Last week a group of breastfeeding parents and advocates gathered for a photo shoot at the Diamond, where our #RVAbreastfeeds team will be tabling National Breastfeeding Month at the August 19th Richmond Flying Squirrels game. These gatherings are always full of laughter, hope, and celebration – breastfeeding parents and advocates are a passionate bunch, because we know how central human milk feeding is to the health of our families, our communities, and our planet.
As we waited for the photographer I commented to a colleague that though I was thrilled to participate in this event, I was also sad that it was necessary: human milk feeding supports are still so poor in the 21st century that only 25.6% of US infants reach the universally recommended milestone of 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, and there are significant disparities in breastfeeding initiation and duration rates. If our vaccination efforts yielded results like that, we’d consider them a failure.
My colleague reminded me that we have indeed been making progress. The waves we are making may be small, but their force is accumulating over time.
Fostering a breast/chestfeeding friendly community is an enormous undertaking that involves the aligned effort of multiple organizations and individuals, measured in decades. Our advocacy work has its roots in Mayor Dwight D. Jones’ 2011 Breastfeeding Commission, which brought together a wide coalition of stakeholders under the guidance of former Richmond Healthy Start Initiative Director Rose Stith-Singleton. Over the course of a year, we explored how to make Richmond more supportive of human milk feeding, with particular attention to historically excluded communities, then presented our final recommendations to the Mayor in 2013. #RVAbreastfeeds work grew directly out of this effort.
Over the past 10 years, we have created advocacy campaigns during National Breastfeeding Month and hosted educational events that encouraged cross-sector partnerships. We watched as public support for breastfeeding increased, and policy followed. Legislation passed in 2015 that protects birthing parents’ right to breastfeed in public, and the Virginia Pregnant Workers Fairness Act went into effect in 2020. We are grateful to the many champions whose tireless efforts have brought us to this point. This is intergenerational work.
Click the thumbnails below for scenes from #RVAbreastfeeds’ past activities to support human milk feeding, and watch how our waves are growing. Then join the wave at the Diamond on August 19th and help “Knock one out of the park for breastfeeding!”
Every ticket purchased contributes $4 toward our human milk feeding advocacy efforts. Thank you so much for your support!