NJ Expands Statewide Breastfeeding Strategic Plan

By: Savannah Scarborough, Follow South Jersey Intern

SOUTH JERSEY – New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy proclaimed August National Breastfeeding Month, and the New Jersey Department of Health is honoring the progress of the Statewide Breastfeeding Strategic Plan. 

The Statewide Breastfeeding Strategic Plan was launched in September 2022 and contains 75 objectives, 27 strategies, and eight goals to increase breastfeeding in the state and to address inequities in birth outcomes. 

“New Jersey’s Breastfeeding Strategic Plan helps build support for increasing breastfeeding statewide, which will in turn support the health of both breastfeeding parents and babies,” said New Jersey Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Kaitlan Baston in a press release. 

The Plan’s predecessor was unveiled in January 2021 by First Lady Tammy Murphy in her Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan. The Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan worked to reduce the state’s maternal mortality rate and eliminate racial disparities, which ultimately led to advancements that resulted in the creation of the Statewide Breastfeeding Strategic Plan. 

“As we celebrate National Breastfeeding Month, we recognize that — while breastfeeding may not always be possible or the choice for every new mother — it can provide important health and emotional benefits for both moms and babies,” said First Lady Tammy Murphy. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breastfed babies have a lower risk of asthma, obesity, type 1 diabetes, and sudden infant death syndrome. Also, breastfed babies are less likely to have ear infections and stomach bugs because breast milk shares the mother’s antibodies with her baby. 

“The health benefits of breastfeeding for both the parent and the infant are well recognized and a key step in addressing New Jersey’s inequities in outcomes,” said New Jersey Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Kaitlan Baston. 

Since the Statewide Breastfeeding Strategic Plan launch, many of the objectives within the Plan have been achieved. The New Jersey Department of Health highlights and honors the following completed objectives: 

● improving convenience and flexibility for families by transitioning statewide delivery of WIC benefits from paper vouchers to Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards; 

● expanding texting capabilities to all WIC local agencies for more efficient distribution of public information and administrative communications to participants; 

● including WIC breastfeeding counseling and support groups in services that can be delivered remotely through texting, telephone, or video conferencing services; 

● ensuring that WIC local agency facilities have installed physical safety redesign and social distancing features and have sufficient PPE to protect all WIC local agency employees, including breastfeeding staff when in-person client contact is needed during public health and other emergencies; 

● expanding the role of the statewide WIC Breastfeeding Coordinator to include increased outreach to state healthcare provider organizations, nutrition programs, and other maternal child health partners; and

● increasing staffing within DOH to support the implementation of the Breastfeeding Strategic Plan.

“Supporting mothers who choose to breastfeed through all of its accompanying challenges and joys is an essential part of our effort to solve New Jersey’s maternal health crisis,” said First Lady Tammy Murphy. “I am incredibly proud of the progress we have made on this front through our Statewide Breastfeeding Strategic Plan and look forward to continuing this essential work.”

Within the FY2024 budget, the Murphy Administration has invested $400,000 to advance the Breastfeeding Strategic Plan, and the Healthy Women, Healthy Families initiative has allocated a large amount of money towards breastfeeding objectives. 

“Part of this year’s $3.5 million grant funding under the Healthy Women, Healthy Families initiative will go toward breastfeeding education and support for nontraditional groups including, fathers, grandparents, partners, siblings, and pregnant teens,” said New Jersey Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Kaitlan Baston. 

According to the New Jersey Department of Health, the Healthy Women, Healthy Families initiative “works toward improving maternal and infant health outcomes for women of childbearing age and their families, while reducing racial, ethnic, and economic disparities in those outcomes through a collaborative coordinated community-driven approach.” 

To date, the achievement of the Plan has led five of the 16 NJ WIC agencies to receive the WIC Gold Award from the USDA. The state’s WIC agencies are public health nutrition programs in which five of 16 of the agencies received the award for providing exemplary breastfeeding promotion and support services. 

Click here for more information about the Statewide Breastfeeding Strategic Plan.

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