A Call To Action: Expanding Advocacy in the Community

Image of parent holding infant with text: A Day of Advocacy

Editor’s Note: This post is based on a post originally published by Breastfeed Durham. We offer it as a way to lift up and highlight an idea from one of our communities as an example for others to consider incorporating. We encourage you to use or adapt this idea to your work. View the original post at: https://breastfeeddurham.org/a-day-of-advocacy

The Ten Steps to a Breastfeeding Family Friendly Community (Ten Steps) is a commitment to equitable policies and practices to protect and promote the rights of all breastfeeding, chestfeeding, and human milk feeding families. It embraces all the spaces and places where families connect with others in the community. Step 7, the businesses and social organizations in the community welcome chest/breastfeeding families, reaches out to organizations and businesses to become chest/breastfeeding friendly community partners to ensure a welcome and support for nursing families. How does a breastfeeding family friendly community team connect with these important community partners? And, importantly, how can we share the vision and mission of Breastfeeding Family Friendly Communities to ensure that all families, who desire to do so, are given the opportunity to chest/breastfeed and provide human milk?  It can feel overwhelming to reach out to all, or even 50%, of the businesses and organizations in your community.  Sometimes it requires a wider outreach beyond the dedicated implementation team and a focused objective relevant to your community to bring about broader support. Sometimes it calls for engaging your stakeholders. That is what Breastfeed Durham succeeded in doing with “An Act of Advocacy.”

In honor of Black Maternal Health Week and National Minority Health Month, Breastfeed Durham celebrated a Day of Advocacy on April 11, 2022. With the permission of the Breastfeed Durham team, we are sharing an adapted version of their call-to-action to provide resources and information that may apply to more communities. Please view the original Breastfeed Durham post at: https://breastfeeddurham.org/a-day-of-advocacy/ The original post addresses important issues specific to Durham, as well as equity concerns that are present across the U.S and globally. Please feel free to use the information as you reach out to businesses and organizations in your communities.

“An Act of Advocacy” was emailed to Breastfeed Durham stakeholders and advocates and shared on the Breastfeed Durham website. The Breastfeed Durham team asked stakeholders to reach out to their favorite Black-owned business, Black-led community organizations, Black churches, and Black faith-based organizations to encourage the businesses and organizations to apply for the Breastfeeding Friendly Community Partner / Employer award. Because Black Maternal Health holds a deep and profound place in the local faith-based community, Breastfeed Durham “intentionally” asked those who were connected to Black churches and Black faith-based organizations to reach out on April 11th.  Breastfeed Durham also expanded its call-to-action to include favorite bodegas and other safe businesses and organizations for Black, Brown, and Indigenous families in the community. 


Breastfeed Durham included a number of resources in their call-to-action. Resources are invaluable as you reach out to your stakeholders to support the advocacy work. Resources not only increase awareness and knowledge for the stakeholders, they also provide tangible materials that they can share with community partners. While many of these are state and national examples that can be used right away, an important first step for your community initiative might be to create a google doc application. Examples from Breastfeed Durham and the NC Breastfeeding Coalition are provided:

Deep Inequities

“Deep Inequities” provides important background information for stakeholders. Many chest/breastfeeding advocates may already be familiar with this information; however, it also is possible that your stakeholders are not aware of the extent and depth of the chest/breastfeeding and human milk feeding inequities in our communities.

When supportive birthing and lactation care is not available in a community, some Black, Brown, and Indigenous women who have the privilege and access to insurance and transportation are able to look beyond the local community for equitable birthing and lactation care, but those without means do not have the option to look elsewhere and may find themselves receiving inadequate levels of care. This disparity is heightened based on the melatonin in one’s skin or one’s English language proficiency.  Deep inequities exist for indigenous families and family members who are originally from South and Central America, whose second language is Spanish, and/or who have very little English proficiency. Our healthcare system is full of good people with good intentions, but the system itself is broken. The Ten steps to a Breastfeeding Family Friendly Community is about implementing systems, policy and environmental change to address community-wide problems such as those that we have. The good news is that we have received tremendous support from parents and advocates in our communities who want to see an equitable, supportive healthcare system. 

Reproductive Justice Framework

“Breastfeeding, chestfeeding, and human milk feeding are part of the birthing justice movement. Building upon the reproductive justice framework, we view birthing justice to include all birthing and lactating people, inclusive of all gender and sexual identities. [Parents] “have the right to breastfeed if you decide that this is best for you and your baby. If breastfeeding is not recommended, you have the right to have the risks and benefits of breastfeeding explained to you by your healthcare provider..” from the Birth Justice COVID 19 Bill of Rights  | Derecho del Paciente en el Periodo Perinatal

The experience of middle and upper-income Black and Brown mothers also is challenging. Black parents are returning to work as early as two weeks after giving birth, despite income or education level. Even with PhDs and other professional degrees, Black and Brown parents feel pressured to return to work quickly to hide their parenthood. Parents fear that if they were to disclose that they are parents that they would be fired before their white colleagues.”

Shameful History

“There is a shamefully long global and national history of aggressive advertising of formulas to Black, poor, and other marginalized communities to the detriment of infant health. The lived experience of the Fultz sisters tells how formula companies used Black babies to sell their product. We celebrate every family and how they feed their babies. There is a difference between using formulas and advertising formulas. Standing against unethical marketing of formulas is a racial and food justice issue.  Formula advertising is pervasive and persuasive, and there is a lot of evidence to support that it can undermine chest/breastfeeding.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) and other institutions have tried to mitigate the effects of formula marketing, which is different from the necessary use of formula, by providing education and resources on the negative impact of advertising on chest/breastfeeding initiation and duration. The WHO guidelines are incorporated into the Breastfeeding Family Friendly Communities Ten Steps with the requirement that chest/breastfeeding friendly businesses and community partners do not advertise infant or related toddler formula. (Businesses may sell formula, just not advertise it.) 

Journey Together

“Ultimately, [Breastfeeding Family Friendly Communities] exists because no family gets enough support. Though infant feeding is often framed as a ‘choice’, there is no real choice when there is no federal paid time off, no universal and affordable or free childcare, no living wage requirements, and inequitable lactation support. If you are a parent, we support you and we are walking this journey with you.”

We hope that the work of Breastfeed Durham and the additional information here provide a helpful tool and inspiration for hosting a similar event in your community in support of Step 7 in the Ten Steps to a Breastfeeding Family Friendly Community. Black Maternal Health Week 2022 has passed; however, this activity can align with other events throughout the year, such as World Breastfeeding Week and U.S. National Breastfeeding Month or local initiatives that speak more intimately to your community. We look forward to hearing from you about activities, calls-to-action, and community events that connect your businesses and community organizations to Breastfeeding Family Friendly Communities.

#BMHW22 #BlackMamasMatter #BlackMaternalHealthWeek #BirthJustice #FirstFoodEquity #BreastfeedingFamilyFriendlyCommunities #BFFC #WelcomingCommunities #LactationFriendlyEmployers #LactatingFamilies