August is National Breastfeeding Month and this week's theme is Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies (IYCF-E).
Emergencies are an inevitable though unfortunate part of life. Organizations must align activities for all three stages of disaster relief: preparedness, response, and resiliency. Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies, or IYCF-E, is a component of disaster relief that recognizes and prioritizes the nutritional needs of people who are pregnant and vulnerable infants from birth until the age of 2.
That’s why when the COVID-19 pandemic reached the United States, the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee and Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute mobilized the creation of the USBC-affiliated COVID-19 Infant & Young Child Feeding Constellation. Since this April, the Constellation has served as a bi-directional learning forum and centralized advocacy hub for the First Food field.
Comprised of 43 USBC member organizations representing the grassroots to the treetops, as well as an Advisory Council of organizations with established infrastructure and expertise in public health emergencies, the Constellation is working through an equity lens to support and coordinate the response to the challenges posed by COVID-19 across the United States.
The Constellation immediately went to work together, engaging with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and providing feedback on CDC's guidance related to infant feeding. These efforts were among the factors that contributed to the August 3 release of the updated COVID-19 guidance from the CDC, "Evaluation and Management Consideration for Neonates At Risk for COVID-19." The guidance included critically needed updates, including updated guidance on mother-neonate contact, emphasizing the importance of maternal autonomy in the medical decision-making process; updated evidence about routes of SARS-CoV-2 transmission to neonates; and updated guidance on infection prevention and control.
Our work together has not been easy. The landscape has shifted quickly and continuously throughout this pandemic, but the commitment of the Constellation has not wavered. Today, the Constellation released a Joint Statement on Infant and Young Child Feeding in the Context of COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States. Developed to inform and support IYCF-E as a component of emergency response, the Joint Statement is based on guidance documentation from UNICEF and represents the work and review of the constellation's 43 national, tribal, state, and community organizations.
Join us as we share this and other critical IYCF-E resources by joining the conversation at #NBM20 and #ManyVoicesUnited!
The COVID-19 IYCF Constellation isn’t finished yet. The group will continue to engage in shared learning activities related to disaster relief, including on the vexing confluence of hurricane, flood, and fire season, evacuation and sheltering, IYCF-E, all in the context of COVID-19. While general guidance about safe disaster sheltering has just been released by the CDC, there is a critical gap guiding the integration of breastfeeding and infant feeding information at both national and state levels. The COVID-19 IYCF Constellation is poised to answer this call.
If you’re interested in more information about IYCF-E, please see and share the following USBC resources:
- "Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies, including COVID-19" webpage
- "Tell Policymakers: Infant Feeding is a Vital Part of Emergency Preparedness & Response" action tool
Thank you for all that you do to support breastfeeding year-round, and to celebrate families and those who serve them during National Breastfeeding Month.
Amelia Psmythe Seger Aunchalee Palmquist
USBC Deputy Director CGBI Associate Professor
Co-Steward, C19-IYCF Constellation Co-Steward, C19-IYCF Constellation