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Alice Christensen


Michigan Breastfeeding Network

Grand Rapids, Michigan
Alice Christensen, a nurse, has chaired the Michigan Breastfeeding Network as a volunteer since 2009. She recently wrote a grant proposal and was awarded a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to transition the network from an all-volunteer organization into a more structured and formalized nonprofit.
Michigan Nightlight: What does being a leader mean to you?
Michigan Breastfeeding Network Chair Alice Christensen: A leader is someone who looks at the big picture and asks the question, “What if?” A leader is also someone who encourages and engages others to be a part of the process and to collaborate…. I believe in the adage that “it takes a village” to make a bigger impact.
What is your dream for kids?
I want kids to be encouraged to have their own dreams, and to grow up in a loving environment in which those dreams are supported. I would also love kids to grow up in a culture in which they see breastfeeding as the normal way to feed an infant.
I would also love kids to grow up in a culture in which they see breastfeeding as the normal way to feed an infant.

What is one concrete thing that could be done to improve the environment for social sector work in Michigan?
I would point to Stanford’s study on collective impact. We need a common agenda, shared measurement systems, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and backbone support. That’s how we’re going to make societal changes around breastfeeding and other social issues in Michigan.
How do you know you’re making progress?
I look at progress from two standpoints: that of increased breastfeeding and health outcomes, and Michigan Breastfeeding Network’s annual progress as an organization. For the former, I see progress in the increase of designated “baby friendly hospitals” [hospitals recognized by UNICEF & the World Health Organization as providing a high level of care and education for breastfeeding mothers and their babies]. For the latter, we’ll make progress through strategic planning, structures for sustainability, an increase in local coalitions, and an increased role in advocacy for different projects throughout the state.
With networks, we have a greater ability to have an impact when many people are working on a common goal.
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of successfully writing and obtaining the Kellogg grant so that we can move the organization forward, and I’m proud that we’re the go-to organization in the state for advocacy and support of breastfeeding.
What role have networks played in your professional career? How have those networks, both business and personal, affected the work you are able to do?
I’m a nurse, so my role has always been to teach, support, and promote healthy behaviors. From that perspective, I approach problems in the manner of asking “What about, what do you think?” Nothing is black and white, and none of us live in a vacuum; we live in communities, states, and nations. With networks, we have a greater ability to have an impact when many people are working on a common goal. You have to have an open mind and value the resources and talents that others bring to the table.
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Program Profile


  • 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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