2016 Legacy Awardee: Karin Cadwell

At the Sixth National Breastfeeding Coalitions Conference, Karin Cadwell was celebrated as a recipient of the 2016 USBC Legacy Award. Her close colleague, Cindy Turner-Maffei, shared her reflections on Karin's legacy in the breastfeeding field. Below are remarks made at the awards ceremony while presenting this award.

Karin Cadwell’s introduction to breastfeeding came from a person near to her heart, her mother. In a time when not many women were doing so, Karin’s mother insisted on breastfeeding her from birth, and in fact, while they were still in the hospital, Karin’s mother’s milk was used to help an extremely ill baby in the hospital at the same time. The baby survived and went to school with Karin, and as she grew up she identified as the mother of a “milk goddess.” When she gave birth to her first child, she struggled to follow the hospital and obstetrician’s guidelines on breastfeeding. When she found a fatefully placed copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding in a box of donated baby things, she quickly knew she would dedicate her life to making sure women had access to breastfeeding support. As she says, “how could I, the daughter of a milk goddess, a well-educated, well-read, well-motivated woman, a woman with every privilege, how could it have been so hard for me to breastfeed?” That’s the question she has been asking and answering ever since.

When people who have been on the long journey with the USBC look back at our growth, Karin Cadwell, together with fellow Legacy Awardee Marsha Walker, are appreciated for their role in recognizing the need to form a multi-sectoral organization to elevate breastfeeding in the United States, as called for in the international Innocenti Declaration.

When Karin is asked to look back on her accomplishments in the breastfeeding field, she promptly informed me that she doesn’t look back, she just looks forward at “the work there is still to do.” She speaks of continually finding new challenges and continually responding to new generations and their needs.

Like her organization, the Healthy Children Project, Karin’s legacy and mission is one that holds space and creates opportunities for others to succeed. Her vision of the idea that babies have a right to good health right from the beginning of their lives inspires women coming up in the field, as she is both a role model and a mentor. Her close colleague Cindy Turner-Maffei points to Karin’s “amazing mind, amazing heart, and amazing commitment to serve all families” when speaking about her legacy. In 25 years, Karin hopes the Legacy Award will go to people who have worked for legislation to hold in place all of the current and future achievements of the field, ensuring a world where breastfeeding is protected and supported.

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