Statement on Progress Towards the Gold Standard
The following statement was made September 10, 2016, at NWA's Nutrition Education & Breastfeeding Promotion Conference in Denver, Colorado, by its then board of directors chair, Donna Bister. For more information, see our press release and FAQs.
The theme we chose for our 2008 Nutrition & Breastfeeding Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, was “Racing for the Gold Standard.” That conference set in motion what would become significant initiatives to promote and support breastfeeding as the “Gold Standard” for infant feeding and motivated us to race together, if I may use an Olympic metaphor, for the “gold.”
As far back as 2004, we began taking steps to prohibit infant formula manufacturers from exhibiting, sponsoring, or promoting formula at NWA Nutrition & Breastfeeding Conferences. In 2008, we fully implemented that prohibition and have stood true to that commitment ever since.
In 2010, at our Nutrition & Breastfeeding Conference in San Diego, California, we released our NWA Breastfeeding Strategic Plan which included four important goals:
- Promote and Support exclusive breastfeeding for all WIC mothers.
- All WIC Staff are knowledgeable and/or skilled in breastfeeding promotion and support.
- WIC is recognized as a community resource for breastfeeding promotion and support.
- Federal/State/Local policies and procedures that protect, support and promote breastfeeding are developed and implemented.
In every year since, we have taken important steps to help make WIC the Nation’s Go-To-Breastfeeding Program and to meet the objectives of that Plan including:
- Encouraging WIC local agencies adopt the NWA Six Steps to Achieve Breastfeeding Goals for WIC clinics.
- Promoting breastfeeding to other health care organizations/institutions.
- Partnering with the American Academy of Pediatrics Chapter Breastfeeding Coordinator(s) in each state to promote consistent breastfeeding messages.
- Encouraging WIC agencies to become active members of regional breastfeeding coalitions and collaborating with other breastfeeding advocates to market the benefits of breastfeeding within communities.
- Promoting efforts to enable WIC staff to gain skills appropriate to their role in the program to promote and support breastfeeding.
- Providing training on an ongoing basis to support staff competencies.
- Working to increase the number of IBCLCs at the local and state agency level.
- Helping state and local agencies educate public health organizations, educational institutions and community organizations about WIC’s role in breastfeeding promotion and support.
- Encouraging local agency visits to medical staff offices, schools, universities, and community organizations to share information on WIC’s breastfeeding services and breastfeeding specific programs.
- Inviting public health programs and other community groups to WIC breastfeeding in-services and trainings and planning collaborative breastfeeding events within communities.
- Empowering WIC leadership to serve as NWA/WIC spokespersons at breastfeeding conferences, meetings and seminars, and empowering WIC personnel to actively engage in breastfeeding promotion programs and projects at the local, state and national levels.
- Working with Congress, State, and Local governments to develop, promote, and pass breastfeeding promotion legislation as well as legislation to protect and support women’s rights to breastfeed.
- Collaborating with USDA to develop and update policies and procedures that positively impact WIC breastfeeding promotion and support efforts, including updating breastfeeding-related policies and procedures, enhancing the WIC food packages to support exclusive breastfeeding, and providing broader funding authority to support and enhance breastfeeding programs.
In 2012, we began work towards rebranding WIC from the Go-To-Formula Program to the nation’s Premier Go-To-Breastfeeding Program. This is on-going effort as we consider strategies and methods for WIC to seek reimbursement for breastfeeding services and to serve non-income eligible mothers who wish to receive WIC’s quality breastfeeding education, counseling, and support on a fee-for-service basis.
We are proud of our progress towards reaching the “Gold Standard.”
That is why I am excited today to announce our latest effort to reach the “Standard.” In 2015, the NWA Voting Members approved a resolution, reaffirmed at the 2016 Annual Business Meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio, that dissolves relationships between the National WIC Association (NWA) and infant formula manufacturers. Beginning in this calendar year, NWA will no longer invite infant formula manufacturers to be members, exhibitors at conferences, advertisers or sponsors of events and activities.
Here are the reasons why NWA has taken this action:
- Breastfeeding is a cost-effective, preventive measure that reduces infant illness and death, supports optimal growth and development and reduces the risk of several short and long-term health problems for infants and mothers.
- NWA accepts and endorses the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) statement, “Breastfeeding and human milk are the normative standards for infant feeding and nutrition. Given the documented short and long-term medical and neurodevelopmental advantages of breastfeeding, infant nutrition should be considered a public health issue and not only a lifestyle choice.”
- NWA supports AAP’s recommendation of “exclusive breastfeeding for about six months, followed by continued breastfeeding for one year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.”
- Global, national, and multiple maternal child health organizations and institutions including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Surgeon General, and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) promote breastfeeding as the optimal and normal method of infant feeding.
- NWA recognizes that breastfeeding facilitates mother/baby bonding and that breast milk contains all the ingredients necessary for infants to grow and develop: breastfed infants tend to be healthier.
- Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk for developing obesity later in childhood and provides a protective effect against infectious diseases and sudden infant death syndrome in infants.
- Participation in the WIC breastfeeding peer counseling program is associated with an increased rate of breastfeeding initiation.
- WIC has made significant strides in improving breastfeeding rates across the nation for mothers and infants participating in WIC and in 2012, survey data indicated that 67% of WIC infants ages 6–13 months were breastfed.
- Women who attend WIC breastfeeding support groups are twice as likely to plan to breastfeed as those who do not.
- Infant formula manufacturers have pursued the development of boutique products to compete with breastmilk and pursued marketing initiatives that strategically counter efforts by WIC and the breastfeeding community to promote breastfeeding as the best form of infant feeding.
- NWA’s mission to promote breastfeeding and preserve and protect access to WIC for qualified mothers and infants is no longer in synchronicity with infant formula manufacturers.
We recognize that this action is not without some controversy. Accordingly, NWA is taking steps to assure that adequate and readily accessible sources of WHO Code compliant information on infant formula products are available for NWA members through our education and training programs.
We hope that you will join the NWA Board of Directors, Staff, and Voting Members in supporting this decision and help NWA and WIC to reach the Gold Standard and make WIC the nation’s Premier Go-To-Breastfeeding Program.