• Amy Barron Smolinski, MA, ALC, CLC

Breastfeeding in Uncertain Times

This is not a political post. Mom2Mom Global is a registered nonprofit organization, committed to ethical compliance to all federal regulations regarding 501(c)3 nonprofits, including refraining from endorsing or contributing to political figures or causes.

However, the results of the 2016 election affect all of us. Some of our members undoubtedly are feeling positively about the election results and some of our members are feeling quite negatively. Everyone’s feelings are real and valid. Amid the differences, it’s important to remember what brings us together. As Executive Director, I assure you that in the face of potential changes, our mission is unchanged.

As breastfeeding families, it’s important to remember that every breastfeeding parent and child deserves access to the support they need to meet their individual breastfeeding goals. Mom2Mom has always been committed to creating safe, welcoming places for ALL families in military communities who support breastfeeding. In the wake of the bitterest, most acrimonious campaign in recent history, the most polarized and divided population many of us can remember, and the frightening spike in hate crimes and civil unrest, Mom2Mom Chapter support groups, whether online or in person, will remain safe, nonjudgmental, welcoming places. Breastfeeding is an act of love, and peer support is an act of kindness. We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to each other, and when we all sit down and nurse our children together, that common ground is a powerful unifying force.

As military families, a new Commander in Chief always brings trepidation about whether we will rank as a priority or whether our lives and the lives of our servicemembers will be seen as disposable--collateral damage to new budget or foreign policies. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, this is an uncertainty we all share.

The landscape of breastfeeding in the U.S. is likely to undergo drastic changes under the new administration with the promised systematic dismantling of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Under the ACA, we all have enjoyed an expansion of protection of the rights to feed our children that includes the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law, the mandatory insurance and Tricare coverage of breastfeeding supplies and lactation counseling services, and renewed emphasis on breastfeeding as a vital public health issue. We don’t know if these provisions will remain in force. We don’t really know much about what the future holds, and this is frightening. But again, I assure you that Mom2Mom Global’s mission remains unchanged.

Photo courtesy of http://gerelynntrislphotography.com/

Mom2Mom Global exists to provide mother-to-mother (parent-to-parent) breastfeeding support for ALL military families. We are committed to our Chapters being opening, welcoming, nonjudgmental places where all of us in the greater military family are comfortable coming together to support each other. Where we can celebrate our breastfeeding successes, cry together when things don’t go the way we planned, help each other overcome obstacles, and let’s face it, hang out and drink coffee, because breastfeeders pretty much live on coffee! Our Chapter Directors, Liaisons, and Ambassadors are vital, active, positive collaborators, who are invested in building breastfeeding-friendly military communities. Our national advocacy strategy is to ensure that military families are not forgotten or left out of national policy and legislation discussions and recommendations that could further protect, promote, and support breastfeeding.

Although it is possible that we may lose some of the hard-won ground we’ve gained in normalizing breastfeeding, we will not lose our ability to support each other through whatever circumstances come. There may be massive funding cuts to federal and state organizations that champion breastfeeding, but our mission will remain unchanged, because we are a 100% volunteer organization founded on the belief that breastfeeding is a biologically normal process that requires support, and that the best support is peer support. We will continue to push forward with fundraising activities, but ultimately, Mom2Mom Chapters can successfully fulfill our mission with a free, kid-friendly place to meet and a few volunteers bringing snacks. Mothers don’t need financial support to breastfeed; they need community support. We need access to accurate, evidence-based information and trained volunteers and professionals who can offer tips, tools, guidance, and options for mothers to choose from in making informed decisions about infant feeding. We need social support networks that are helpful, friendly, and respectful of each mother’s innate wisdom to make the best decisions for herself, her baby, and her family. None of this is new. This is what Mom2Mom has stood for since our inception in 1999, and it is what has enabled us to grow into a worldwide network of breastfeeding military families.

In order to achieve our mission, we will continue: --To welcome, respect, and celebrate the diversity of our military families. Mom2Mom Global not only does not discriminate, but we actively celebrate volunteers and members of diverse backgrounds--race, culture, religion, age, rank status, socioeconomic status, service branch, Guard or Reserve status, education level, gender, sexual orientation, family status, infant feeding choice (yes, we welcome formula-feeding moms who need support!), or political leanings. Our only qualification to join is that you are supportive of ALL breastfeeding military families. We will not tolerate discriminatory, hateful or disrespectful speech or actions within our organization.

Mom2Mom Ft Bragg

--To provide training and guidance to our Chapter Directors, Liaisons, and Ambassadors that support creating a welcoming and inclusive environment at all Mom2Mom events and activities. No matter the Mom2Mom location, everyone is respected, welcomed, and supported with equitable access to peer and professional lactation support and education.

Photo Courtesy of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Public Affairs

--To work with national partners to increase diversity, equity, and inclusivity in the national breastfeeding landscape by implementing policies and recommendations that support these goals within our organization.

Mom2Mom Global U.S. Breastfeeding Committee reps with Theresa Hart, Defense Health Agency

--To push back against attempts to undermine or dismantle programs, regulations, and policies that

protect, promote, and support breastfeeding by bringing to the discussion the voices of military families and the stories of how these programs and policies impact OUR lives and OUR children.

From left to right: Mom2Mom Global Outreach Director, Angela Tatum Malloy; Mom2Mom Global Education Director, Megan Moyo; Mom2Mom KMC member breastfeeding, photo courtesy of mickihallphotography.com

--To find opportunities to grow, learn, and thrive in every obstacle--because that’s what military families do.

Babywearing Workout at Mom2Mom KMC Open House, 2014

--To be fiercely compassionate. We will be a tribe of mama bears, protecting our military families, our children, and each other. We will lift each other up, get each other through deployments and teething babies and shrieking toddlers and well-meaning family members who live thousands of miles away and give advice that isn’t always helpful. We will sit together in solidarity and nurse our babies at commissaries, Exchanges, ball fields, swimming pools, schools, parks, and doctors’ offices on military installations all over the world. We will cry together when breastfeeding doesn’t go the way we wanted, and we will celebrate when obstacles are overcome. We will hold each other’s babies and bring dinners and wine when we need a break. We will share our stories and our fears, and we will create safe spaces for our families. We will stand up together as mama bears, and we will continue to make the world a better place, one duty station at a time, because that’s what military families do.

Clockwise from top left: Mom2Mom Holloman; Mom2Mom KMC member, photo provided by mom; Mom2Mom Scott; Photo courtesy of gerelynntrisphotography.com

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