Creating a New Coalition
A coalition can be made up of interested individuals from public health agencies, hospitals, WIC offices, lactation consultants, and peer/community support groups. Some coalitions have a formal structure, and others are more relaxed gatherings.
Coalitions in our state have held kickoff events or meetings of interested individuals. A sample meeting agenda might include introductions, a bit about why breastfeeding matters and some breastfeeding data, and then a discussion about circles of influence and why people should get involved. Once you have even a small group assembled, you can think about what issues the local coalition might want to address -- creating a resource guide, publicizing existing programs, bringing in speakers, connecting with the journal club -- any of these could be coalition projects.
For additional information, check out these resources from some other state coalitions:
- Iowa has a concise list of five steps for starting a local coalition: https://iabreastfeeding.org/coalitions/
- Kansas has one of the most extensive resources. Most of it is state-specific, but it's a great model for a more comprehensive toolkit: http://ksbreastfeeding.org/tools-for-coalitions/
- Texas Breastfeeding Coalition info on starting a local coalition: https://texasbreastfeedingcoalition.org/us/local-breastfeeding-coalitions-in-texas/starting-new-breastfeeding-coalition/
Coalition Projects and Inspiration
The Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington and local coalitions around the state have developed creative, educational, and engaging activities to promote breastfeeding in the community. Projects and activities range from small local outreach efforts to state-wide advocacy programs. Below is a sample of these projects to give your coalition ideas for your own community. It’s important to choose something manageable for your coalition or group, and to remember that you can reach out to other local coalitions and the BCW for advice and support as needed.
1. Bus Signs and Billboards
In 2010 and 2011, the BCW purchased billboard and bus sign space in counties around the state with the lowest breastfeeding rates. The sign design was based on a billboard originally designed by the Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition to provide women with information about continuing breastfeeding upon their return to work, and the billboards were initially funded by a Business Case for Breastfeeding grant.
2. Farmer’s Market/Fair/Cultural Event Nursing Mother’s Booth
Several local coalitions host a booth for nursing mothers at their local farmer’s market, fair or gathering. Sometimes this is tied into World Breastfeeding Week activities or other cultural events. This picture is of Camie Goldhammer, Founder and Chair of the Native American Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington at the SeaFair PowWow in 2013. The set up can be simple, with a banner, a rocking chair or other seat to provide mothers with a peaceful spot to nurse, change their baby’s diaper and have access to some educational materials. This can also be a good tool to connect with other people in your community who may want to get involved with your coalition and to provide breastfeeding awareness to other community members.
3. Breastfeeding Welcome Here Campaign
The South Sound Breastfeeding Network launched a Breastfeeding Welcome Here campaign to encourage more women to breastfeed their babies and for a longer duration by making their community more friendly to breastfeeding families.By working with local businesses to post the International Breastfeeding Symbol, they are alerting moms about public locations where they can breastfeed comfortably, and encouraging the view that breastfeeding is normal, accepted, and welcomed.
4. Create a Local Resource Guide
Local breastfeeding support resource guides, like these from the King County Breastfeeding Coalition and Whatcom County, are a good way to educate community members about the breastfeeding support resources in your area. These guides can be distributed at local physician’s offices or hospitals, shared at tables or booths at events, and be available online for moms who searching for assistance.
5. Hosting a Speaker or Conference
This is a larger endeavor, but is a great activity for a strong coalition to take on. There are many ways to do this, including partnering with other non-profits and/or a local hospital. The Spokane Breastfeeding Coalition partnered with other organizations to host a three day conference in June 2013, featuring three speakers and offering continuing education credits for a variety of fields.
6. Mother’s Day Tea
This is a nice occasion to reach out to mothers in the community by hosting an informational community gathering. Here is a description of an event organized as a collaboration between the Snohomish Health District and the Snohomish Breastfeeding Coalition, in partnership with other local organizations.
7. Conduct a Community Survey about Worksite Lactation Support
There are many ways to work with local businesses to help them create or improve lactation support programs for their employees. One way to start is to send an informational letter and survey to local businesses. An example of this, developed by the Clark County Breastfeeding Coalition can be seen here. Information gathered from survey responses can help to determine which businesses are interested in developing a program for their employees, and how your coalition might assist them.