Know what you want

The first step in lobbying is to ask yourself what your goals are, both personal and professionally. Do you want to work on the state or national level, or both? Do you want to correct an injustice? (women being harassed when breastfeeding in public) Do you want to influence current policy? (encourage increased spending for breastfeeding care and services within the WIC program) Do you wish to help create new legislation? (guarantee nursing or pumping breaks in the workplace) Do you want to work with your state department of public health? (develop breastfeeding performance measures for Title V funding of state maternal child health issues) Do you want to work with state and federal agencies on third party reimbursement issues for breastfeeding care and services? Or, do you want to engage in indirect lobbying such as educational campaigns (World Breastfeeding Week for instance) that are designed to mobilize public opinion and deliver a message to legislators from a large public sector?

Do your homework

Depending on your goals, you will need to do some research on legislative, regulatory, and policy issues as well as identifying the critical players in the political arena. You also need to see who else is working on the same or similar issues to yours. Do you belong to a professional association with a legislative agenda? If so, where does breastfeeding fit into it? What you are embarking on is termed grassroots lobbying. It derives its strength from numbers—one person working with another, people joining together in groups or task forces, task forces joining each other in coalitions, etc. This weaves an interlocking network that endeavors to fulfill a breastfeeding reform agenda or a plan of action for change.

Who are the players?

Federal Government
The US government has three independent components – a system designed to provide checks and balances. The legislative branch is Congress. It makes the laws. The executive branch is the president and governmental agencies that carry out the laws. The judicial branch is the Supreme Court that protects the Constitution. Grassroots lobbying can directly affect actions taken in Congress and in governmental agencies. The US Congress has two chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Each chamber has its own set of rules, its own structure, and its own leadership. Each state has two senators representing the entire state and several representatives in the House depending on its population numbers.

The daily business of the Senate and House is carried out through their respective committees. Most of these committees draft and approve legislation. The budget and appropriations committees establish and allocate funds for authorized programs. Congressional committees are the heart of Congress. This is where the real legislative work is accomplished. There are nine standing committees in Congress with primary jurisdiction over health-related legislation.

Senate Committees
Senate Appropriations Committee on the Budget
Committee on Finance
Committee on Labor & Human Resources

House Committees
House Appropriations
Committee on the Budget
Committee on Education & Labor
Committee on Energy & Commerce
Ways & Means Committee

Find the names of your senators and representatives. Learn what their special interests are and if they serve on any health-related committee. Members of Congress and congressional committees have staff that control the flow of information to the lawmakers, advise them on issues, and influence their position on particular pieces of legislation. You can find out who your members of Congress are by calling (202) 225-3121. 

Federal Departments and Agencies
Within the Executive branch are the departments of the Federal government. Each department is headed by a secretary who is a member of the president’s cabinet. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) houses the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. The Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) has oversight responsibility for most of the other child health programs. Within DHHS is the Maternal & Child Health Bureau (MCHB) who is responsible for building the infrastructure for the delivery of health care services to all mothers and children in the US. This is done primarily through the MCH Services Block Grant, which was originally enacted in 1935, as Title V of the Social Security Act. MCHB also helps states in implementing other relevant legislation and in achieving the Healthy People 2010 objectives for the nation that relate to maternal and child health.

Report breastfeeding in public or workplace/employment problems 


What's Out There Already?
There are a number of tools or “supplies” to be familiar with no matter where or what breastfeeding lobbying you are engaged in. The US has numerous documents, not only calling for breastfeeding reform, but also describing what needs to be done. Secure copies of these for background purposes, to quote in letters or testimony, for benchmarking and evaluation, or to simply write your congressman and ask why little or nothing has been done to fulfill the various recommendations. Click on the link below to download a list of advocacy resources and where to get them.

Resources for Breastfeeding Advocacy