Breastfeeding Family Friendly Food Pantries

Breastfeeding Family Friendly Food Pantries provide a welcoming environment that is friendly, accepting, and supportive of breastfeeding families. Food pantries play an important role in supporting infant feeding, and it’s important for food pantry staff and volunteers to understand how to support families choosing to breastfeed. Decisions that the food pantry makes in regards to infant feeding have an impact on the family’s success in meeting breastfeeding goals.

We encourage the food pantry staff to have a written breastfeeding friendly policy. A policy can provide information about the benefits of breastfeeding and ways to support the family’s decision to breastfeed.   Here are suggested steps to adopt a breastfeeding friendly policy:

  • Let staff know your plans to adopt a breastfeeding family friendly policy and seek support. 
  • Identify breastfeeding advocates and families who are currently breastfeeding or breastfed in the past to assist and support other breastfeeding families.
  • Create a breastfeeding family friendly workgroup to discuss breastfeeding policy.
  • Gather breastfeeding information and resources for staff and families that includes information about the benefits of breastfeeding, breastfeeding basics, and local community breastfeeding resources, such as WIC, peer-to-peer support groups, and hospital support groups.
  • Welcome breastfeeding in public/common areas.
  • Create a private place to allow staff who may want privacy to express their milk and to support staff and other parents who may wish to nurse their infants in private while in the facilities, while also welcoming breastfeeding in the public spaces.
  • Ensure that all staff, volunteers, and others working with community members, especially those who have contact with visitors, receive copies of the policy. 
  • Meet with staff, volunteers, and others working with community members to provide guidance on the policy. 
  • Plan a celebration to announce the new breastfeeding friendly policy.
  • Continue to provide education to staff and families and share resources to support breastfeeding.

If the food pantry accepts and distributes formula, we encourage the food pantry to include the following in the breastfeeding policy to ensure that the staff and volunteers support breastfeeding and do not undermine the efforts of breastfeeding staff and families: 

  • Store infant formula in a location that is out of view of the families. 
  • Determine how to let families know about formula and how to support families with formula needs.
  • Attach accurate and easy-to-read information to all formula containers on safe: 1) formula preparation, 2) storage of formula, and 3) formula feeding practices. These steps can help to ensure that formula is distributed thoughtfully and safely.
  • Offer to provide breastfeeding education and peer support that is sensitive to languages spoken, images, nutritional restrictions, literacy levels, and family structures.

There may be different roles for staff and volunteers. Ensure that training and education is offered to meet those different roles. By creating a breastfeeding family friendly environment that includes respect and sensitivity for breastfeeding staff and family members, you can create a healthier community for all.

Helpful Resource:

Colorado Breastfeeding Coalition Guidelines for the Breastfeeding Friendly Food Pantry