We sat down with Dr. Aunchalee Palmquist to learn about her upcoming session at the 2022 Nutrition Education & Breastfeeding Promotion Conference and Exhibits entitled Understanding Community Perspectives on Human Milk During the Formula Crisis. Watch her session in person by registering for the conference here!
A: I am a medical anthropologist and IBCLC. Currently, I am a professor in the Department of Maternal and Child Health, and affiliate faculty of the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I am also Faculty Fellow of the Carolina Population Center and co-lead of the Gillings School Humanitarian Health Initiative. I conduct research on breastfeeding and human lactation, with a particular emphasis on supporting lactation to achieve greater health equity, protect human rights, and protect reproductive justice.
During my training to become an IBCLC, I did a rotation at my local county WIC agency, to learn more about how breastfeeding peer counselors and nutritionists support lactation in communities.
A: Most people are not aware of how important breastfeeding is to the health of childbearing populations and infants. Breastfeeding is also often viewed as a nutritional issue rather than a reproductive justice issue. Helping to bring colleagues, students, and health professionals along in their learning about how critical breastfeeding is to health equity can often be a challenge.
A: I am proud that my milk sharing research over the last decade has helped to empower parents, health care providers, and lactation support persons to learn more about it and destigmatize it.
A: With the recent formula shortage and the COVID-19 pandemic, we need strong public health systems more than ever to support infant feeding practices and ensure that food security is protected during an infant’s most sensitive developmental stages. There is an opportunity for WIC to strengthen its ability to contribute to emergency response during disasters and pandemics as well as formula shortages.
A: During the recent formula shortage, some health professional organizations have recognized that community milk sharing can be critical to ensuring that infants are safely fed. This presentation will summarize some of the current research and evidence for supporting community milk sharing through family and person-centered counseling, risk mitigation/harm reduction, and destigmatizing milk sharing. We will also discuss community milk sharing and non-profit human milk banking in protecting infants’ access to human milk during difficult situations.
A: Every parent deserves to have the best information and support as they make decisions about feeding their infants, and this includes community milk sharing.