Krystle Perez, MD, MPH, FAAP
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology
Assistant Adjunct Professor, Global Health
University of Washington School of Medicine I Seattle Children’s Hospital
Despite the well-known short and long-term benefits of exclusive human milk diets, there have been significant barriers to supporting Washington families motivated to achieve it. While there has been significant increase in breast/chestfeeding after birth, some statistics remain concerning. As many as 15% of newborns in Washington receive formula within 48 hours and exclusive breast/chestfeeding rates are less than 30% by 6-months. More concerning was my clinical experience that access to donor human milk, a recognized essential nutritional supplement for vulnerable newborns while mother’s milk is unavailable, was highly variable by hospital of birth as well as by sociocultural characteristics of families.
Backed by rigorous medical research, we had the distinct honor of working with amazing legislative champions Senator Trudeau and Senator Dhingra to draft a bill calling for coverage of donor human milk for hospitalized infants requiring supplementation while awaiting maternal supply. Legislators were overwhelmingly kind and interested in understanding the concerns, and we had the privilege of meeting with several Senators, Representatives, legislative assistants, fiscal analysts – all who were incredibly kind and supportive. The countless hours collaborating with numerous other legislators as well as many maternal-childhood advocates within Washington were inspiring – including working with WCAAP, Healthcare Coalition for Children and Youth, Amerigroup Washington and David Escame, the many courageous NICU parents, newborn care providers throughout the state and so many others. As a result, this year Washington state joins the growing list of states passing similar legislation, in the name of Equity and Maternal, Newborn and Child Public Health!
For others considering this path, getting involved with policy can be time-consuming and mildly disorienting – though concurrently enthralling and fulfilling with barriers only as big as perceived. I will remember the Washington 2022 session as a highlight of my career and look forward to advocating on behalf of our tiniest citizens and their families.
Editor’s note: What’s your passion? How can we help? Get in touch with WCAAP at firstname.lastname@example.org.