The year 2017 has been a bit of a roller coaster for breastfeeding and human lactation. There have been some very difficult challenges faced related to Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies (IYCFE), in particular, hurricanes, floods, fires, and displacement of refugees. International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) and breastfeeding peer counselors have been there volunteering and supporting families. Education is an essential part of best practice in these situations. IBCLCs are specialised in the field of infant feeding and when it comes to emergencies we need to use our skills to communicate and share our knowledge so all babies are safely fed.

Health e-Learning would like to acknowledge lactation colleagues and friends who have gone above and beyond this past year to help communities who have been affected by emergencies. Michelle Pensa Branco and Jodine Chase (Canada – SafelyFed Canada), Fiona Lang-Sharpe (Canada - Hurricane Harvey, Texas)  Hirut Melaku, Jen Welch, Deborah Van Wyck, Kimberley MacKenzie, Marie-Rose Kavanaght, Katel Roddier-Deprez, and the Black Doulas of Montreal Ariane K. Métellus, Daniel Coyne, Dominique Dominique, Gytana Theobrun and Magdaline Philamar (Canada – Refugees crossing to Canada from the USA), Brooke Bauer (USA - Nurture Project International), Lourdes Santaballa (Puerto Rico – Hurricane Marie), Karleen Gribble (Australia – detained refugee families), and everyone else who has helped make a difference around the world, we thank you.

Human lactation has been challenged also by organisations and publications in 2016 and 2017 that have tried to place doubt around exclusive breastfeeding and the Baby-Friendly Initiative. Kudos to those who in the lactation community who stood up and countered those organisations and publications with their responses on social media and in print.  Families have enough to deal with having a new infant without misleading information being thrown their way. Health care professionals, who may not have had continued education to update their evidence based knowledge of breastfeeding and/or human lactation, may also be confused by some publications especially when they perhaps doubt the health practice in the first place.

There were some JAMA 2016 publications questioning the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). One suggesting it “should be reconsidered until good-quality evidence emerges that these interventions are safe and effective” (Flaherman & Von Kohorn, 2016). The early 2017 comments by Lawrence M. Gartner et al., Barbara L. Philipp, Marsha Walker and Melissa C. Bartick et al., all provided excellent responses to the questionable editorials or publications. Dr Melissa Bartick has recently authored a publication “Influential article against Baby-Friendly is based on a false claim.”(2017) Families trust health care providers and need unbiased information to make clear informed decisions about caring for their infants. If anyone is ever in doubt about BFHI, consider viewing Health e-Learning’s expert lecture by Louise Dumas, PhD, Baby-Friendly Initiative: Why Bother?

The year ended with many questions about conflict of interest and the relationship with industry. Very often it is personal and professional ethics that come into play. IBCLCs and health professionals need to be aware that when any company invites a lactation expert to speak, they are not doing this out of the kindness of their heart! The bottom line for all companies is the need to make profit for their shareholders. It is important to be aware these companies are using the lactation credential to promote their product, and participation by IBCLCs or other health care professionals can be perceived as promoting or endorsing their product. Tread carefully!

We all know that the lactation world fights an uphill battle while being bombarded with industry influence. The World Health Organization International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent relevant resolutions of the World Health Assembly are more important now than ever.

In our ever changing world, with increased occurrences of natural and man-made disasters, potential conflict of interest with industry, lack of significant funding, and changing health outcomes, we know there is the greatest value in supporting the breastfeeding dyad. We urge you to become involved in whatever capacity possible as we all need the support of our lactation global village.  

Remember, if you are thinking of donating to emergency organisations, it’s most helpful to donate funds to reputable organisations rather than goods so to best serve those in need.  

We at Health e-Learning wish a happy, positive and supportive holiday season to all.




Bartick, M. (2017, November 25). Influential article against Baby-Friendly is based on a false claim. Huffington Post's Contributor platform. Retrieved from


Bartick, M. C., Nickel, N. C., & Hanley, L. E. (2017). Evidence for the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative to support breastfeeding. JAMA317(7), 770. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.20832 Retrieved from


Flaherman, V., & Von Kohorn, I. (2016). Interventions intended to support breastfeeding. JAMA316(16), 1685. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.15083 Retrieved from


Gartner, L. M., Brownlee, A., & MacEnroe, P. T. (2017). The importance of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. JAMA Pediatrics171(3), 302. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.4786 Retrieved from


Philipp, B. L. (2017). The importance of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. JAMA Pediatrics171(3), 305. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.4826 Retrieved from


Walker, M. (2017). The importance of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. JAMA Pediatrics171(3), 304. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.4802 Retrieved from