In November 1998, the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities, Breastfeeding Resource Program, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, presented the National Breastfeeding Policy Conference in Washington, DC.
While the policy goals and objectives which emerged from this conference will take our work into the 21st century, the history of this conference is clearly rooted and connected to all of the past work in breastfeeding. Many of the themes that emerged from the 1984 Surgeon General's Workshop on Breastfeeding and Human Lactation continued as a thread throughout this conference.
Since the Surgeon General's Workshop, however, much has happened to advance the promotion, protection, and support of breastfeeding for U.S. families. These efforts include the American Academy of Pediatrics 1997 Policy Statement on "Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk," introduction of the Breastfeeding Promotion Act in 1999, Baby-Friendly USA, the Maternal and Child Health State Performance Measures, the Children's Health Insurance Program, the Surgeon General's Health Disparities Initiative, and the establishment of the United States Breastfeeding Committee.
The formation of the United States Breastfeeding Committee is among the most salient and distinguishing features of the progress that has occurred since 1984. It satisfies one of the operational targets set forth by the 1990 Innocenti Declaration: to establish a multi-sectoral national breastfeeding committee composed of representatives from relevant government departments, non-governmental organizations, and health professional associations.
The goals and objectives of the conference were achieved through the hard work of the conference participants. Background papers and plenary sessions provided the latest information on the status of breastfeeding in the United States today. Based on these presentations, the work group deliberations identified policies and strategies to move the country forward towards setting a national policy agenda to promote breastfeeding. And finally, but importantly, the conference brought together new members to a partnership of stakeholders to support breastfeeding.
The policy recommendations from this conference will provide a blueprint for progress in breastfeeding for the next decade. The mandate from this conference has been transferred to the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC). The federal government, through the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration, has asked USBC to provide a strategic plan to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding in this country.
The report for the conference begins with a declaration issued by the advisory board. The board, meeting after the conference, drafted this declaration in order to provide a preamble and summary of the conference. The document is a declaration of principles concisely stating the issues as well as the major points for resolution or action in the future. Key points in this declaration include leadership, alliances, and implementing strategies and policy recommendations.
Declaration from the National Breastfeeding Policy Conference
Failure to utilize breast milk as the food for all children for at least the first year of life leads to increased risk of poor health and development for both infants and mothers. To achieve improved health, infant development, parenting, and optimal use of resources in the United States, this declaration for the 21st Century for breastfeeding proposes the following actions:
Place breastfeeding in the center of public health planning.
- Appoint a national breastfeeding coordinator of appropriate authority and linked to the United States Breastfeeding Committee, an established committee comprised of relevant multi-sectoral governmental, non-governmental, and private voluntary organizations and health associations.
- Enact into law the International Code of Marketing Breast-milk Substitutes and monitor compliance.
- Wherever women's health policy is at issue and across all sectors, the relationship between women's health and breastfeeding must be addressed.
- Breastfeeding is a right that should be guaranteed within the workplace through political, socio-cultural, economic and legal means in a way that protects family health and economic viability.
- To assure breastfeeding promotion, protection and support, the health care delivery system will integrate system-wide coordination of evidence-based standards of best practices, accountability measures, and ongoing outcomes monitoring and evaluation.
- Frame breastfeeding within the context of public health, health promotion and disease prevention, and current health care initiatives.
Establish a permanent, independent not-for-profit financial structure for the support of breastfeeding activities in the U.S.
- Create a national foundation for breastfeeding, a not-for-profit fund raising organization whose resources would then be made available as grants to organizations, institutions, and individuals with programs supporting, promoting, and carrying forth programs in breastfeeding. This foundation would seek support and commitment from industry and labor.
Develop curriculum materials and teachers of breastfeeding for all health care education systems and the general public.
- The U.S. should develop and implement a national, ongoing, comprehensive, coordinated marketing program that addresses multiple unique target audiences including health professionals, school children, and the lay public.