Event Recap: USBC Membership Meeting

Event Recap: USBC Membership Meeting

Wednesday, 6/19/2019

Our Education and Enrichment Manager, Amanda Alvarez, traveled to Bethesda, Maryland last week to attend the USBC’s Membership Meeting and Coalitions Convening. She shares her experience in the post below.

Our mission, since 2004, has been to provide donor human milk to the most fragile babies in our community. And thanks largely to our amazing donors we are wildly successful in that mission. We literally could not do the work we do without the families who so generously share their milk.

Our partnership with the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) is another reason we are so successful. Coalition work is centered around developing policies and practices that support breastfeeding. USBC brings together maternal health professionals, HMBANA milk banks, nonprofit partners, businesses, community organizations, government agencies, and other stakeholders to identify and address the needs of breastfeeding families. Working with USBC means we all have a seat at the table when it comes to shaping national breastfeeding policies and practices. How cool is that?

I had the honor of attending the USBC’s Membership Meeting and 9th Annual Coalitions Convening in Bethesda, Maryland last week. The meeting theme was “Taking Equity from Theory to Practice: Advancing Inclusive and Collaborative Breastfeeding Support.” For several years now, USBC members have worked deliberately to shift the conversation surrounding equity in lactation education, support, and care. We recognize that the families with the lowest breastfeeding rates also struggle to access quality prenatal and postpartum healthcare, community breastfeeding support, clinical lactation care, mental health resources, paid family leave, and affordable childcare… the list goes on and on.

At this year’s meeting, we heard from the individuals and coalitions putting our equity research and planning into practice. The meeting featured USBC’s Tribal Trailblazer and Cultural Changemaker awardees. These individuals and coalitions are working from inside their own communities to bring about change. MMBNT mirrors this effort through our engagement of community hospitals, milk depots, WIC clinics, and regional/state breastfeeding coalitions.

In one session, USBC took a look at milk banks’ role in breastfeeding equity. We explored data on the use and donation of human milk in the African American community. African American babies experience the highest rates of preterm birth, NICU admission, and death within the first year of life. Yet, they are statistically the least likely to be born in a hospital that uses life-saving donor human milk.

The good news is that MMBNT is doing relatively well helping underserved families access donor human milk.We work closely with Medicaid and safety net hospitals to provide donor human milk to NICUs. We also provide milk to babies outside the hospital through insurance, Medicaid, and a sliding fee scale. In fact, we gave away more than $400,000 in charitable care funds for donor human milk last year alone.

Another strategy we’re using to improve access to donor milk and lactation care is our Education and Enrichment program. Through this program, MMBNT is offering free lactation support and education in North Texas. Later this summer, we will be using the Baby Cafe model to hold weekly support groups in Dallas and Fort Worth. MMBNT will also host prenatal and pumping classes in our Fort Worth office. Removing barriers like cost, scheduling, and location helps more families reach their breastfeeding goals.

Of course, we still have work to do. If you would like to join MMBNT in exploring how we can improve equitable access to using or donating human milk, please let us know.

Five women at a conference
Amanda (second from left) with other members of TXBC, the Texas State Breastfeeding Coalition.
Group of women at a conference
Representatives from HMBANA and many member milk banks gathered at the meeting.