Welcome Letter

A lot is happening in the NYC and NYS breastfeeding worlds right now and so much of it is good indeed!

We look forward to hearing about all the plans that are underway for World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month. As you know, the NYC Breastfeeding Leadership Council, Inc. plans a huge Breastfeeding Subway Caravan every year. This year’s event is on Friday, August 3rd. We hope you can all join us on the Steps of City Hall at 11 AM when we kick off the event with a Press Conference featuring Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Liz Krueger and other elected officials. We hope to attract at least 150 breastfeeding moms with their babies for a great media photo op! This event was established to raise awareness that moms can nurse their baby “Any where …. Any time”. Help us let the world know that NYC Breastfeeds! After the Press Conference we all join together and take the A Train to Restoration Plaza in Bedford Stuyvesant to join our friends at BABE for the greatest breastfeeding party anywhere!

The NYS Department of Health released data that showed that the state WIC Program has met its breastfeeding initiation goals six years ahead of schedule. Breastfeeding initiation increased from 62 percent in 2002 to 82.4 percent in 2014, surpassing, according to the Department, the federal Healthy People 2020 goal of 81.9 percent. The increased prevalence of breastfeeding initiation was especially pronounced among Hispanic women who reached the HP2020 goal in 2007 and have continued to improve each year since. Asians, who historically have shown lower rates of breastfeeding, have shown the greatest improvement, with only 45.8 percent initiating breastfeeding in 2002 and 82.7 percent in 2015 – an amazing accomplishment! Exclusive breastfeeding was not monitored until 2006 but is also showing a steady increase. We are very proud of the role the WIC Program has played in this outstanding accomplishment. Kudos to one and all!

Another accomplishment that many in the breastfeeding community fought for was the passage of the Paid Family Leave Act. This bill, which takes effect in 2018, provides for 8 weeks of paid leave in 2018, rising to 12 weeks by 2021. In the first year of implementation, the employee will receive 50% of the statewide average weekly wage, rising to 67% by 2021. The leave can be used by either parent, in the case of a new child, and can also be used to care for a loved one with a serious health condition or to help relieve family pressures when someone is called to active military service. Limitations of the bill are that at this time it covers only private employees who are not part of a collective bargaining unit but it can be agreed that this is an excellent start! The NYC Breastfeeding Leadership Council is particularly proud of the work that our own Vice-Chair, Dr. Susan Vierzchalek, put into this campaign.

This year also saw the number of Baby Friendly USA-designated hospitals in New York City increase with the addition of Jamaica Hospital, Long Island Jewish Forest Hills, Montefiore Hospital (both the Jack D. Weiler Hospital and the Wakefield Hospital), and Woodhull Hospital. This brings to 15 the number of Baby Friendly-designated hospitals in New York City. It takes tremendous dedication and a lot of hard work to both attain and maintain Baby Friendly status so congratulations to everyone who worked in their institutions to make this happen!

Last, we would be remiss not to mention the challenges that the breastfeeding community is facing with the debate over the future of healthcare in this country. Defunding of Planned Parenthood, cutting back Medicaid funding, and dropping the requirement for required services (most notably prenatal care and maternity care) have all been suggested as part of the discussion in both the House and the Senate. For now it looks like any version of “repeal, replace” is off the table but that does not mean the fight for affordable healthcare coverage is over.

It would be easy to walk away from this seemingly endless debate but we all know that that is not in the best interests of the women, children, and families we serve. Stay engaged – follow the news, stay or become active in your local breastfeeding network, sign up for your representatives’ newsletters on the local, state, and federal levels and speak up! Your opinion matters!

Theresa Landau