Community-Based Doulas Rock. Here’s why:

Every baby deserves a chance to have a healthy start to life. Community-Based Doulas give babies (and mothers and families) this chance, by providing support during pregnancy, at the birth, and through the early months of parenting.


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August 8, 2014 · 9:14 am

Senator Durbin presents . . .

HealthConnect One’s Community Health Worker of the Year Award:
June 12, 2014



blog - watching Durbin video

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June 24, 2014 · 7:22 am

WHO Code Anniversary – May 21

“It takes adequate and culturally appropriate breastfeeding information and support for mothers to have the chance to choose breastfeeding and to breastfeed successfully,” says Rachel Abramson, Executive Director of HealthConnect One. “Sending new families home with bags of artificial baby milk undercuts the important decision about infant feeding during what can be quite a vulnerable time.”

This is why HealthConnect One joins Public Citizen and a host of other organizations in a campaign to stop the marketing of artificial baby milk in healthcare facilities – today, May 21st – to mark the anniversary of the WHO Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes.

Our community partners and allies have this to say about their experience with the marketing of artificial baby milk. You can click on the titles below to read each post in its entirety.

Tytina Bio PicMake Breastfeeding Magical and Stop Marketing Artificial Baby Milk

by Tytina Sanders-Bey, CLC and WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor

“I have witnessed the marketing of artificial baby milk to moms prenatally just by her doing something as simple as reading a pregnancy/parenting magazine. Lots of moms receive formula coupons and bottle samples simply because they are pregnant…”


Toni HillMarketing of artificial baby milk: Everywhere new mothers are
by Toni Hill, Executive Director of Northeast Mississippi Birthing Project

“Mothers trust their primary care provider. The message should be clear there that babies thrive on breastmilk and mothers can produce enough for their babies.”


Kasey Valentine-SteffenJust One Bottle
by Kasey Valentine-Steffen, IBCLC and WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor

“I do find the community is very much impacted by artificial baby milk. Breastfeeding seems to be a lost art. Young women today rarely know of anyone that Breastfed their babies. Though I was fully Breastfeeding when I was discharged from the hospital, I was given a super nice diaper bag with formula in it. The nurse said, ‘I want to be able to give you something for you to take home. You can just throw the formula out if you don’t need it.’ Around six weeks, I learned what a growth spurt was. I threw that formula out. I threw it out into the middle of the yard…”


Infant Feeding in the Age of Hyper-Connectivity
by Eileen Murphy, RN, BSN, IBCLC, RLC

“It seems, in many ways, that we have entered an era of hyper-connectivity. According to a 2012 report by the Pew Research Center, some negative effects of hyper-connectivity include ‘a need for instant gratification and a loss of patience.’ …This impatience seems to carry over to frustrations with breastfeeding.”


To add your photo to the social media storm today, click here.

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Filed under Advocacy & Action, Breastfeeding

Make Breastfeeding Magical and Stop Marketing Artificial Baby Milk

by Tytina Sanders-Bey

For 33 years, formula corporations have violated the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) on May 21, 1981. To mark the WHO Code Anniversary this year, HealthConnect One joined Public Citizen in a Campaign  to Stop Infant Formula Marketing in Healthcare Facilities, and we invited our community partners and allies to speak about their experience here on the blog.

This is the fourth and final guest post in this series.

Tytina Bio PicMy Name is Tytina Sanders-Bey. I have five wonderful children: two daughters ages 14 and 9, and three sons ages 11, 7, and 2.

I am a Certified Lactation Counselor. I have the role of the breastfeeding support person for many families. I am their go-to person for the ins and outs of breastfeeding their new baby. I’m currently employed as a WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor.

I got into doing this type of work very early in my life. While some of my friends went away to college, I was becoming a teen mom. I wanted to learn more about being a good mom, and providing the very best for my baby. I learned that breastfeeding was an easy way to give my baby an optimum start in life. By learning to mother, and experiencing the awesome bond while nurturing my baby, I developed an urge to help other moms like me.

I took the HealthConnect One Teen Breastfeeding Peer Leader training. This enabled me to help other teen moms learn about breastfeeding. I got a part-time job at a local clinic, promoting breastfeeding. As time went on, I went to La Leche League International and became a breastfeeding peer counselor. At this point, I began teaching breastfeeding classes. I would speak to groups of expectant moms and their families. I also did one on one counseling, telephone follow-ups and home visits. I did hospital rounds to help moms get those first feedings off to a good start. Next, I became a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program Administrator. I was then able to train others to become breastfeeding peer counselors. I learned more, and did more, ultimately becoming a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC).

My favorite part of the job is going to the hospital helping the new moms. I could never get tired of helping a newborn get the nourishment and goodness of its mother’s milk.

When I speak to a new mom, I introduce myself with some sort of catch phrase like, “Hi, I’m the breastfeeding fairy,” and say my actual name. That way I break the ice and get mom’s attention. I make her comfortable talking to me if she has never seen me before. If she has visitors, they are more receptive to me, as well. I let them know that I am there to help make breastfeeding magical. Once my purpose is known, then I find out what exactly needs to be done to help mom and baby. Now being that I have been in her position many times before, I can empathize and relate. One of my favorite persuasion techniques is to use my own situation that is closest to what mom is experiencing. I will suggest to her, “If I can do it, you can do it,” and proceed to assist her.

Artificial baby milk has a major impact in the communities I have served. Moms and families look at this canned substance as the thing they need, in order to feed their new babies. Because it is so widely used, it has become the “Norm” for infant feeding in economically challenged communities. Now because I am from an economically challenged community and I did not rely on artificial baby milk, I take pride in informing families that formula is “just a formula.” Breast milk provides superior nutrition for our babies and it comes with an unmatchable health plan. Moms look at the ads, and read the artificial baby milk packages prenatally trying to decide, Which one of these should I feed my baby? Moms will look for ways to get “free” or discounted milk once the baby is born, while overlooking the fact that they already have milk to feed the babies in their breasts. Because artificial baby milk is so widely used and promoted, many moms never even consider breastfeeding, unless they come across a breastfeeding support person.

In my experience, the marketing of breast milk substitutes has had the impact of becoming a quick fix for hospital staff. If mom says she doesn’t wish to breastfeed her baby, more than likely she has not been informed of the risk of formula feeding. Instead of taking the time to educate the mother, the ready-to-feed bottles of artificial baby milk are given. If baby has an adverse reaction to consuming this substance, another “formula” is given. Another quick fix example would be: If mom does state she is going to breastfeed, but baby is not ready to nurse according to the hospital’s feeding schedule, here come the force fed cc’s of artificial baby milk. This is often done so that charting can be completed and passed on when the staffing shifts change.

Bottles at the hospital can destroy the chances for breastfeeding success. If mom has no idea how breastfeeding works and what it does, then she has no inspiration to even give it a try. If she does try to breastfeed and the timing isn’t right, or latch issues arise, mom may ask for a bottle. The baby swallows the artificial baby milk that is poured down her throat from the bottle and mom loses confidence in breastfeeding before she really even gets it. Breast milk comes in different stages, beginning with colostrum. Colostrum is ideal for newborn digestion, and helps prepare baby for life outside of the womb. Artificial baby milk tries to use formula stages such as “newborn stage” which is now available in ready-to-feed bottles at the hospital. However, “newborn stage formula” is far from colostrum. It has no way of helping baby fight off germs transmitted by something as simple as a sneeze from a hospital staff member.

I have witnessed the marketing of artificial baby milk to moms prenatally just by her doing something as simple as reading a pregnancy/parenting magazine. Lots of moms receive formula coupons and bottle samples simply because they are pregnant. Chances are, if a mom is uninformed about breastfeeding, it’s because the friends and family members surrounding her have all fed their infants artificial baby milk. They were also unaware of breastfeeding support. If issues occurred when they themselves breastfed, they immediately turned to artificial baby milk. These people will suggest a formula for her because they fed it to their infants. These friends and family members won’t receive a penny from the formula feeding companies, but they will market it. Unfortunately, this goes on for generations and continues to keep families from breastfeeding.

I have also seen the marketing of artificial baby milk on mommy blogs and websites. Ads will pop up on the sides of what mom is reading. They will even request her info and email address to send her “free offers.” Nowadays, the formula companies are well aware they need to try to copy Mother Nature so they will advertise things like “Now with DHA and ARA just like breast milk.” The newest formula I have seen says it’s for “supplementation,” implying that you need to supplement using this formula while breastfeeding. It specifically targets breastfeeding moms and families. Ads that encourage mom to think specific formulas are very close to breast milk will persuade her to want to try it.

Then the free formula gift pack given from labor and delivery implies, “Take this. You will need it.” It often comes with formula coupons and a cute decorative diaper bag. Mom needs the diaper bag, so she will take it without a doubt. If mom is not confident that she can feed her baby using her breast milk only, she already has the formula in her free diaper bag from the hospital. Mom has no idea that feeding her baby the formula can reduce her milk supply. It does not come with a handout or any info that says, “If you use this formula, express your milk to help protect your milk supply.” Her milk supply has diminished, the baby is more accepting of the artificial nipple, and the whole breastfeeding thing goes out of the window.

One thing I often say to new parents is, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. The answer is often a telephone call away. There are people who are more than willing to help you.” I also tell them to take advantage of the free wonderful breast milk they have. I tell them if they don’t use it, they lose it. I remind them that breastfeeding is very important for mom and baby’s health and well being.

My advice for someone who wants to support new babies is: Commit, and make yourself available. Be prepared to communicate with the entire family, or anyone else who comes in contact with mom and baby on a regular basis. The day care center mom is using, and mom’s job, may need info on breastfeeding rights. Have resources available so that you can educate whenever and wherever it’s needed. Be kind and understanding. Be the type of support person that you would want to have.

We need to remind moms and families that a woman has breasts for a purpose. That purpose is to feed her offspring. Breast milk comes free with the birth of her new baby. All she has to do is be willing to let the baby drink it. One of my other icebreakers is, “Don’t be stingy with the breast milk.”

I know that I have made a difference for many moms and babies, and I will continue because this is my passion. Some even say it’s my calling.

Tytina Sanders-Bey, sometimes known as the Breastfeeding Fairy, is a Certified Lactation Counselor who works as a WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor in the Chicagoland area. A passionate provider of and advocate for breastfeeding support, Tytina is mother to five children.

 HealthConnect One is committed to sharing a variety of perspectives on pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting. Each guest post reflects the writer’s experience, and is not necessarily the view of HealthConnect One.


 We invite you to share your thoughts on the marketing of artificial baby milk below.


Filed under Breastfeeding, Local Champions

Marketing of artificial baby milk: Everywhere new mothers are

by Toni Hill

For 33 years, formula corporations have violated the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) on May 21, 1981. To mark the WHO Code Anniversary this year, HealthConnect One joined Public Citizen in a Campaign  to Stop Infant Formula Marketing in Healthcare Facilities, and we invited our community partners and allies to speak about their experience here on the blog.

This is the third of four guest posts on the topic.

Toni HillHi. My name is Toni.  I have been an unofficial doula since I was 13 years old. After that time, I became more fascinated with birth than any of my teenage counterparts.   I have been an official doula since 2002, shortly after having my own empowering birth.  I wanted to share the joys of natural birth with all the women I met so I decided to follow my life’s passion.

I have four children whom I breastfed until they outgrew the need: Precious 17, Jimmy 12, Preston 10, and Patience who will be 8 at the end of this month.

I have multiple roles when working with families in my community. I serve as a traditional midwife, doula, childbirth educator, monitrice, and executive director of the Northeast Mississippi Birthing Project. Furthermore, I am a La Leche League leader and a lactation specialist at WIC. I also enjoy my part in advancing the field of maternal and child health by training new community-based doulas and breastfeeding peer counselors.

I have always been fascinated with birth. I attended my first birth when I was thirteen and have been a birth junkie ever since. After the birth of my second child, my interest in birth and breastfeeding grew stronger as I taught myself all I could to be able to support women to have their own empowering birth experiences.

I normally talk to moms about breastfeeding long before they make it to the hospital. We talk about breastfeeding as the normal way to feed their babies as early as the first trimester. I encourage all expectant families to go to a class and become educated about how to get off to a good start with breastfeeding. When I am talking with moms directly after birth about breastfeeding, I guide them to keeping their baby skin to skin and tell them to have patience and to trust that their body can make the milk that their baby needs, just like it has fed their child in utero for the prior months.

Yes, I can talk about the impact of artificial baby milk on my community. I live in Mississippi which is one of the most unhealthy states in the country. One can’t help but wonder if our low breastfeeding rates have anything to do with that. Looking at infant mortality and how breast milk actually saves the lives of many preemies each day, it is an absolute no-brainer.

Just like birthworkers, all hospital staff are not equal in their support of breastfeeding. In my experience, some hospitals that are not leaning towards being more baby friendly are doing an injustice to the mothers and babies they serve. Some of them honestly think that one bottle doesn’t make a difference when we all know that it does. I think if they truly understood what that one bottle does to the baby’s gut flora or the dampen on the supply that happens when a woman is not with her baby, they would reconsider grabbing that bottle so quickly.

The marketing of artificial baby milk is everywhere new mothers are. They see it in most of the baby magazine ads. Most unfortunately, they see it at the doctor’s office as well. One mom recently told me that the office clerk gave her a can of formula for the off-chance she needs it… after she expressed to her that she was planning to breastfeed her new baby. Mothers trust their primary care provider. The message should be clear there that babies thrive on breastmilk and mothers can produce enough for their babies. Instead of giving that can of formula, that was her opportunity to share with the mother valuable resources to support her in her decision to breastfeed.

Yes, I have seen the marketing of artificial baby milk impact a new family’s infant feeding decisions. That free ready-to-feed for supplementing that comes in the mail during the last couple of weeks of pregnancy is one of the biggest marketing schemes that a formula company does.

The mothers who leave the hospital with formula are more likely to use it. When a woman has to go to the store in the middle of the night to purchase formula, she has to really think about it before doing that and is more likely to give breastfeeding a little more patience. She might take the time to pick up the phone and call her lactation support person for some words of advice before making the trip. When the hospital gives the new family formula, they are non-verbally okaying the use of it when times get a little rocky.

I often tell new parents to spend lots of time in with their new baby. This is time they will never get back. I have also responded to those well wishers telling new parents that they are spoiling the baby, that they all smell like that. That time is so precious and so short.

I think as lactation supporters and helpers, we need to be mindful of what the families we serve really need. Ask them what their personal goals are and help them achieve them. When they get close, you can support them in their decision to surpass their goals or to wean when the time is right for them. We have to remember that our job is to educate and inform expectant families about breastfeeding and to support new families in reaching their personal breastfeeding goals.

The act of breastfeeding is done by the baby. As mothers, we are just providing the environment for them to do it.

Toni Hill, Executive Director of Northeast Mississippi Birthing Project, works with HealthConnect One to train community-based doulas and breastfeeding peer counselors for her community. Toni has completed doula training with toLabor (formerly known as ALACE) and Birth Arts, childbirth education training through CAPPA, and advanced midwifery at The Farm. Toni also serves as a WIC Lactation specialist and a La Leche League leader. When she is not helping her community, she is homeschooling her four children with the love and support of Jimmy, her soul mate.

 HealthConnect One is committed to sharing a variety of perspectives on pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting. Each guest post reflects the writer’s experience, and is not necessarily the view of HealthConnect One.


 We invite you to share your thoughts on the marketing of artificial baby milk below.

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Filed under Breastfeeding, Local Champions