You have to drink milk to produce milk. If you dont eat well, you cant breast-feed. Misinformation persists about one of the most natural acts in the world a mom breast-feeding her baby.
Even though breast-feeding is the healthiest option for babies, there still are barriers to women choosing or staying with it including misperceptions, early attempts that dont go well and societys lack of a supportive environment. This is true especially for lower-income women. A lot of times, they might be in lower-paying jobs without flexibility, scheduled breaks or access to locations in which to breast-feed or pump.
A new program at the San Juan Basin Health Department is helping to fix this. Breast-feeding peer counselors are working with mothers in the Women, Infant & Children (WIC) program during pregnancy and through the duration of the nursing relationship. The program is voluntary and free.
These five peer counselors are women who are current or previous WIC clients. They received 20 hours of training and attend monthly meetings for ongoing education and to talk about issues and questions that come up with their clients.
Amy Lochte is the program coordinator. She facilitates the meetings and provides medical expertise when needed. As a certified lactation educator and counselor as well as a registered nurse, she gets involved when there is a medical issue when a baby loses weight, is unable to latch on or has jaundice.
Lochte says the counselors begin working with clients during pregnancy to prepare them to breast-feed successfully. They educate mothers about breast-feeding, assist moms in setting up a breast-feeding plan, encourage asking for help, explore ways moms can continue providing breast milk after they return to work and, most importantly, create a bond and trust that will be there when the baby is born.
If we can get them set up for success, theyre more likely to breast-feed and continue it longer, Lochte said. With education up front, the moms can better identify a problem as it comes up and know when to call for help.
We call them breast-feeding friends, she said. Its important for the moms to have support available to them outside of WIC hours. Issues often seem to happen on the weekends. We can work outside of business hours and get them the help they need when they need it.
The WIC peer counseling program has been successful nationwide. San Juan Basin Health was one of seven county health departments in Colorado to receive funding to set up the program this year.
A higher breast-feeding rate is a bonus for everybody. Mom wins because she loses pregnancy weight faster. The baby receives immunities from the mothers milk and has decreased illness rates. Its a bonus for employers, as the moms less likely to miss work, Lochte said.
The program will expand soon to Archuleta County. Contact a WIC educator to enroll in the program.
Jane Looney is the communications director for the San Juan Basin Health Department.