“Denver, CO: This morning, National WIC Association (NWA) Board of Directors Chair, Donna Bister, announced during NWA’s 2016 Nutrition Education & Breastfeeding Promotion Conference the Association is ending its relationships with infant formula manufacturers, putting into effect a resolution passed in May 2015 and reaffirmed in May 2016 by voting members of the Association. Effective immediately, NWA will no longer invite infant formula manufacturers to be members, exhibitors at conferences, advertisers or sponsors of events and activities. This resolution falls in line with NWA’s goal of supporting WIC as the nation’s Go-to-Breastfeeding Program and follows a series of actions including advocating for increased funding for breastfeeding support and counseling, promoting the involvement of IBCLCs at the state and local level as active breastfeeding team players, encouraging local agencies to adopt the NWA Six Steps to Achieve Breastfeeding Goals for WIC Clinics, and building partnerships with other public health organizations and the USDA to encourage and support breastfeeding. The National WIC Association is the education arm and advocacy voice of the nation’s 12,200 WIC public health service provider agencies and the 8 million WIC mothers and young children.”
This is encouraging news in the effort to normalize breastfeeding here in the United States. Only 2 years ago, just after beginning this photography project, I had my own photograph captured by my WIC Nutritionist for exclusively breastfeeding my youngest son for 6 months. The photograph was printed, framed and hung on the wall at my local WIC office! It was a very different experience than it was with my previous children; exclusively pumping for 8 weeks with my first and supplementing with formula with my second. It was confirmation to me that the National WIC Association was paying attention; to the statistics and to the real solutions that can help every mother reach her breastfeeding goals.
Over the last few years the USDA has increased their support for breastfeeding through the Loving Support Program. By implementing more support including the breastfeeding Peer Counselor program, more moms can find the help they need and deserve to breastfeed exclusively and for a longer period of time. This additional support nationwide will also help to increase breastfeeding rates across the country. When most moms talk about not reaching their breastfeeding goals it is usually due to the lack of support, guidance, and/or education available to them at that time. This decision will help promote breastfeeding and also support mothers simultaneously connects resources to families at lower incomes who often lack the educational information they need to be successful. In light of the mothers who have medical necessity, cannot produce or baby is unable to breastfeed or even just mothers who have chosen to formula feed: THIS IS NOT an attack on you or choice not to breastfeed. The association is clear in their press release when they state that they, “will no longer invite infant formula manufacturers to be members, exhibitors at conferences, advertisers or sponsors of events and activities.” Every parent has the right to choose how to feed their child, but not every parent chooses based on real up-to-date education. The more we know, our perspectives change too. This decision will decrease the interaction between infant formula manufacturers and the WIC staff. However, NWA cannot withhold formula from families who need it because NWA and WIC are two separate entities. This decision does not affect the support that will continue to be provided for formula feeding families. The NWA provides education and advocacy for the WIC program.
In July, I was contacted by the National WIC Association to collaborate on a project for the NWA’s 2016 Nutrition Education & Breastfeeding Promotion Conference. The goal of the project directly reinforced the focus my mission: to display diverse variations of normal breastfeeding.
These five images above were selected by NWA to be full size vertical banners at the conference. An additional 12 images were selected to be used for further promotions in print and on the NWA website. It was definitely a proud moment when NWA tweeted their displays in conference halls and even up on the stage, this past Thursday.
The most influential aspect of this decision is that the association has aligned themselves with the WHO Code, choosing to protect mothers and babies from the predatory marketing efforts of formula companies. When they approached me about working together I was reluctant because I was unaware of their stance on the WHO Code. However, they assured me that their company was in fact in full support of the code. View the NWA Statement supporting the WHO Code.
As a new member of the C.A.R.E. Code Alliance, I feel confident that more and more companies will realize the ways that the WHO Code supports ALL mothers in their infant feeding journey and take a stand for the code in their companies as well!
Well done NWA, well done!
If you have questions or concerns about this announcement, read what this means on the NWA website.
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