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Michigan Breastfeeding Network

The Michigan Breastfeeding Network is a volunteer organization of health care professionals seeking to connect all of the various programs surrounding breastfeeding education and advocacy throughout Michigan, assisting women in finding programs in their area, and serving as a clearinghouse for breastfeeding information and support.
Michigan Nightlight: In your view, what makes your organization innovative, effective or remarkable? 
Michigan Breastfeeding Network Chair Alicia Christensen: As a society, more and more women are showing interest in breastfeeding. While we don’t seek to change anyone’s mind about their individual choice, we want to ensure that from that moment of intention, women who do choose to breastfeed are supported. As of right now, we’re an all-volunteer organization, but we recently received a Kellogg grant that will enable us to become that much more effective going forward. The financial resources will enable us to develop a strategic business plan for statewide advocacy of breastfeeding.
Low breastfeeding rates are linked with high obesity and chronic disease, and Michigan had one of the poorest scores in the country.

What was the best lesson learned in the past year?
In regards to the Kellogg grant, I would say the best lesson is that with a good consultant, much can happen. All of the volunteers on the steering committee are health care professionals and lactation consultants, not businesspeople; we don’t have the experience to create a plan from a business or organizational perspective. With the grant money, we were able to hire McAlpine Consulting [a company that develops growth plans for nonprofits] to come up with a strategy to take us forward.
What was the hardest lesson learned in the past year?
Every year, the CDC [Centers for Disease Control & Prevention] issues a Breastfeeding Report Card, which measures breastfeeding rates for each state. Low breastfeeding rates are linked with high obesity and chronic disease, and Michigan had one of the poorest scores in the country. Fortunately, NICHQ [National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality] was provided a large sum of money by the CDC to promote “baby friendly hospitals,” and nine hospitals in Michigan were selected to receive funding for NICHQ’s Best Fed Beginnings program to increase breastfeeding rates here in the state.
What really differentiates this program?
Our organization is called upon to be a content expert and to provide advocacy at the state level. We are the “go-to” group for information on anything related to breastfeeding -- the handling and storage of breast milk, how to get the cost of a breast pump reimbursed, education of child care providers and health care professionals, workplace policies surrounding breastfeeding, and more.
What are the keys to success for your program?
Stanford released a paper last year about collective impact in the social sector, with five components that are necessary for
Many immigrants perceive bottle-feeding as the norm in America, even though it might not be the norm in their own countries and cultures.
success: a common agenda, shared measurement systems to measure success, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication between groups, and a backbone support organization. These elements will be crucial in bringing together the state’s various breastfeeding support programs.
How do disparities in breastfeeding that have persisted by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic characteristics, and geography affect the work you are doing?
There’s a real lack of awareness and promotion of breastfeeding by communities, health care systems, society, and the media. Many immigrants perceive bottle-feeding as the norm in America, even though it might not be the norm in their own countries and cultures. They hear about breastfeeding women being asked to leave public places, and that story gets spun out of proportion. We see an opportunity to collaborate and connect with women who wish to breastfeed, so that we can be a voice for them.
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  • Michigan Breastfeeding Network
    The Michigan Breastfeeding Network recognizes human milk as the norm for infant feeding. Our mission is to promote, protect and support breastfeeding as a vital part of the health and development of children, their families, and the community. We ...


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