By Naomi Bromberg Bar-Yam, PhD
As you may know, Massachusetts Senate Bill S.600 / House Bill H.967, An act improving access to breast pumps, will receive a hearing with the Financial Services Committee on Tuesday, October 17. If you want to find out all about the hearing, go to our action alert post. If you’d like to provide testimony, keep reading. We’re here to help you understand the most effective way to make your case.
The bill mandates insurance coverage for multi-user double pumps, supplies, and lactation consultant consultation for preterm and other vulnerable babies. Parents of preemies may have access to these services in the hospital but not at home when separated from their babies. This bill will close the gap. Your personal experience, provided via oral or written testimony, can help.
Types of testimony
Legislators read, discuss, and vote on hundreds of bills a year, in a wide range of areas. They are not subject area experts; their expertise is learning about bills from those who are experts (us) and balancing the many needs of their constituents and the Commonwealth with limited resources and attention spans of the legislature and community. To accomplish this challenging task, our legislators rely on us, experts and constituents, to let them know which bills we care about and to share our expertise. To do this, we offer several types of testimony:
- The importance of human milk for fragile sick babies
- How breastfeeding supply and demand work, which leads to
- The need for multi-user pumps at home when mother and baby are separated, or the baby has other special needs.
Physicians, nurses, lactation consultants, NICU dieticians, and others who work with many families in need of multi-user pumps, who can address the needs of their patients that are not being met currently and the need for this bill.
Personal stories from parents who have needed such a pump at home and either could or could not access it are very powerful. They put a human face on the importance of this bill. It will impact real people, real constituents and citizens of the Commonwealth.
No one person fills all these categories. We need a balance of people to testify in all these areas.
Some talking points
Each presentation is unique. Here are some talking points to consider:
- Disparities in maternal-child health are wide and unacceptable. Several bills before the legislature and this committee, including this one, begin to address reducing barriers to access to basic health care needs.
- Preterm birth and congenital and other infant and maternal illness are themselves enormous challenges to parents and infants affected. It is the responsibility of the community to remove external barriers so that babies can grow and parents can help them do so.
- Mothers need to feed/express milk for babies every few hours, round the clock. When mothers and babies are separated, or babies face other feeding challenges, use of a strong multi-user pump increases milk supply over a longer time.
- Providing multi-user pumps is a low-cost way for society to reduce barriers and improve health outcomes in both short and long term.
- Human milk is for human babies, especially mom’s own milk. It lays the health and development foundation for life.
- It improves infant brain and immune system development.
- It reduces infections, which can be life-threatening for preterm and sick babies.
- Human milk and mom’s own milk support reduced medical costs:
- Reduced hospital length of stay
- Reduced medical and surgical interventions
- Reduced infant mortality
- Equitable access to multi-user breast pumps for fragile babies is an inexpensive upstream solution that will prevent and mitigate many problems and costs downstream, over the lifespan.
Legislators are people, just like us. They are relying on us to guide them in understanding why the bill is important and who it will help. Thank you for helping our legislators do their job in serving the people of Massachusetts.
Contact the Advocacy Committee of the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition. We are happy to help.
Thank you for making a difference for Massachusetts families!
Naomi Bromberg Bar-Yam, PhD, has been working in maternal and child health for 35 years as an educator, researcher, advocate, and writer. She is past president of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) and is the founding director emerita of Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast, which provides safe donor milk to hospitals and families throughout the northeastern US. Learn more about her on her LactSpeak profile.