-relaxed-mask-mandate/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=snd&utm_content=wdiv&fbclid=IwAR2yTqen6LXfEZBRWTMujptv6IDP78Kdeim9rQOgJSKTB1yP_NCaQudf1uc

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding.; 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/pregnancy.html

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Information for Pediatric Healthcare Providers.; 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/pediatric-hcp.html

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Guidance for Wearing Masks.; 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html

Take Action to Support the PUMP Act

April 29, 2021

Thank you to the United States Breastfeeding Committee and all the groups and organizers who are leading advocacy efforts in support of the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act!

CALLING ALL BREASTFEEDING SUPPORTERS

TAKE ACTION!

Share your support of the PUMP Act with your legislators and community!

Here’s how you can support:

  • Contact your federal legislators in the House and Senate to let them know that you want them to support this legislation or call the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and a switchboard operator will connect you directly with your legislators’ offices
  • Amplify social media posts by organizations who have endorsed this legislation like USBC
  • Use this sample script to take action

The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act would strengthen the Break Time law by:

  • Closing the coverage gap. The bill would protect the 9 million employees unintentionally excluded from the Break Time law by extending the law’s protections to cover salaried employees as well as other categories of employees currently exempted from protections, such as teachers.
  • Providing employers clarity on when pumping time must be paid and when it may be unpaid. The bill leaves in place existing law protecting many salaried workers from having their pay docked, and clarifies that employers must pay an hourly employee for any time spent pumping if the employee is also working.
  • Providing remedies for nursing mothers. The bill would ensure that nursing mothers have access to remedies that are available for other violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Source: United States Breastfeeding Committee

Statement on Domestic Terrorism Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

March 17, 2021

Dear Breastfeeding Supporters,

Like so many of you, we are horrified by the ongoing anti-Asian racism that has been further magnified by the previous presidential administration and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We vehemently condemn the continued violence in our country, most recently in Atlanta, Georgia. Eight lives were stolen on Tuesday, including six Asian women, by a white domestic terrorist. These eight humans were mothers, sisters, aunties, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. Like every single one of us, they deserved to live their lives to the fullest, free from violence, racism, and dehumanization.

While this spike in violence is especially concerning, we must acknowledge that it is directly connected to centuries-long racist terrorism against Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) people in the United States. We see the clear intersection between white supremacy, misogyny, and the actions of this white domestic terrorist. We hold our AAPI sisters and families in our hearts today, and every day.

In birth and breastfeeding spaces, we know that we cannot fully heal, reclaim our power, or step into our full humanity as birthing and breastfeeding people when we are afraid for our lives. And, in the words of the ever-brilliant Audre Lorde, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own. And I am not free as long as one person of Color remains chained. Nor is anyone of you.”

Our freedom is interwoven, and we must work together, arm-in-arm, to end the racism and misogyny that resulted in these most recent, deadly attacks.

Here are a few opportunities to invest in the people and organizations leading these efforts:

In peace and solidarity,
The MIBFN Team

Take Action to Support the Momnibus Act of 2021

February 10, 2021

Thank you to the Black Maternal Health Caucus and all the groups and organizers who have contributed to and endorsed the Momnibus Act of 2021!

CALLING ALL BREASTFEEDING SUPPORTERS

TAKE ACTION!

Share your support of the Momnibus Act of 2021 with your legislators and community!
 

Here’s how you can support:

The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act will:

  • Make critical investments in social determinants of health that influence maternal health outcomes, like housing, transportation, and nutrition.
  • Provide funding to community-based organizations that are working to improve maternal health outcomes and promote equity.
  • Comprehensively study the unique maternal health risks facing pregnant and postpartum veterans and support VA maternity care coordination programs.
  • Grow and diversify the perinatal workforce to ensure that every mom in America receives culturally congruent maternity care and support.
  • Improve data collection processes and quality measures to better understand the causes of the maternal health crisis in the United States and inform solutions to address it.
  • Support moms with maternal mental health conditions and substance use disorders.
  • Improve maternal health care and support for incarcerated moms.
  • Invest in digital tools like telehealth to improve maternal health outcomes in underserved areas.
  • Promote innovative payment models to incentivize high-quality maternity care and non-clinical perinatal support.
  • Invest in federal programs to address the unique risks for and effects of COVID-19 during and after pregnancy and to advance respectful maternity care in future public health emergencies.
  • Invest in community-based initiatives to reduce levels of and exposure to climate change-related risks for moms and babies.
  • Promote maternal vaccinations to protect the health and safety of moms and babies.

Sources:

Statement in support of the uprising to end violence against Black and Brown people

June 2, 2020

Dear Breastfeeding Supporters,

We want to stand firm and be clear – racism is a public health emergency. There are clear intersections between the ongoing disparities in breastfeeding outcomes, systemic racism, and the violence perpetrated against Black and Brown bodies by police and vigilante white supremacists. When George Floyd called for his mother as he drew his last breaths, we heard and felt his cries too. In the future we are building, there is no room for white supremacy. Black Lives Matter. It’s on every single one of us who serves families during birth and breastfeeding to dismantle systemic racism and end the violence against Black and Brown people. We stand with families across Michigan who are protesting murders, brutality, and violence against Black and Brown people, and who are demanding an end to systemic racism.

Learn more about the impacts of systemic racism on breastfeeding: www.mibreastfeeding.org/learning-resources

Demand racism be declared a public health emergency in Michigan:

In solidarity,
MIBFN

MIBFN Letter to Detroit Hospital in the Support of Breastfeeding

December 8, 2019

Michigan Breastfeeding Network (MIBFN) applauds Alecia Dillard for her perseverance in successfully breastfeeding her 2-month-old son, and joins Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association and Metro Detroit/Wayne County Breastfeeding Coalition in calling for organization-wide breastfeeding-supportive policy and training at Children’s Hospital of Michigan (1, 2).

It came to the attention of MIBFN leadership, through a video shared by Channel 4 Local WDIV on Friday, December 6th, that, while breastfeeding her 2-month-old son in the emergency room waiting room of Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Alecia Dillard and her son were covered with a sheet by a security guard (3). In her words, this resulted in her baby unlatching and showing additional signs of discomfort.

According to the World Health Organization, breastfeeding is not a matter of personal choice, it is a public health imperative (4) and leading health organizations encourage breastfeeding on demand (5, 6), especially for babies who present with health complications described by Ms. Dillard. The nutrients, immunological protection, and comfort provided by breastfeeding are vital (7). Ms. Dillard also notes in her interview with Local 4 WDIV that she had experienced some breastfeeding difficulties with her son and had been especially excited that he was latching easily at that moment.

The Michigan Breastfeeding Anti-Discrimination Law passed and was signed into law in 2014 (8). This law protects the civil right of Michigan families to breastfeed anytime, anywhere. According to MIBFN Board Member Elon Geffrard, BS, CLC, ICCE, “Families have every right to breastfeed openly. If they cannot do that safely at a children’s hospital, nowhere is safe.”

It also bears noting the unique implications for the fact that Ms. Dillard identifies as African American. Infant mortality rates and infant infection-related deaths are higher in black babies compared to their white counterparts. This is exacerbated by barriers and lack of systemic support for breastfeeding that disproportionately impact black families (9). Research also indicates that black women cite a lack of support in healthcare settings as a top barrier for not meeting their breastfeeding goals (10). MIBFN advocates for every Michigan family to receive breastfeeding protection and support, and is especially concerned about the unique implications when black mothers are singled out while breastfeeding.

MIBFN advocated successfully for passage of the Breastfeeding Anti-Discrimination Law and, through our Breastfeed: Anytime, Anywhere campaign (11), is committed to increasing awareness of and compliance with this important public health legislation through training, technical assistance, and social marketing campaigns. In that regard, MIBFN leadership has offered to provide support to Children’s Hospital of Michigan in the establishment of breastfeeding-supportive policy and organization-wide training to ensure compliance with state law and MIBFN is requesting a publicly available written statement about the implementation of this policy and training.

#####

Michigan Breastfeeding Network is a 501c3 organization that collaborates with organizations and individuals to bring about actionable, system-level changes that are centered on the diverse experiences of Michigan families with young children. Our mission is to lead the statewide collaborative actions for advocacy, education and coalition building to create a supportive breastfeeding culture. To learn more, visit www.mibreastfeeding.org.

References

  1. Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association. (December 7, 2019). SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! We stand with…[Video]. Retrieved from: https://www.facebook.com/BMBFA/videos/617087265695551/
  2. Metro Detroit/Wayne County Breastfeeding Coalition. (December 6, 2019). Statement from the Board [Facebook status update]. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/WayneCountyBFCoalition/posts/2605365219692246
  3. Mann P. and Clarke K. (2019, December 6). Mother breastfeeding at Children’s Hospital of Michigan says she was told to cover up. WDIV ClickOnDetroit. Retrieved from https://www.clickondetroit.com/news/local/2019/12/07/mother-breastfeeding-at-childrens-hospital-of-michigan-says-she-was-told-to-cover-up/?source=facebook&medium=social&campaign=snd&utm_content=wdiv&fbclid=IwAR08Yj0Sof3xdgnBa1Lw2iXhUf-gUGScim0GDnrYBYlXXnspnles8lppUb0
  4. World Health Organization. (2002). Infant feeding recommendation, Global Strategy on infant and young child feeding. Retrieved from http://apps.who.int/gb/archive/pdf_files/WHA55/ea5515.pdf?ua=1
  5. World Health Organization. (1989). Protecting, Promoting and Supporting Breast-feeding: The Special Role of Maternity Services: A Joint WHO/UNICEF Statement. Retrieved from http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/9241561300.pdf
  6. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2013). Ten Steps to Support Parents’ Choice to Breastfeed Their Baby. Retrieved from https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Breastfeeding/Documents/tenstepsposter.pdf
  7. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. (2012). Pediatrics, 129(3), e827-e841. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-3552. 
  8. Michigan Legislature. Breastfeeding Antidiscrimination Act 2014 s. 37.232 (USA). Retrieved from http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(vkj1dcbds1amv1v5mlaa1e2p))/mileg.aspx?page=GetObject&objectname=mcl-37-232
  9. Johnson A., Kirk R., Rosenblum K.L., Muzik M. (2015). Enhancing Breastfeeding Rates Among African American Women: A Systematic Review of Current Psychosocial Interventions. Breastfeeding Medicine. 10(1): 45-62.
  10. Beauregard et al. (2019). Racial Disparities in Breastfeeding Initiation and Duration Among U.S. Infants Born in 2015. CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 68(34): 745-748.
  11. Michigan Breastfeeding Network. (2019). Breastfeed: Anytime, Anywhere Campaign. Retrieved from www.mibreastfeeding.org/anytime-anywhere

Action needed to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding

July 10, 2018

Recent opposition by the United States to a breastfeeding resolution that calls on governments to “protect, promote, and support breastfeeding” at the World Health Assembly is a step backwards for public health and places infant and maternal lives at imminent risk.

Breastfeeding is not a lifestyle choice: it is a public health imperative. Breastfeeding is especially important in populations with compromised water sources, high infant mortality rates, and other risk factors. Recent estimates show that over 800,000 child lives and 20,000 maternal lives worldwide could be saved each year if every child were exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. Predatory marketing practices by companies that sell breast milk substitutes specifically target impoverished communities and further undermine breastfeeding outcomes. Marginalized and underrepresented populations need equitable systemic support and increased commitment to further promote, protect, and support breastfeeding.

Education is key to support public health over corporate interests. USLCA is providing contact information and resources to contact officials within the US GovernmentMIBFN urges you to make your voice count and speak out in support of the recent WHO Resolution.

View and share MIBFN’s social media post on protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding here.

Family Separation at the Border

June 19, 2018

MIBFN stands against the forced separation of children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Executive Order ending this policy is only the beginning – it is imperative that separated families be reunited immediately. The WHO recommends breastfeeding for at least the first two years of life, which becomes physically impossible when mothers and children are forcibly torn apart. The impact of this practice causes permanent emotional, psychological, and physical damage to the families affected.

Please contact your federal legislators to insist that reuniting separated families take urgent priority.

View and share MIBFN’s social media post against family separation at the border here.

Contact Us

(734) 365-6559

hello@mibreastfeeding.org

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Lansing, MI 48912

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The beautiful image on our website is from Megan Hansen Photography. To submit your images for our website, please contact hello@mibreastfeeding.org.