What’s the Great Nurse-In Action Day?
The Great Nurse-In Action Day, scheduled for Friday, August 3, gives Great Nurse-In attendees the opportunity to visit their members of Congress to educate them about the importance of breastfeeding and solicit their support for a federal breastfeeding law, including an enforcement provision. Breast milk is the ideal food for newborns and infants. It gives infants all the nutrients they need for healthy development and reduces child mortality worldwide. Breastfeeding has also been shown to have significant physical and emotional health benefits for both mother and child. Now is the time to increase public acceptance and openness, and to enact the laws needed to aid in this change. This is the next step to protect women’s rights.
While there are laws allowing public breastfeeding in 48 of the 50 states, many are out-of-date and restrictive, putting the stress and burden of enforcement on the nursing mother rather than those who violate them. And while there is a law allowing breastfeeding on federal property, we’d like to go one step further and call for the creation of an overarching federal law protecting public breastfeeding equally and completely in all states.
Securing the needed changes to both state and federal law is a lengthy process and a serious undertaking, and it will take time to see results; but, by standing together and letting our Senators and Representatives know this is an important issue, we can help to make great strides for today’s society and future generations towards normalizing breastfeeding.
How do I sign up?
Email us (email@example.com) if you’re interested in participating. Be sure to let us know what state you’re from. And if you’re interested in being the state lead for your state, let us know!
What do I do next?
Action Day participants are responsible for setting up their own meetings with their Members of Congress. We recommend that you meet with both your Senators and with your Representative. Don’t know who your elected officials are? Find your Senators here and your Representative here. If there is more than one person coming from your state, you’ll want to attend your meetings together, so coordinate with your state lead on setting up meetings. Don’t know who your state lead is? We can help – just email us (firstname.lastname@example.org).
To set up a meeting, call the offices (the Capitol switchboard can connect you; 202-224-3121) and ask to speak to the scheduler. Explain that you’re participating in the Great Nurse-In Action Day and would like to meet with your Senator/Representative on Friday, August 3, or with the staffer who handles women and children’s health issues if the Member is not available. Some offices may ask you to email or fax in a request. You can use this template in Word format.
Most meetings will only be about 15-20 minutes, so you can schedule them a half hour apart if they are one the same side of the Hill (i.e. House or Senate side). If you’re going from one to the other, be sure to allow enough time.
What do I do to prepare for my meetings?
Get to know the Member of Congress you’ll be meeting with by reviewing their website. Also familiarize yourself with the talking points and “ask” (below). Keep in mind that your Senators and Representatives represent you – you’re a constituent and a taxpayer, so you have a right to let them know what’s on your mind!
Make sure you know where each office is located, and allow plenty of time to get through security when you enter each building. While Capitol Hill has a reputation for being stuffy, there’s no need to don a power suit and heels – we highly recommend you (and your baby) wear your Great Nurse-In gear!
What should I expect when I meet with my representatives?
You may be meeting with your Senator or Representative or with a staff member. Both offer valuable opportunities to educate the office about the value of breastfeeding and the importance of normalizing nursing. Most meetings will be about 15-20 minutes, so be prepared to get to the point quickly and be sure to allow time for questions. Bring a camera with you, so you can snap a picture of you and your Member and share with us!
What should we talk about?
Your main goal during the meeting is to ‘make your ask.’ This is your opportunity to tell them (nicely!) what you want them, as your elected representative, to do. Our ask is:
Please support federal legislation supporting breastfeeding that follows the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, including provisions that:
- protect public breastfeeding
- offer enforcement for violating individuals and businesses
- provide protection to working women such as those proposed in the Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2011
- authorize funding for breastfeeding education such as the WIC breastfeeding peer counselors
These talking points should help you guide the conversation:
- We’re here as part of the Great Nurse-In, which will be held tomorrow on the Capitol lawn
- The mission of the Great Nurse-In is to normalize breastfeeding for today’s society and future generations by promoting public breastfeeding.
- While the significant physical and emotional health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child have been well-established, we need to increase public acceptance, and enact the laws to aid in this change.
- All parents deserve to be made aware of all their options to feed a child.
- Breastfeeding is a normal and valid feeding method that all parents should be free to practice at home and in public without fear of public scrutiny, discrimination, or criminal charges.
- No mother shall be harassed, bullied or otherwise punished for nursing her child in public or private, nor shall breastfeeding, covered or uncovered, be considered indecent exposure or otherwise inappropriate.
- While there are laws allowing public breastfeeding in 48 of the 50 states, many are out-of-date and restrictive. Additionally, without public awareness and support of these laws, the burden is still on the nursing mother to defend her right to breastfeed.
- Support for mother’s breastfeeding in public is essential. Public facilities that support breastfeeding – by making breastfeeding welcomed to new mothers – encourage higher rates of the practice. To provide this support and improve care for mothers and newborns, there are now more than 20,000 “baby-friendly” facilities in 152 countries thanks to a WHO-UNICEF initiative. Where is the U.S.’s support?
- Women have a right to breastfeed and not encounter difficulties in public. While in public, there is fear that one is risking ridicule and expulsion. This is far too common and unacceptable.
- The United States has the highest rate of infant mortality compared to other G-8 countries except Russia. Japan, our biggest competitor with the longest life expectancy, has the lowest. Breastfeeding reduces infant mortality.
How do I follow up?
If you meet with your Senator or Representative themselves, it’s nice to send a thank you note (handwritten is always best) letting them know that you appreciate their time. It’s also a good idea to send a thank-you email to the staff you met with, thanking them for their time, checking to see if they need any additional information, and repeating our ask. You should receive their cards during your meeting; if not, you can call their office and get their email address.
What if I can’t come to DC? Can I still participate?
Yes! Even if you won’t be in D.C., you can still contact your Senators and your Representatives and express your support for breastfeeding. Simply use the template Word letter – feel free to personalize it and share how breastfeeding has benefitted your child and your family.
The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding outlines specific steps that can be taken to remove obstacles currently impacting women wanting to breastfeed their children: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/calls/breastfeeding/index.html.
The U.S. Breastfeeding Committee has prepared some helpful resources about lobbying, including: