With breastfeeding in public finally legal in all 50 states, moms across the country have definitely earned a win. But, for many marginalized mothers, breastfeeding still remains something that is far easier said than done. In honor of World Breastfeeding Week and Breastfeeding Awareness Month, here are seven breastfeeding resources for low-income moms that can help offer support.
For those unfamiliar with World Breastfeeding Week, it's an annual celebration held from Aug. 1 to Aug. 7 in 120 countries, while Breastfeeding Awareness Month is acknowledged throughout the entire month of August. The International Lactation Consultant Association noted that it is meant to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies across the world.
Indeed, breastfeeding has many health benefits. For babies, according to the New York State Department of Health breast milk can protect against infections, is easily digestible, and allows infants to have healthier weights as they grow. What many people might not know is that breastfeeding has great health benefits for moms, too. Moms who breastfeed may have a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes and certain cancers, such as breast cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health, and it's a good way to strengthen the bond with their kids.
However, breastfeeding is not always easy. Some mothers may struggle to produce enough milk or may not have the necessary support to do so. In fact, according to Think Progress, hospital budgets for first-time parenting classes (which include breastfeeding education) have been cut across the country. This is detrimental to low-income parents, in particular.
So, for low-income moms, here is a list of accessible breastfeeding resources you can utilize.
Breastfeeding Support With La Leche League USA
Breastfeeding can be difficult, and it's not always easy to pick up right away. Luckily, there are many free breastfeeding classes offered throughout the country. La Leche League USA works to help parents, families, and communities to breastfeed, chestfeed, and human milk feed babies, according to its website. The organization provide free meetings for new parents and you can search for a local group here.
Free classes vary from location to location, so there may be other great local resources to help low-income parents. If you have access to a doctor, consider asking them for any local group recommendations. They may also be able to provide assistance with locating resources for other items, such as breast pumps.
Human Milk Banking Association of America
Human milk banking is incredibly fundamental to ensuring breast milk is at least an option for more mothers, who wish to feed their babies breast milk but are unable to. The Human Milk Banking Association of America works to collect milk for babies who need it with location across the United States and in Canada.
The organization largely works to provide milk for pre-term and critically ill infants, although some banks (such as the NY bank) will donate if critical cases have been met. Locations can be found here.
The Mothers' Milk Bank Northeast also works to provide breast milk throughout northeastern states.
Baby formula can be really expensive. Low-income parents who aren't breastfeeding, for whatever reason, shouldn't have to worry about struggling to buy food for their child.
Like breastfeeding classes and support groups, specific resources vary based on locations. Feeding America is one organization that conducts food banks and other services nationally; this group's food banks include baby formula. You can search here to find a local food bank. Money Pantry has also put together a list of 11 ways to get free baby formula or samples.
Women Infants & Children (WIC)
Many moms are familiar with WIC as a program for women, infants, and children providing supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education. There are eligibility requirements for WIC, including income, and anyone interested must contact their local WIC office.
However, what many people don't know is that WIC may sometimes be able to help provide breast pumps, according to Baby Q. In addition, WICs breastfeeding program provides support to mothers across the nation.
The United States Breastfeeding Coalition
The United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) is a coalition of more than 50 organizations across the nation, all working to create breastfeeding support across the United States. You can look here for local coalitions.
Coalitions are required to agree to the USBC's Guidelines for Breastfeeding Coalitions. Each one has its own unique programming and events — such as meetings and support groups — but their information is easily accessible on the USBC website.
National Women's Health & Breastfeeding Hotline
Even when you try your best to prepare, last minute questions can still occur and someone may not always be right next to you to help. That's OK! The National Women's Health & Breastfeeding Hotline is open 9.a.m. to 6.p.m. EST, Monday to Friday.
This hotline allows women to speak with a health information specialist in English or Spanish. You can call them at 1-800-994-9662.
Local Resources Are Your Friend!
Although this list focused on providing some national organizations, the importance of local resources cannot be stressed enough. Local and grassroots efforts are often better able to respond to an individual's circumstances and direct needs.
Here are some local resources found in the five largest cities in the United States:
This guide to breastfeeding resources in New York City outlines resources in all the boroughs, including descriptions of the services each location provides.
One resource is the Urban Health Plan located in the Bronx. This organization runs a WIC Breastfeeding Program that includes peer support, meetings, and other discussion groups.
One example is the San Gabriel Valley Medical Center, which provides prenatal, postpartum breastfeeding classes, and private instruction. Prenatal classes are free to teens. English, Spanish, and Chinese are all spoken.
Breastfeed Chicago provides support and advocacy for families throughout Chicago. Its resources include breastfeeding support groups, some of which are perfect for mothers to practice nursing in public with trained volunteers and counselors.
The Lactation Foundation offers support groups every Thursday morning from 10.a.m. to 11.a.m. It is free and mothers are encouraged to bring their babies for pre and post-feed weight check.
Philly Baby Bump has compiled a list of breastfeeding classes and support groups available for parenting to utilize in Philadelphia.
Even for those who aren't parents or currently breastfeeding, make sure to get involved with World Breastfeeding Week and Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Consider contacting organizations local to you to see if there's any way to help, but definitely offer support to any mothers in your life.