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State sees progress toward expanding the types of providers allowed to give lactation support

A nurse checks the breastfeeding progress with Melisa and Brady. Melisa says she's grateful she was able to delivery both babies vaginally. "I did not want to have a natural birth <em>and</em> a C-section," she says. "That would be a brutal recovery."
Jesse Costa/WBUR

A 2022 Breastfeeding Report Card released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that Hawaiʻi was among some of the highest-ranked states in the country for mothers that breastfed.

However, disparities including race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status continue to impact many mothers' abilities to continue breastfeeding for more than six months, said the CDC.

Several lactation advocates and state lawmakers are pushing a House resolution that would change the qualifications needed by lactation consultants to perform breastfeeding services to Hawaiʻi's Medicaid population.

House Concurrent Resolution 7 would expand the definition of a lactation consultant for patients covered under Hawaiʻi's Med-QUEST Integration Program. The resolution is a part of the Women's Legislative Caucus bill package.

Consultants can help new parents with a wide variety of nursing problems from painful nipples to getting the baby to gain weight. They can be found in hospitals, public health programs and private practices.

"There are significant benefits to be derived from healthy breastfeeding. There's an additional consensus that breastfeeding rates are too low," said Eugene Curry with the nonprofit organization Healthy Children’s Project.

"There's a further recognition that lactation support from qualified lactation care providers can assist in increasing rates of healthy breastfeeding," Curry continued.

The Med-QUEST Integration Program currently provides medical coverage for low-income adults and keiki, but it does not cover certain lactation consultant services.

If the resolution passes this session, the Legislature requests that the Department of Health's Med-QUEST Division reimburse the cost of meeting with a certified consultant.

HCR 7 passed its hearing with the House Committee on Human Services on Thursday and will now move to the House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce.

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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