New York State Department of Health Awards $8.9 Million to Promote Breast/Chest Feeding in Racially and Ethnically Diverse Communities

Breastfeeding, Chestfeeding, and Lactation Friendly New York Aims to Improve Health and Reduce the Risk of Chronic Disease for Women and Infants

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 21, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health is awarding $8.9 million in funding to support the implementation and expansion of locally-coordinated networks across the state that will promote and encourage breast/chest feeding and infant human milk feeding in priority communities. Breast/chest feeding helps combat risk factors for certain health conditions in both people who breast/chest feed and their babies.

"Human milk is the safest and healthiest food to feed a baby, particularly in the first 1-2 years of life, providing extensive health benefits to protect both the breastfeeding person and the infant from obesity and other chronic diseases," Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "This funding will help communities in need create more equitable systems of support and protection, and improve the overall health of New York families."

Research shows that human milk provides unique nutrients and antibodies that help protect babies from diseases such as ear infections, lower respiratory infections and diarrhea, and decrease the risk for asthma, diabetes and obesity later in life. Babies can consume human milk directly by breastfeeding or chestfeeding (a term used to describe feeding a baby from a person's chest) , or by drinking expressed milk from a bottle or cup. For people who breastfeed, breastfeeding lowers their risk for breast and ovarian cancer, as well as diabetes.

The Department's Breastfeeding, Chestfeeding, and Lactation Friendly New York (BFF-NY) program aims to increase local capacity and support to improve the continuity of care for breast/chest feeding and human milk feeding, especially in low income and racially/ethnically diverse communities, and to ultimately reduce breast/chest feeding health disparities.

The program also aims to be inclusive of all parents, including LGBTQ+ individuals, and lactation methods. Lack of structural and societal breast/chest feeding support prevents many families from starting and continuing breast/chest feeding. These barriers have a disproportionate impact on low-income and racial and ethnic minority communities, driving disparity gaps in breastfeeding rates in New York State.

In September 2022, the Department released the BFF-NY Request for Applications to fund locally coordinated, multi-sector community networks to build and expand partnerships and advance policy, system, and environmental changes to promote, support, and protect breast/chest feeding across community settings. The Department used sociodemographic and health indicators to identify priority communities across the state to address breast/chest feeding disparities and improve health equity for communities with high rates of poverty and chronic disease.

Award recipients will recruit community sites in selected priority communities and help them achieve and measure progress toward implementing policies and practices to improve breast/chest feeding support. Community settings of focus for this initiative include businesses and worksites, health care practices, public spaces, and community venues where people live, work, gather, play, worship, and receive services. This approach supports and aligns with the Department's Prevention Agenda and will support the breast/chest feeding strategy work of the State Physical Activity and Nutrition Program, a five-year cooperative agreement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In December 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation to revise the New York Labor Law Nursing Employees in the Workplace that expands workplace protections for nursing employees. The award recipients of the BFF-NY grant will partner with employers in priority communities to implement supports for breast/chest feeding employees and comply with state lactation accommodation laws that become effective June 7, 2023.

Long-term outcomes of the BFF-NY program include:

  • Increased breast/chest feeding initiation, exclusivity, and duration in communities of focus
  • Reduced racial/ethnic and community disparities in breast/chest feeding initiation, exclusivity, and duration
  • Improved health in communities of focus
  • Reduced obesity and risk of chronic diseases in NYS

Awardees will receive $197,502 per contract, per year for five years, beginning July 1, 2023.

Recipients of funding:

  • Western Region
    • United Way of Buffalo & Erie County
    • University of Rochester
  • Central Region
    • Oswego County Opportunities Inc.
    • Onondaga County Health Department
  • Capital Region
    • Samaritan Hospital & the Eddy Foundation, Inc.
    • Clinton County Health Department
  • Metropolitan Area
    • Orange County Health Department
    • Long Island Jewish Medical Center
  • New York City
    • The Jamaica Hospital

Exclusive breast/chest feeding for the first six months of life is a public health priority and a goal of the New York State Prevention Agenda, the blueprint for state and local action to improve the health of all New Yorkers. In addition, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, and World Health Organization all recommend exclusive breast/chest feeding for six months, followed by continued breast/chest feeding for one year or longer as mutually desired by parent and infant.

For additional information about breast/chest feeding and the Department's initiatives to promote, protect and support breast/chest feeding and human milk feeding, visit here.