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 Episode 95 WIC and NWA changes

There was a big announcement made in the last few days.
This affects many mothers and children. I believe the decision I am going to talk about is in the best interest of mothers and children
and yet there is controversy surrounding it. I find that what is usually lying beneath controversy is FEAR.

So, let’s get into it. What was this announcement anyway

Have you heard of the WIC program. It stands for Womans, Infants and Children.
healthcare referrals for income-eligible women who are pregnant or post-partum, infants, and children up to age 5.

It is a federal public health nutrition program administered by the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA), The National WIC Association (NWA) is a non-profit membership association that advocates for WIC and provides education and training to WIC staff. NWA does not create WIC policy or have oversight of WIC. NWA recently had a Nutrition Education and Breastfeeding Promotion Conference here they made a pretty big announcement.

The Board of Directors Chair, Donna Bister said that NWA is ending its relationships with infant formula manufacturers. What exactly does this mean? What NWA is saying is that this association which does not create WIC policy or have oversight of WIC, is ending its relationship with infant formula manufacturers. The NWA is the education arm and advocacy voice of the nations’s 12,200 WIC public health service provider agencies and the 8 million WIC mothers and young children. They will no longer be allowed to be members of NWA or exhibit at their conferences, be advertisers or sponsors of their events and activities.

This resolution falls in line with NWAs 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.

NWA and WIC are two separate agencies and NWA cannot withhold formula from families who need it. This decision to end their relationship with infant formula manufacturers has nothing to do with WIC being able to supply mothers who want or need formula. And yet, some people are going crazy over this announcement.

For those of us in the Breastfeeding Promotion and Advocacy world, this is a step closer to what we need to see happen, and yet the wheels of change take ever so long. The steps originally taken to prohibit infant formula manufactures from exhibiting, promoting and sponsoring their conference began as far back as 2004 and we are no in 2016 making this announcement that the ties have now been formally severed.

Some people wonder why the NWA has made this decision. Why is NWA no longer having an open invitation for infant formula manufactures to advertise their product at conferences. In 2010 the NWA released their Breastfeeding Strategic Plan, which included four goals:

• Promote and Support exclusive breastfeeding for all WIC mothers.
• All WIC Staff are knowledgeable and/or skilled in breastfeeding promotion and support.
• WIC is recognized as a community resource for breastfeeding promotion and support.
• Federal/State/Local policies and procedures that protect, support and promote breastfeeding are developed and implemented.

The organization continues to take important steps to help make WIC the Nation’s Go-To Breastfeeding Program, which by the way, use to be called – The Go-To-Formula Program.
I am only going to be touching on some of the objectives and goals and mission of the NWA.
In the show notes, I will provide a link to the articles where you can read in greater detail the Why and the How NWA is accomplishing these goals.

They have good reasons to have made this decision and I would like to highlight a few points.

Breastfeeding is a cost-effective, preventive measure that reduces infant illness and death, supports optimal growth and development and reduces the risk of several short and long-term health problems for infants and mothers.
• “Breastfeeding and human milk are the normative standards for infant feeding and nutrition. Given the documented short and long-term medical and neurodevelopmental advantages of breastfeeding, infant nutrition should be considered a public health issue and not only a lifestyle choice.”
• Global, national, and multiple maternal child health organizations and institutions including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Surgeon General, and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) promote breastfeeding as the optimal and normal method of infant feeding.
• Participation in the WIC breastfeeding peer counseling program is associated with an increased rate of breastfeeding initiation.
• Women who attend WIC breastfeeding support groups are twice as likely to plan to breastfeed as those who do not.
• Infant formula manufacturers have pursued the development of boutique products to compete with breastmilk and pursued marketing initiatives that strategically counter efforts by WIC and the breastfeeding community to promote breastfeeding as the best form of infant feeding.
• NWA recognizes that this action is not without some controversy. As I expected, there is quite a bit of backlash. Many are worried that they will be cut off from getting free formula from WIC.
• I don’t understand why as this decision clearly does not
• make or change policy for the WIC program.
• change WIC food packages. Mothers who need infant formula can still receive formula through the WIC program.
• prevent infant formula manufacturers from advertising to moms and families.

This decision does:
• ban infant formula manufacturers from financially supporting NWA.
• bar infant formula manufactuers from exhibiting at NWA conferences.
• dissolve all other relationships NWA has with infant formula manufacturers.

We do know that 85% of mothers in the US start off breastfeeding their babies. They have said, this is how they want to feed their babies.
Within a few weeks, that number drops significantly, almost half of mothers 2 weeks later are not exclsively breastfeeding their babies anymore.
some have switched to all formula.
some are exclusively pumping.
some are giving their babies a combination of breastmilk and formula.

We know from interviewing mothers, why this happens.
The biggest initial barriers mothers face are a lack of breastfeeding help and support.
Most mothers need some degree of education about early breastfeeding, help with positioning and latch. They need other people in their life to help take care of them and their baby. Mothers need advocates and assistance if they are struggling with supply or pain or sleepy feeders.

When the pain is too much, the supply is too low, the baby is not gaining well, if these issues are not fixed quickly, this puts a huge strain on the new mother and causes her to change how she feeds her baby.

What mothers are telling us is they need more help. They need greater access to IBCLCs who can assist them when breastfeeding is difficult.
Mothers who are in the WIC program, find themselves getting mixed messages if there are not enough staff there to offer the right guidance and
breastfeeding help. The NWA is working hard to use their funds to bring in more breastfeeding expertise to the WIC programs.

I have always found it quite ironic that NWA makes money from the formula companies.
They make money from paid advertisements and conference contracts and sponsorships.

I mean, just think about it, how can you accept money for your organizations events and and at the same time have your mission statements and employees working towards providing more breastfeeding education and programs. Does not make sense to me? Does it to you?

So, WIC is still going to be buying formula. They are still going to give it out for free?
So, where is this controversy coming from? Why do some feel threatened by this recent turn of events?

A large part of the controversy comes from people not reading this announcement correctly.
People sometimes see something and they have this fight or flight response and their brain just shuts down. People’s negative reaction typically comes from the people who will be using the formula themselves or have concerns about others who might need to feed their babies formula.

What they read from this announcement is that WIC is no longer going to give free formula to their clients. There is nothing here that says that, at all.

There are a lot of knee jerk reactions with people posting their concerns.

I see this is a very positive turn of events. We know that one of the biggest barriers to the 85% of mothers who say they want to breastfeed, is the lack of education and support they get, Well, now I see NWA stepping up their efforts and further targeting their energy working towards their strategic plan to accomplish the following goals:

• Promote and Support exclusive breastfeeding for all WIC mothers.
• All WIC Staff are knowledgeable and/or skilled in breastfeeding promotion and support.
• WIC is recognized as a community resource for breastfeeding promotion and support.
• Federal/State/Local policies and procedures that protect, support and promote breastfeeding are developed and implemented.

Is this declaration on NWAs part going to change the BF rates overnight? No, of course not.
All of these changes seem little at the time, but implementing them one mom and baby at a time,
one WIC office at a time, one community at a time… and we will soon be seeing the positive changes. Five years from now, my hope is that the BF initiation rates grows along with the number of babies EBF at 3 months and 6 months of age.

For me, I like to go about my life with my glass half full, always optimistic and expecting things to just work

I would love to hear what you have to say about this. You can leave a 90 second voicemail on the allaboutbreastfeeding.biz page. You will see the pink voicemail button the right side of the page. Go ahead. Use it. Send me a voicemail. I pay for it every month. It doesn’t get used much and I would like to feel like I am getting my moneys’ worth Who knows….. I might even play your message on the air.

One last note – Our Facebook group is growing. I have to say it is quite exciting for me to see some of the members that have joined. Erin – nice to see you in the group. I love that I met you so early on and there was so much you did not know about breastfeeding and now you have such an internal wisdom about motherhood and breastfeeding. Vanessa – I am real excited to see you in the group too. I was reminded of how hard you worked to provide work for your first baby and what a different experience you had with your second. It is nice to be able to have different stories to share with each other. Lets everyone know they are not alone and just because you have a difficult time with one baby does not mean history has to repeat itself. And Jenny… ahhh, breastfeeding your twins! Yes, you did work hard for this too. I love the last picture you posted. I love all the pictures everyone has posted recently. We are having a nice thread about toddler nursing. Please join us – Search for the four words: All About breastfeeding community and click on Join. See ya in the group.

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