Breastfeeding Champion: Marsha Walker


Marsha Walker, RN, IBCLC, is a longtime breastfeeding advocate. She is the executive director of the National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy, Research, Education and Legal Branch (NABA REAL). NABA REAL is responsible for monitoring the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes in the US, and Walker has written both US reports on Code-monitoring activities, “Selling Out Mothers and Babies” and “Still Selling Out Mothers and Babies.”


Walker began her advocacy work as a volunteer breastfeeding counselor with the Nursing Mother’s Council in California and went on to become a childbirth educator through Lamaze International, as well as a registered nurse and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.


In 1985, she served on the Representative Panel of Experts (a precursor to the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners), which designed the first exam for lactation consultants; she was one of a number of clinicians on whose practice the exam grid is based. Walker enjoyed a large clinical lactation practice at Harvard Pilgrim Health Plan, a major Massachusetts HMO, where for 12 years she directed the Breastfeeding Support Program.


Walker is on the boards of directors of the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition, Baby Friendly USA, Best for Babes, and the US Lactation Consultant Association.  She has seved on the board of directors of the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) and was its president in 1999. She is ILCA’s representative to the US Department of Agriculture’s Breasteeding Promotion Consortium, and NABA’s representative to the US Breastfeeding Committee (USBC). She worked for eight years to get legislation protecting public breastfeeding passed in her state and finally achieved that goal in 2009.


Walker is perhaps best known for her work to ban the distribution of formula samples in hospitals and is co-chair of the Ban the Bags campaign, a national effort to eliminate the hospital distribution of discharge bags that contain samples of free formula. See her Ban the Bags ToolKit.


In 2005, the Massachusetts Public Health Council instituted a ban on formula samples in hospitals, something Walker had worked on for eight years. Then-Governor Mitt Romney pressured the Public Health Council to rescind the ban. The council successfully resisted his pressure until he fired and replaced three members just prior to a vote on the ban; it was rescinded in May 2006. Less than two weeks later, Romney announced a deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb, the world’s largest formula maker, to build a $66 million pharmaceutical plant in Devens, Massachusetts.


Walker  was not deterred and continued to work for a ban. As of July 2, 2012, all 49 Masschusetts hospitals are voluntarily bag-free and Massachusetts joins Rhode Island and its seven hospitals as one of two bag-free states.


Walker is an international speaker on breastfeeding and the author of numerous publications, including Breastfeeding Management for the Clinician: Using the Evidence (Jones and Bartlett, 2nd Edition, 2009), and Clinics in Human Lactation: Breastfeeding the Late Preterm Infant (Hale, 2009).


Peggy O’Mara  (101 Posts)Peggy O’Mara founded in 1995 and is currently its editor-in chief. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has lectured and conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League International, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four.


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2 thoughts on “Breastfeeding Champion: Marsha Walker”

  1. Thanks for this Peggy. I interviewed Marsha Walker for a chapter of the book I’m writing (called THE BUSINESS OF BABY) and she was so smart and articulate and kind and … just amazing. So glad to see this post on her. Thank you, too, Marsha, for all the wonderful work you do helping moms and babies. You are amazing.

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