"Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large … Breast milk is … the perfect food for the newborn, and feeding should be initiated within the first hour after birth."
~ The World Health Organization
In 2008, a group of collaborators began an initiative to increase breastfeeding rates and decrease disparities in Illinois. HealthConnect One, the Illinois Department of Human Services' Title V Maternal and Child Health Program, and the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health committed to a multi-year effort to plan for strategic change in the way we support breastfeeding in Illinois.
First, we looked at the data, as data drives policy change. We started with an analysis of the most recent statewide data on breastfeeding rates and disparities, and looked as well at data on hospital maternity care practices. At the same time, we reached out to a diverse group of stakeholders. We held five forums in the Chicago area for parents, peer counselors, nurses, nutritionists, dieticians, lactation consultants and counselors, physicians, and other breastfeeding advocates. We asked them two questions: what do you think are the barriers to increasing breastfeeding rates in Illinois; and what would be your priority actions to improving support for breastfeeding? The themes that emerged from those forums echoed the story told by the qualitative data. The recommendations for the Illinois Breastfeeding Blueprint flowed both from the numbers and the voices of the stakeholders.
This document is the result of an unprecedented process involving dozens of people that developed a plan for change for breastfeeding in Illinois. The efforts of a formidable Expert Panel and an inclusive Implementation Work Group have already begun the process of making that vision a reality. The recommendations here are intended as a strategic plan for the next five years.
In a time when resources are shrinking, when the costs of health care are overwhelming our economy, and when the status of mothers and babies is declining, we cannot waste any time in making sure that every mother has the support to choose breastfeeding - for love, for health, and for the future of our next generations.
Download the Blueprint