View the list of current signers at the bottom of this page.
Watch Our Video and Sign Our Call to Action Below
*A Note on Our Language
Not all people who give birth identify as female, not all lactating parents feed at the breast or chest, and parents who don’t lactate (for example, non-biological parents) may wish to feed their children human milk. Throughout this call to action you will see terms like “breast/chestfeeding” or “human milk feeding” that acknowledge the diversity present in our families. When citing research, we have referenced the language used in the original article. For more information on inclusive language in perinatal health settings see this article.
A Call to Action for Shared Responsibility *
To The Greater Richmond Community,
All mammals make milk that is specifically suited for their babies. Human beings are no exception: a baby and its birth parent form an intricate, delicate, and responsive ecosystem. Human milk has anti-infectious and anti-inflammatory agents and growth factors; its composition changes in response to the baby’s stage of development and exposure to pathogens. Breast/chestfed babies have better outcomes, including lower risks of diarrhea and vomiting, respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), eczema, asthma, obesity, leukemia, and Type 2 diabetes.1 2 Parents who breast or chestfeed experience less postpartum depression and anxiety, and a lowered lifetime risk of heart disease, breast and ovarian cancer, and Type 2 diabetes.3 4 Human milk is universally recommended as the best first food for babies, and feeding at the breast or chest triggers physiological and hormonal mechanisms that in turn influence the physical and social-emotional health of both baby and parent.5
When human milk feeding is not supported, there are significant societal costs. An estimated 2,619 premature maternal deaths and 721 child deaths could be prevented annually if 90% of U.S. birthing parents could achieve optimal breastfeeding. Additionally, $17.4 billion in maternal health costs, and $13 billion in child health costs could be saved each year.6 7 8 Feeding human milk to human babies results in healthier, more resilient families, fewer work days lost to illness, and less environmental waste.9 It also helps to diminish the societal burden of disease, especially for Black and Brown communities, which experience higher than average infant and maternal mortality rates and chronic illnesses due to the impacts of systemic and institutional racism.10
Yet in the United States, a majority of birthing parents struggle to meet their own breastfeeding goals, let alone the medically recommended milestone of six months of exclusive breastfeeding followed by continued breastfeeding for at least one year or as long as parent and baby desire.11 In Virginia, only 30.4% of babies are exclusively breastfed at six months, and only 43.3% reach the one year mark.12 Barriers to breast/chestfeeding include unsupportive cultural norms, lack of family support, lack of paid family leave, lack of workplace support, lack of culturally relevant lactation support, and insufficient education of care providers.13 14
World Breastfeeding Week is a global awareness initiative galvanizing action for breast/chestfeeding support that takes place each year from August 1-7. This year’s theme is Protecting Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility. As organizations committed to improving the health and wellbeing of babies and birthing parents in Richmond, Birth in Color RVA, Nurture, and Urban Baby Beginnings could not agree more.
Each of us can play a role in creating a community where our children have the best possible start in life. We are calling on individuals, health care providers, community organizations, businesses, and policy makers in Richmond, Virginia to commit to building a community in which every baby has the opportunity to receive human milk, every parent has access to up to date, evidence-based, and culturally and linguistically appropriate lactation information and support, and where our city recognizes the deep value of human milk feeding as fundamental to individual and community health.
Here are some ways to share the responsibility:
- As partners, family members, and neighbors, we can encourage new parents to breast or chestfeed, help with housework, take them a meal, or care for older children so the breast/chestfeeding dyad can get some rest.
- As community members, we can educate ourselves about breast and chestfeeding. We can support nonprofit organizations providing culturally appropriate and representational lactation support in the community, as well as non-profit milk banks providing human milk for medically fragile babies and babies whose parents can’t breast/chestfeed.
- As community service organizations, we can normalize breast/chestfeeding and provide necessary resources for new families.
- As health care providers, we can see to it that our lactation support practices are culturally appropriate, evidence based, and readily accessible.
- As health care systems, we can ensure that our hospitals are Baby Friendly or have achieved the highest level of The Virginia Maternity Center Breastfeeding-Friendly Designation.
- As employers, we can implement lactation friendly practices, such as lactation rooms, extra break time for lactating parents, flexible work hours, onsite day care, and paid parental leave.
- As businesses and public venues, we can provide designated lactation spaces, train staff on lactation friendly practices, and post signage indicating support for lactating parents.
- As educators, we can work to ensure that our educational systems, including childcare, K-12, colleges, and universities are encouraged to include breast/chestfeeding curricula at every level.
- As policy makers, we can advocate for policies that support breast/chestfeeding, including paid family leave and reimbursement for lactation support providers operating at the community level.
- As municipalities, we can ensure that infant feeding is included in our emergency and disaster preparedness planning and protocols.
Our children’s health is our most precious resource, and our most important legacy. Approximately 15,000 babies are born in the Greater Richmond area each year. Sharing the responsibility of supporting access to human milk for our newest families is a way of putting foundational immunity into the community.
Our vision for Richmond, and for Virginia, is that we will be known as a community where all babies and their parents have the best possible start in life.
We invite you to join us in making that vision a reality.
Executive Director, Nurture
Executive Director, Urban Baby Beginnings
Co-Directors, Birth in Color RVA
- Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. American Academy of Pediatrics (2012). Pediatrics; 129(3): e827-e841.
- Harder, T, Bergmann, R, Kallischnigg, G, Plagemann, A. Duration of breastfeeding and risk of overweight: a meta-analysis. American Journal of Epidemiology, September 2015. 162(5): 397-403.
- Kendall-Tackett, K. A new paradigm for depression in new mothers: the central role of inflammation and how breastfeeding and anti-inflammatory treatments protect maternal mental health. International Breastfeeding Journal, 2007. Accessed July 12, 2021 at https://internationalbreastfeedingjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1746-4358-2-6.
- Breastfeeding: Why It Matters: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention webpage. Accessed July 12, 2021 at https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/about-breastfeeding/why-it-matters.html
- Krol, K and Grossmann, T. Psychological Effects of Breastfeeding on Children and Mothers. Bundesgesundheitsblatt Gesundheitsforschung Gesundheitsschutz. 2018; 61(8): 977–985. Accessed July 12, 2021 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6096620/.
- Bartick, et.al. Suboptimal breastfeeding in the United States: Maternal and pediatric health outcomes and costs. Maternal and Child Nutrition, September 2016.
- Bartick, et.al. Cost Analysis of Maternal Disease Associated with suboptimal breastfeeding. Obstetrics & Gynecology, July, 2013.
- Bartick and Reinhold. The burden of suboptimal breastfeeding in the United States: a pediatric cost analysis. Pediatrics, May 2010.
- Formula for Disaster: Weighing the Impact of Formula Feeding vs. Breastfeeding on Environment. Accessed July 12, 2021 at http://www.gifa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/FormulaForDisaster.pdf.
- Removing Barriers to Breastfeeding: A Structural Race Analysis of First Food (2015). Accessed on July 12, 2021 at https://www.raceforward.org/research/report/removing-barriers-to-breastfeeding-a-structural-race-analysis-of-first-food.
- Odom EC, Li R, Scanlon KS, Perrine CG, Grummer-Strawn L. Reasons for Earlier than Desired Cessation of Breastfeeding. Pediatrics. 2013; 131(3):e726–732. Accessed July 12, 2021 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23420922.
- Breastfeeding Report Card, United States 2020, accessed on July 12,2021 at https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/pdf/2020-Breastfeeding-Report-Card-H.pdf.
- Lerner, S. The Real War on Families: Why the U.S. Needs Paid Leave Now. In These Times, August 18, 2015. Accessed July 12, 2021 at http://inthesetimes.com/article/18151/the-real-war-on-families.
- Sriraman N, Kellams A. Breastfeeding: What are the Barriers? Why Women Struggle to Achieve Their Goals. Journal of Women’s Health, July 2016. Accessed July 12, 2021 at https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/jwh.2014.5059.
Co-Signers as of August 25.
Delegate Jeff Bourne
Dr. Rachel Love
Senator Jennifer McClellan
Jasmine Somerville Cox
Diana Thompson Vincelli
Kathleen M. White
Businesses & Organizations
A Brighter Birth
Allison Patel Photography
Birth in Color RVA
Bon Secours Richmond Health System
Breastfeeding Family Friendly Communities
City of Richmond
City of Richmond Office of Children & Families
Erica the Doula
Henrico Health Districts
Healing Circle Counseling and Services LLC
Heaps of Love LLC
Memorial Regional Medical Center
Office of Multicultural Affairs
Richmond Birth and Baby, LLC
Richmond Health Districts
Richmond City Health District – WIC
RVA Home Birth
Smart Beginnings Greater Richmond
Southside Medical Center
St. Francis Medical Center
St. Mary’s Hospital
Tracey Wingold, LCSW, LLC
Urban Baby Beginnings
VCU Institute for Women’s Health
Virginia Breastfeeding Advisory Committee
Virginia Breastfeeding Coalition
Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation
Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth
Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association
Virginia House of Delegates, 69th district
Virginia Neonatal Perinatal Collaborative