Dear President-Elect Obama:
There is virtually universal agreement among health care experts that, with rare exceptions, breastfeeding is the optimal method of feeding all infants, sick as well as healthy, preterm as well as full term. In addition to the myriad health benefits provided to mother and infant, breastfeeding provides significant economic and environmental benefits for families, employers, and society by reducing health care expenses, eliminating the need to purchase expensive formula, and reducing absenteeism from work to care for sick infants. Excess health care costs totaling more than $4 billion must be paid by the U.S. health care system each year to treat otitis media, gastroenteritis, and necrotizing enterocolitis--childhood diseases and conditions preventable or reduced by breastfeeding. When prevention of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic conditions is factored in, the potential economic benefits of breastfeeding are significantly greater.
Given all of these benefits, the United States Breastfeeding Committee joins the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in recommending that infants be exclusively breastfed for six months, and continue to breastfeed for the first year of life and as long afterward as mutually desired by the mother and infant. Yet only a handful of states are currently meeting the federal government’s own Healthy People 2010 breastfeeding targets. Additionally, significant disparities in breastfeeding continue to exist, with non-Hispanic black and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups experiencing lower breastfeeding rates.
Obviously, more needs to be done to ensure the achievement of our national breastfeeding goals and to create an environment where women and their families can be successful in achieving their personal breastfeeding goals. You have the power to take immediate and concrete action to improve the Nation’s health by protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding. We urge you to use your position of leadership and power to set the tone in the federal government to place a high priority on breastfeeding as an essential public health issue.Please take the following actions to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding, the foundation of lifelong health:
1. Instruct the Surgeon General to issue a statement in support of breastfeeding urging all sectors (governmental and non-governmental) involved in supporting women, children, and families to improve their breastfeeding policies.
2. Enact a national paid family leave policy.
3. Endorse the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes as well as the Global Strategy for Infant & Young Child Feeding.
4. Ask the Federal Trade Commission to monitor infant formula marketing.
5. Ask the Food and Drug Administration to include labeling on powdered infant formula warning that it is not sterile and providing instructions on how to properly reconstitute it.
6. Highlight the benefits for employers of workplace breastfeeding support programs as part of your program to promote flexible work arrangements.
7. Urge all insurers to cover lactation care and support services.
8. Approve an increase in breastfeeding support funds for the USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), especially to support the peer counseling program.
9. Instruct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to recommend that all hospitals achieve the Baby-Friendly designation.
10. Ensure that emergency management agencies are trained in breastfeeding support and have breastfeeding supply kits available for distribution in emergencies.