On May 24, 2022, Ifeyinwa V. Asiodu, PhD, RN, IBCLC, FAAN presented comments during the White House California Clinician Leaders Listening Session as part of a panel. Dr. Asiodu was the only registered nurse who is a public health nurse on the panel.
Read her full response:
Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on achieving health equity in California. The focus of my comments are very timely, given the current infant formula shortage. Achieving health equity begins with human milk. The maternal and infant health benefits associated with breastfeeding are well known. The data in California and across the US are clear, pregnant women and people want to breastfeed or provide human milk to their infants after birth. However, many encounter systemic and structural barriers that make achieving this goal very difficult, thus increasing reliance on infant formula. Moreover, barriers such as racism, bias, and inequitable access to lactation support further perpetuate breastfeeding inequities in Black communities.
In 2011, the Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Regina Benjamin, issued a Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. Given the current infant formula shortage, now is the time to revisit and revise this important public health document that addressed critical issues impacting infant feeding in our country. Also, due to the ongoing pandemic, now is the time to develop Infant & Young Child Feeding in Emergencies policies, at both the federal and state levels.
While California has some of the most progressive breastfeeding and lactation legislation in the country, additional financial investments are needed to better support Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and community-led breastfeeding support programs. In addition, organizations such as the California Breastfeeding Coalition, WIC, donor human milk banks, and the United States Breastfeeding Committee, also need additional financial investments and resources to address persistent infant feeding inequities. With this said, families that rely on infant formula also deserve access to unbiased and ethical infant formula marketing practices, proper infant feeding education and resources, and high-quality formula. Greater federal oversight and coordination of infant formula production are needed to ensure parents do not have to worry about their infants’ formula supply or the safety of the infant formula being used.
In closing, achieving health equity begins with human milk. This is a critical reproductive justice issue. In order to truly achieve greater health equity in California and the US, we need more equitable public health policies and practices that are truly supportive of parents, families, and communities – such as the PUMP Act, Momnibus, and Paid Family Leave.
Thank you for your time and I am happy to take questions.