August 25, 2022

Amanda Gorman’s Breastfeeding Journey

woman with a soft smile

This is a firsthand account submitted through SWHR’s Share Your Story portal, as part of SWHR’s Women’s Health Perspective series.

Like most new moms, I didn’t expect to have problems breastfeeding, especially since my husband and I are primary care providers. If anyone had resources at their disposal, it was me.

Yet, breastfeeding my first child was a nightmare, and I struggled mightily. My breastfeeding journey landed me in the emergency room with fever and mastitis, a painful inflammation caused by blocked milk ducts that affects one in 10 women who breastfeed.

Desperate for help, I resorted to paying out of pocket for a lactation consultant to provide guidance and support to get me through one of the toughest times in my life. I recognize the privilege of being able to pay several hundreds of dollars for a single consultation with a lactation provider, an option many women don’t have. Still, it didn’t seem right for this to be necessary for anyone.

After the frustrating go with my first child, and another terrible struggle with my second child three years later, I began searching for answers. How could finding help be so difficult and expensive, when families are following their provider’s recommendations?  Why is breastfeeding promoted if there isn’t enough accessible support to succeed?

I found that despite the clear research identifying current barriers for breastfeeding families, and additional evidence showing what interventions actually work, nobody seemed to be using these to address the problem. So, I set out to do it, applying technology, the use of video visits, also known as telehealth, to mitigate the one variable unsolved – a shortage of trained support providers.

Further, my efforts led me to realize that, since 2012, breastfeeding support had been labeled a “preventive service” under the Affordable Care Act for which almost all insurance companies were required to cover. Despite these legal mandates, insurers weren’t covering it at all, leaving parents to fend for themselves in the weeks that are most crucial for breastfeeding success.

This did not sit well with me, so the gloves came off and I started fighting. Insurers were a big hurdle, but there were others, too.

The very people trained to help families, lactation consultants, were not only in short supply, but were siloed from the health care system, creating a huge gap in maternal-child health care. There are currently fewer than half the number of International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants (ICBLCs) per 1,000 live births in the United States than the Surgeon General recommends. Together, these factors cause significant hardship and lead to early breastfeeding termination.

Determined to change the system, I set out to create a way for parents to access evidence-based breastfeeding support, aimed at improving success rates, without having to worry about the cost. That’s when I founded the telehealth platform, Nest Collaborative. Five years later, we are fully executing on my mission: ensuring all families have early and evidence-based access to comprehensive breastfeeding support regardless of socioeconomic status, location, or feeding choices.

Today, I continue to advocate for families, so they have access to the care they need.