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Nurture is thrilled to announce that we have received a Healthy Communities Action Team grant from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth to support the continued work of #RVAbreastfeeds, our lactation advocacy arm. The centerpiece of this initiative will be a convening of community partners, similar in scope to the 2011 Mayor’s Breastfeeding Commission in order to build stronger relationships, harvest collective wisdom, and develop actionable steps to better support human milk feeding in the Greater Richmond region. This three-year, $93,000 grant will begin July 1, 2023.

“This is legacy work,” says Leslie Lytle, Nurture’s Executive Director and the Coordinator of #RVAbreastfeeds.”This year marks ten years since the Mayor’s Breastfeeding Commission presented its recommendations in 2013. “#RVAbreastfeeds built on those recommendations to conduct groundbreaking initiatives, including hosting three RVA Breastfeeding Symposia, developing multiple public awareness campaigns that have received national attention, and providing training for community members in a Black-led lactation support curriculum.  At the 10 year mark, and in the aftermath of a global pandemic and a formula shortage that highlight the lack of support for pregnant and postpartum families, the time seems ripe to develop a shared vision for supporting human milk feeding over the next decade.”

Since 2013, #RVAbreastfeeds has developed an extensive network of relationships and a reputation for developing creative initiatives that highlight the significant role human milk feeding plays in the development of healthy, thriving communities.Partners for the upcoming grant cycle include the VCU School of Medicine, the City of Richmond Office of Children and Families, Family Lifeline, Birth in Color RVA, Coming Home In-Home Lactation and Family Consultation, The Diverse Doula, Bon Secours Richmond#757Breastfeeds, long time partners Richmond City WIC and Richmond and Henrico Health Departments (formerly Richmond City Health District), and community members Gabrielle Wade and Toccara Wilson. Nikiya Ellis of the Diverse Doula and Leslie Lytle of Nurture will lead a planning team that will guide a series of meetings in 2023 – 2024 utilizing World Café Design Principles, a methodology for uncovering the collective wisdom of a community through conversations that matter.

A second major component will be a public awareness event tentatively titled “Birth, Breastfeeding, and Baseball | A Night at the Diamond for Expecting and New Families and Their Providers” schedule to take place on August 9th, 2023. This event will build on the previous success of “Knock One Out of the Park for Breastfeeding,” a collaborative effort that shared information about human milk feeding with over 5000 baseball fans at a Richmond Flying Squirrels game in 2022.

Although human milk is universally recommended as the best first food for infants, and chest/breastfeeding has significant life-long health benefits for both lactating parents and their babies, only 25.8% of babies in Virginia reach the medically recommended milestone of 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, and there are significant disparities in breastfeeding initiation and duration rates due to systemic racism. It’s been estimated that if 90% of US mothers could achieve optimal breastfeeding, we could prevent 2619 premature maternal deaths and 721 child deaths, and save $17.4 billion in maternal health costs and $13 billion in child health costs each year. Barriers to successful lactation are significant and include lack of paid family leave, lack of workplace support, cultural norms, insufficient education of care providers, lack of culturally relevant lactation support, and aggressive advertising of formula. Further information about the importance of human milk feeding and ways to support it can be found here.

If you are interested in becoming a part of this initiative, please email info@nurtureRVA.org. You will be added to the #RVAbreastfeeds mailing list to keep you in the loop as we begin planning for this ambitious effort.



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