The Feds' $95-million Breastfeeding Boondoggle

Michelle Obama's speech to the NAACP convention last week introduced a new healthy food topic of interest: the federal fight to "support" breastfeeding. This does not involve federal subsidies for nursing bras. As Mrs. Obama explains:

Forty percent of African American babies are never breastfed at all [in other words, 60% are], not even during the first weeks of their lives. And we know this isn't possible or practical for some moms, but we've got a WIC program that's providing new support to low-income moms who want to try so that they get the support they need.

For the record, infant formula is a useful product, but breastfeeding is better, especially "during the first weeks" of a child's life mentioned by Mrs. Obama, when breast milk contains immunity-building colostrum. And if you don't have clean water to reconstitute the formula, it's a no-brainer that you should use the free, clean source on tap. Unfortunately, this obvious bit of common sense has been mixed in with charges of evil Swiss corporations murdering African babies, causing some conservatives to run the other way from breastfeeding advocacy.

Now, I can see the value of a breastfeeding campaign. A teenage mother might logically conclude from the infant formula in her child's welcome package from the hospital that she's not supposed to discard the Similac into the trash. But how hard is this to implement? Memo to midwives: recommend breastfeeding. Why do we need "new support" so moms "get the support they need"?

Mrs. Obama doesn't go into further detail about what this support entails. Why is it not "possible or practical" for a low-income mom to breastfeed? We can assume with relative certainty that for a sizable portion of them, work won't interfere, and if it does, Michelle reminds us that "under the new health care legislation, businesses will now have to accommodate mothers who want to continue breastfeeding once they get back to work." 

In most cases, breastfeeding is pretty simple. We've been doing it as a species for quite a long time. But what about those times when things don't go perfectly? Before WIC was there to support us, women with breastfeeding issues asked for advice from a mother, an older sister, or a friend. In serious cases -- the mother having difficulty lactating, the baby failing to thrive -- you go back to your doctor or midwife.

Under the wet nurse state, however, WIC works on a different model. The USDA's Food and Nutrition Service has set up a network of "lactation consultants" and "breastfeeding peer counselors," which is a strange use of the word "peer," since the counselors are paid $50,000-$60,000 a year, plus benefits, to be your peer. A job notice for a lactation consultant in Washington State notes:

This position is covered by an "Agency Shop" provision. Therefore as a condition of employment, the incumbent of this position must either join the union and pay union dues, or pay the union a representational or other fee within 30 days of the date you are placed into pay status. 

Hmm...funny how the union label seems to pop up on every idea endorsed by the Obamas.

President Obama's 2010 budget allocates $14.85 million for unionized peer support, which funds the Loving Support© Peer Counseling Program, the latest in a line of initiatives which all have the words "Loving Support©" in their titles: Loving Support Makes Breastfeeding Work, Using Loving Support to Build a Breastfeeding-Friendly Community, Using Loving Support to Implement Best Practices in Peer Counseling.

In addition to Loving Support funding, we read at the USDA website:

The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 (Public Law 111-80), provided $80 million for WIC State agencies to build upon and expand breastfeeding peer counseling efforts.

As with any government expenditure, consultants must be hired to study the effects of the program. It might seem like the fiscally responsible thing to do, but self-assessment tends to become a significant budget item. Don't we need some consultants to assess the assessors? In September 2006, one consultant was hired to begin "an implementation study (Phase 1) and an impact study (Phase 2)" of the Loving Support© program.  Apparently constant consultation is required, since a new contract is currently up for bid:

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will fund a competitive cooperative agreement award of up to $350,000 in Fiscal Year 2010 to a qualified applicant to: 1) update two existing FNS breastfeeding peer counseling training curricula and (2) coordinate and conduct trainings, based on each of the updated curricula, in a, train-the-trainer format for WIC State agency staff in each of the seven FNS geographic regions. The existing FNS curricula to be updated; Using Loving Support to Manage Peer Counseling Programs for training WIC program managers and also; Loving Support Through Peer Counselor for training peer counselors can be found at: http://www.nal.usda.gov/wicworks/Learning_Center/support_peer.html.

Update?  How much can breastfeeding have changed since 2006? Did they overlook guidelines for transsexuals who want to breastfeed their surrogate-mother infant?

This contract will pay advisors to advise trainers who train trainers -- three bureaucratic levels removed from the actual act being targeted. Breastfeeding requires the assembly of two working parts: a mouth and a nipple. Leave it to government to build layers of bureaucracy to encourage something humans know how to do instinctively.
Michelle Obama's speech to the NAACP convention last week introduced a new healthy food topic of interest: the federal fight to "support" breastfeeding. This does not involve federal subsidies for nursing bras. As Mrs. Obama explains:

Forty percent of African American babies are never breastfed at all [in other words, 60% are], not even during the first weeks of their lives. And we know this isn't possible or practical for some moms, but we've got a WIC program that's providing new support to low-income moms who want to try so that they get the support they need.

For the record, infant formula is a useful product, but breastfeeding is better, especially "during the first weeks" of a child's life mentioned by Mrs. Obama, when breast milk contains immunity-building colostrum. And if you don't have clean water to reconstitute the formula, it's a no-brainer that you should use the free, clean source on tap. Unfortunately, this obvious bit of common sense has been mixed in with charges of evil Swiss corporations murdering African babies, causing some conservatives to run the other way from breastfeeding advocacy.

Now, I can see the value of a breastfeeding campaign. A teenage mother might logically conclude from the infant formula in her child's welcome package from the hospital that she's not supposed to discard the Similac into the trash. But how hard is this to implement? Memo to midwives: recommend breastfeeding. Why do we need "new support" so moms "get the support they need"?

Mrs. Obama doesn't go into further detail about what this support entails. Why is it not "possible or practical" for a low-income mom to breastfeed? We can assume with relative certainty that for a sizable portion of them, work won't interfere, and if it does, Michelle reminds us that "under the new health care legislation, businesses will now have to accommodate mothers who want to continue breastfeeding once they get back to work." 

In most cases, breastfeeding is pretty simple. We've been doing it as a species for quite a long time. But what about those times when things don't go perfectly? Before WIC was there to support us, women with breastfeeding issues asked for advice from a mother, an older sister, or a friend. In serious cases -- the mother having difficulty lactating, the baby failing to thrive -- you go back to your doctor or midwife.

Under the wet nurse state, however, WIC works on a different model. The USDA's Food and Nutrition Service has set up a network of "lactation consultants" and "breastfeeding peer counselors," which is a strange use of the word "peer," since the counselors are paid $50,000-$60,000 a year, plus benefits, to be your peer. A job notice for a lactation consultant in Washington State notes:

This position is covered by an "Agency Shop" provision. Therefore as a condition of employment, the incumbent of this position must either join the union and pay union dues, or pay the union a representational or other fee within 30 days of the date you are placed into pay status. 

Hmm...funny how the union label seems to pop up on every idea endorsed by the Obamas.

President Obama's 2010 budget allocates $14.85 million for unionized peer support, which funds the Loving Support© Peer Counseling Program, the latest in a line of initiatives which all have the words "Loving Support©" in their titles: Loving Support Makes Breastfeeding Work, Using Loving Support to Build a Breastfeeding-Friendly Community, Using Loving Support to Implement Best Practices in Peer Counseling.

In addition to Loving Support funding, we read at the USDA website:

The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 (Public Law 111-80), provided $80 million for WIC State agencies to build upon and expand breastfeeding peer counseling efforts.

As with any government expenditure, consultants must be hired to study the effects of the program. It might seem like the fiscally responsible thing to do, but self-assessment tends to become a significant budget item. Don't we need some consultants to assess the assessors? In September 2006, one consultant was hired to begin "an implementation study (Phase 1) and an impact study (Phase 2)" of the Loving Support© program.  Apparently constant consultation is required, since a new contract is currently up for bid:

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will fund a competitive cooperative agreement award of up to $350,000 in Fiscal Year 2010 to a qualified applicant to: 1) update two existing FNS breastfeeding peer counseling training curricula and (2) coordinate and conduct trainings, based on each of the updated curricula, in a, train-the-trainer format for WIC State agency staff in each of the seven FNS geographic regions. The existing FNS curricula to be updated; Using Loving Support to Manage Peer Counseling Programs for training WIC program managers and also; Loving Support Through Peer Counselor for training peer counselors can be found at: http://www.nal.usda.gov/wicworks/Learning_Center/support_peer.html.

Update?  How much can breastfeeding have changed since 2006? Did they overlook guidelines for transsexuals who want to breastfeed their surrogate-mother infant?

This contract will pay advisors to advise trainers who train trainers -- three bureaucratic levels removed from the actual act being targeted. Breastfeeding requires the assembly of two working parts: a mouth and a nipple. Leave it to government to build layers of bureaucracy to encourage something humans know how to do instinctively.