The U.S. Breastfeeding Committee hosts biannual Membership Meetings, which bring together the more than 100 member organizations that comprise the USBC. These organizations work collaboratively to drive policy and practice changes that create a landscape of breastfeeding support. For the February 2021 meeting, attendees submitted the following questions for the USBC staff team.
Would you like your organization to have a seat at the table?
1. Can you share some information about the Welcome Congress campaign that took place in May 2021?
During this time of uncertainty, tragedy, and widening gaps in access to infant feeding support, we knew how important it was to take the time to carefully assess which policy changes were most urgently needed.
The policy priorities highlighted during the Welcome Congress campaign were identified and selected through extensive feedback from USBC supporters, member representatives, and member organizations. We started by inviting input from all stakeholders and individuals about the most critical policy priority areas. The feedback collected during this stage helped us create a comprehensive list of policy priorities for USBC member organizations to vote on. Thank you to all of the individuals and organizations that provided input!
117th Congress Human Milk Feeding Policy Priorities:
- Federal funding for breastfeeding
- Infant and young child feeding in emergencies
- Access to breastfeeding support and supplies
- Paid family and medical leave
- Maternity care practices.
These priorities reflect the perspective of hundreds of individuals and organizations, ensuring that we focus our time and attention on the issues that matter most for families today.
This year, we launched the Welcome Congress campaign on Mother's Day. Although it was not possible to come together on Capitol Hill due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the online event brought much-needed attention to the challenges and solutions in these important policy areas.
During the campaign, lactation advocates urged policymakers to take swift action on these critical breastfeeding policy priorities. More than 140 organizations signed on to a joint letter which was shared with members of Congress by constituents through our online action tool. Further amplifying these efforts, USBC met with eight Congressional offices from both sides of the aisle to discuss how we can move these priorities forward.
2. What will happen to the policy priorities now that the Welcome Congress campaign is over?
This list of priorities helps guide and inform our efforts throughout the 117th Congressional session, which will continue through January 3, 2023.
In fact, since the Welcome Congress campaign ended, the USBC has been working hard to advocate for increased federal funding for breastfeeding, workplace protections, and access to lactation support. It's been a busy period, and we're just getting started!
We'll be sure to stay in touch about action opportunities in all of these policy areas. Be sure to sign up for USBC news and action alerts!
3. How do diversity, equity, and inclusion fit into the five policy priorities for this congressional session?
The USBC is committed to inclusion, diversity, and equity as core values. We place a premium on meaningful opportunities for all voices to be heard. We work every day to ensure that our membership grows to better reflect the diverse voices and perspectives from across the infant feeding landscape. For example, during the February Membership meeting, an invitation was issued to non-member coalitions to participate as guests to learn more about what happens at meetings and to submit questions like these. The value of these efforts is especially evident during important moments like the selection of policy priorities. The depth and breadth of input at every stage was richer thanks to the diverse stakeholders that contributed.
A commitment to diversity and equity infuses our work and decision-making at every stage, so as we assess action opportunities that align with these policy priorities, we are looking closely to ensure that we are supporting inclusive and effective policy solutions that address barriers faced by families who are marginalized, oppressed, or disproportionately impacted.
4. Will the USBC be developing materials for the policy priorities?
USBC closely monitors Congressional negotiations and action opportunities. Materials, talking points, action tools, and other resources are routinely developed and updated or shared from other organizations as appropriate.
Be sure to stay tuned for news and updates in the Weekly Wire newsletter.
5. What funding supports breastfeeding work besides the CDC line item?
Lactation support and research are built into a wide range of federally funded programs through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the Food and Drug Administration, including:
- Good Health and Wellness in Indian Country
- Safe Motherhood and Infant Health
- Surveillance for Emerging Threats to Mothers and Babies (SET-NET)
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
- Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Block Grant
- Healthy Start
- Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV)
- Task Force on Research Specific to Pregnant Women and Lactating Women
You can find details on the current status of federal appropriations bills related to infant feeding on the USBC Funding & Appropriations webpage and in the Weekly Wire.
6. How can we find out if specific items are included within federal appropriations for breastfeeding? How can the field influence what is included in the federal budget?
The federal budget negotiation process is long with many steps and stages along the way.
The USBC staff works hard to closely follow and update the field at all stages, mobilizing action at strategic moments in the negotiation.
- Monitor: The USBC staff closely monitors and updates the field on Congressional action on appropriations.
- Analyze: We publish detailed analyses on the President's budget and appropriations bills as they relate to infant feeding.
- Mobilize: Each year, the USBC coordinates organizational sign on letters and individual action tools on the CDC Hospitals Promoting Breastfeeding line item. Another important way to influence the federal budget process is through appropriations requests with Congressional offices. After the President's budget is released each year, the USBC submits appropriations requests for the CDC line item to the offices of House and Senate Appropriations Committee members.
- Amplify: We also join and share partner letters and actions to amplify efforts across the maternal and child health field.
These action steps are shared in the Weekly Wire, so be sure to watch for news items like these in each edition.
7. Does the USBC ever participate in advocacy efforts that are not included in the policy priorities?
Absolutely. The policy landscape can be unpredictable, and as we clearly saw in recent years, external factors can create tremendous shifts in the nation's policy priorities. While the USBC expects to focus most closely on the policy priorities selected this year, we try our best to monitor all policy areas that impact babies and families.
In addition, USBC member organizations come together in action-focused workgroups that we call Constellations. Many of the current USBC-affiliated Constellations are working on policy solutions that extend beyond this year's specific priorities.
8. What does the USBC have planned next for advocacy?
Right now, the USBC staff is preparing State Breastfeeding Reports that outline key data and federally funded activities in each state/territory. This resource serves to demonstrate how federal funding decisions are making an impact and highlight the coalitions that serve that area. We hope you’ll stay tuned and continue to be engaged! National Breastfeeding Month (NBM) is also happening right now. That means it is the perfect moment to call on policymakers to take action. Learn more on the National Breastfeeding Month webpage.