Jada Wright-Nichols is a health and wellness consultant and educator. She is the owner of Blossom Health and Maternal Wellness, providing fitness, massage, nutrition, lactation, and doula support to new and expectant mothers. Jada discussed the Families and Communities Action Areas of the Surgeon General's Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding during the August 18 virtual town hall meeting. Below is a transcript of her responses:
What accomplishments from the five years since the SGCTA are you most excited about? Did these efforts target or affect disproportionately impacted populations, i.e., those with the greatest disparities in breastfeeding rates? If so, how?
Today [August 18] is my wedding anniversary. Five years ago, I was definitely not thinking about breastfeeding in the way that I am now. I had a few months left of singlehood, I did not have a child, so I had no clue about Dr. Benjamin’s Call to Action. But, as a breastfeeding mom now and advocate for the past three and a half years, I can definitely see in that amount of time this new fascination with breastfeeding. There is an increased awareness, [there are] “brelfies” everywhere. There’s the normalizing breastfeeding movement that is just taking social media by storm, for better or for worse. So, I think that that really speaks to the first call to action, which is just “supporting all mothers,” letting mom know that breastfeeding is what she should be doing, breastfeeding is what she can do, and we’re here to support her.
The second area, if I may, is Action 3, where we are talking about strengthening peer support, mom-to-mom support. I really only heard of one mom organization, and that was La Leche, and in these last five years, there have been so many more growing, national organizations like ROSE (Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere) and Breastfeeding USA and Baby Café, all these great national organizations, plus the little pockets of local organizations are really popping up and doing amazing, amazing work in their areas. I’m so excited about the interconnectedness of all of this, coming together and sharing ideas, growing all of those programs, and helping to make sure that moms everywhere, in all of those little corners, who have possibly been ignored in the past, have been acknowledged. Lactation consultants may not have known how to reach them, or even that they were there, that they were interested in breastfeeding. Now, we have organizations that are addressing all of those different areas.
Considering the focus of the USBC and the field on advancing equity in breastfeeding support, what is missing from the SGCTA that you see as an important priority for the next five years?
The report is thorough. We could do some little tweaking. I do believe that Action 13, concerning maternity leave, definitely needs to expand to family leave, as much family, helping the moms for as long as they can to not stress out. The baby will have good breastmilk to eat, but will anybody else? Definitely helping moms and dad or moms and moms, whoever, stay home, stay around and support the nursing mother for as long as they possibly can.
The second area that may need to just be reworded, is number 11, access to an IBCLC, I think that’s wonderful, except that, we know that IBCLCs aren’t everywhere. IBCLCs are at a shortage, and we also know that not every mom needs to see an IBCLC straightaway.
This is personal to me, because I have a dear friend who gave birth at a huge hospital in a major city, not near me, and did not have access to anyone but the super-busy IBCLCs who had her on a two-week waiting list. And, she had a late pre-term infant and she required a certain level of care, but it might not have been what the IBCLC would have had to do. But she was only given information for an IBCLC and didn’t know—we know how complex our field, our movement is, but other people don’t know those nuances. Some of those issues she described, someone else, probably could have helped her.
So, when we limit our conversation, when we limit what’s in black and white, what’s on paper, what’s in bills, what’s on insurance documents, to just the IBCLC, it decreases the level of access that other moms may have.
And finally, just closing whatever loopholes exist that prevent insurance companies from providing optimal equipment and support. And closing whatever loopholes exist that allow for employees to either ignore or remain ignorant or be dismissive about accommodating moms. Just, close that up, support the moms on every level, and I think we’ll be good.
Looking at the whole (both existing action areas and any new ones suggested), which three implementation strategies do you think would have the greatest impact if prioritized over the next five years? How could these strategies best apply an equity approach?
There definitely needs to be some institutionalized equity, there needs to be some structures in place that across the board that will help all mothers, from the top down, but also from the bottom up. Just everywhere we need the help.
I’ll give an example, in my city there is a hospital system where the hospital I delivered my baby is in need of a lactation consultant. It’s considered one of the best hospitals in the city, especially for delivering babies, and if you go to the human resource document, they require an IBCLC. You go within the same hospital system, but to the other side of town, literally and figuratively, across the tracks, and they require the care for their lactation professional, a CLC. So, the hospitals are about 15 minutes apart, any IBCLC would be more than happy, ideally, to go to either hospital, but at the hospital where only the CLC is required, those babies are born earlier, those babies are born sicker, those babies go home and don’t make it to the first year more often.
When I saw that as an advocate, I said, what could the human resource department be thinking? This is in the same city, the same hospital system. What could they be thinking in terms of equity, in terms of equality, and in terms of quality of care and a continuum of care. Those kinds of thought patterns at the highest levels need to be addressed head on.
That leads to another area, which is just having diversity in your group. Having more than just people who like you, whatever you look like, or think like you or have been where you’ve been. Diversifying that area and once that happens across the board in many areas, it will much easier to see where equity versus equality can be obtained.