How did Amanda Neubauer’s Experience with the Lactation Advocacy Committee Help Build Her Skills in Advocacy and Policy?

Amanda is a second year MCH MPH/MSW student. Her background is in working with families at nonprofit organizations. Amanda received her BS in Sociology from South Dakota State University. After graduating, Amanda hopes to establish a career in medical social work.

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to work with families. In the fall semester 2018, I was a new graduate student who recently moved back to Minnesota. I had just finished a year of service in Denver where I had worked with families at a nonprofit which confirmed that I wanted to establish a career working with families while also advancing health equity. Lucky for me, the University of Minnesota offers a dual degree program with the School of Public Health and the School of Social Work that meets just that criteria. As a new student in the Maternal Child Health Program, I was looking for an opportunity to quickly integrate my course work with a practical experience. The Center for Leadership Education in MCH offers many experiences through their deployment program which partners students with groups and agencies in public health. I applied and was paired with the Lactation Advocacy Committee (LAC) here on campus.

This deployment matched up skills and interests I had developed, like working with families and social media with the coursework that I was completing. Many people that I know were also beginning to navigate lactation policies and practices upon returning to work and school for themselves at this time. Throughout the year working with the LAC, I was able to add to my toolkit by learning about lactation policies around the country at colleges and Universities, standards of practice for lactation policies and spaces, various communication strategies, and stakeholder engagement in a policy process. This was a phenomenal networking opportunity for me to connect with students, staff, and faculty across disciplines at the University as well as in administration.

The LAC at the University of Minnesota was founded in 2009. This group of students, staff, and faculty volunteer their time to advocate for lactation and breastfeeding support on campus. In the decade since it was formed, the LAC has helped establish new lactation spaces and improve existing spaces, maintained a map of public lactation spaces, fielded lactation-related questions and concerns, collected data on breastfeeding needs, and worked to support parents in the University community.

 The LAC has advocated for several years for an official administrative policy for formalized lactation support related specifically to lactation space and break time for both students and staff as well as appointing a paid staff person to develop and manage lactation support programs on each of the University of Minnesota campuses throughout the state. Throughout several semesters, the LAC in partnership with the Equity Access, and Diversity committee of the University Senate presented a resolution for a policy to create this formalized lactation support. We presented to many University stakeholders and administrators including the Provost, Human Resources, Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, and the Graduate School. In May 2019, the University of Minnesota Senate approved the resolution for a policy on lactation support. The development of this policy and related policies continue to be in process.

This experience working with stakeholders and advocating for policy change within the University directly ties into my current and future work. In my courses about Maternal Child Health Leadership, Reproductive and Perinatal Health, and Program Evaluation we were continuously discussing the need for advocacy and methods of advocacy. I was learning about the benefits of breastfeeding and the challenges families face in breastfeeding in both my classes and through student and staff stories. Finally, I was able to see what leadership in Maternal Child Health looks like at a University and feel better equipped to engage in policy changes for gender equity at workplaces and agencies to come. 

Interested in learning more about getting a degree in Maternal and Child Health? Visit our MCH Program page for more information.

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