We know that all too often, mothers who wish to breastfeed encounter daunting challenges. Far from being a matter of choice, breastfeeding help and support is simply not accessible for many families.
That's why, all year long, USBC supporters have been working together to advocate for policy and practice changes in areas like paid family leave, workplace accommodations, lactation accommodations in airports and public spaces, health care coverage, and more. Thanks to YOUR support, we have made significant leaps and bounds towards building a "landscape of breastfeeding support."
Here's just a taste of the advocacy work we did together this year:
In January… USBC and MomsRising volunteers delivered special welcome kits to every member of the new 114th Congress, reminding them that "Breastfeeding Saves Dollars and Makes Sense" and asking them to help "make change" for our nation's families.
In February… we supported the efforts of the Coalition for Health Funding to keep up the drumbeat against sequestration, and the efforts of Trust for America's Health to support the Prevention & Public Health Fund.
In March… we launched the new USBC website, featuring an Action Directory displaying the work happening on the national, state, and local levels to implement The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, sorted by sector and action step. The website's new Learning Communities provide a place for individual site users to connect and collaborate around topic areas of interest.
In April… we hosted a special webinar presented by Trust for America's Health on developing sustainable financing streams for community-based prevention, including breastfeeding in Medicaid. And we developed suggested talking points on the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed rule changes to the nutrition standards of the Child and Adult Care Food Program, which included expanded breastfeeding provisions.
In May… Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth launched a new federal bill called the FAM (Friendly Airports for Mothers) Act, which would require airports to provide accessible, safe, clean, and convenient lactation rooms for travelers. To help Duckworth demonstrate why this bill is crucial to helping more moms achieve their personal breastfeeding goals, we developed a "write your Congressperson" action alert. More than 400 Members of Congress have received constituent messages from USBC supporters so far! And we put pressure on insurers and policymakers to ensure that health plan implementation of the Affordable Care Act's breastfeeding coverage requirements is really working for our nation's families with a petition to HHS Secretary Burwell.
In June… we supported the efforts of the National WIC Association around WIC funding, including their FY16 request for $90 million in unencumbered set aside funding for breastfeeding peer counselor initiatives. And we supported NWA's advocacy around Child Nutrition Reauthorization, especially the addition of new language emphasizing the importance of breastfeeding in WIC and enhancing the breastfeeding peer counselor initiative by increasing the authorized level to $180 million per year.
In July… we launched recurring national and state breastfeeding advocacy networking calls, creating a forum to bring advocacy teams together across organizations to make connections and better collaborate on breastfeeding-related legislative/policy priorities. And we completed a gap analysis to assess how existing federal guidance on the "Break Time for Nursing Mothers" law addresses questions from employees and employers. Based on this analysis, the USBC and American Civil Liberties Union developed and shared 20 recommendations for the Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division to improve implementation of the law. And we supported the efforts of the Work-Family Coalition around the Healthy Families Act, a federal bill that would allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick days annually.
In August… we hosted a social media advocacy campaign in celebration of National Breastfeeding Month with Twitter "target tools" and advocacy action alerts to inspire education and action to support breastfeeding families. And we developed suggested talking points on the U.S. Department of Labor proposed rule that would increase the salary threshold for overtime eligibility under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). By increasing the number of employees who are considered nonexempt under the FLSA, the proposal would also expand the right to workplace breastfeeding accommodations under the "Break Time for Nursing Mothers" law.
In September… we launched a new racial equity webinar series and online learning community to build the capacity of the breastfeeding field to apply both an "equity lens" to inform and guide our strategies and activities, but also an "equity mirror" to examine our internal structures, culture, and policies.
In November… the Supporting Working Moms Act of 2015 (SWMA) was introduced with bipartisan support. The bill would ensure that executive, administrative, and professional employees, including elementary and secondary school teachers, have break time and a private place to pump in the workplace. We developed a "write your Congressperson" action alert to ensure Members of Congress hear from their constituents about the crucial need for this bill.
And in December... we are working with partners to prepare updated "asks" of Secretary Burwell and the Department of Health & Human Services in the wake of the recently issued FAQs about implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The new FAQs Part XXIX included additional guidance that responds to many of the issues we raised earlier in the year, especially around establishing networks of lactation counseling providers. But there is more clarification needed, especially around breast pumps and the definition of the scope of the preventive benefit in relation to provider billing practices. Stay tuned for an updated petition soon!
YOU made all of this possible. We would not be where we are today without your support.
As you can see, it has been an exceptionally busy year, but we're just getting started. Breaking down the barriers that keep families from meeting their own breastfeeding goals is a marathon, not a sprint, and we look forward to continuing to advance breastfeeding on our nation's policy agenda together.
Our advocacy and public policy efforts entirely depend on the generous donations of the Friends of the USBC. We want to thank you for all your support over this past year, and for continuing to stand with us at such an important time for the breastfeeding movement!
-- The USBC Team
Like what we're doing? Join our work to make a difference for our nation's families: www.usbreastfeeding.org/Friends