There is local support for breast-feedingPublished 11:01am Monday, July 23, 2012
Column: Cindy Gaudian, Guest Column
A woman sits with her back against a tree that shades her from the summer sun. There are voices of children playing tag around her. She gazes lovingly into her baby’s face as he contentedly nurses. Another woman looks at a picture of her baby as she pumps her breastmilk in a secure room provided by her employer on a scheduled break time. She smiles, knowing she is providing her baby with the very best nutrition. She looks forward to feeding her baby at her breast when she gets home from work.
Moms and babies are designed to breast-feed. This is the normal way to feed. It is also the healthiest way to feed. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization are two of the many medical organizations that recommend at least one year of breast-feeding for infants.
They also recommend that mothers feed babies only breast milk (and any needed medications or micronutrient supplements) for their first six months of life; and add solid food around six months in addition to continued breast-feeding. In the United States, although most mothers express a desire to breast-feed, only 75 percent start to breast-feed, and only 15 percent are breast-feeding exclusively six months later.
Does it matter to the rest of us if these two moms are supported in their choice to breast-feed? Does it matter if education and support for breast-feeding is available to support them? Does it matter enough to take action?
It matters enough, that as her first official call to action, on Jan. 20, 2011, Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin released “The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding.” She called for national support for breast-feeding in families, in communities, in the health care system, in the workplace, in research and surveillance, and in public health infrastructure.
In Freeborn County, we are pleased to see support for breast-feeding growing. The Freeborn County Breastfeeding Coalition is meeting monthly, taking baby steps toward providing the community with a greater awareness of breast-feeding, education about breast-feeding, resources for moms who need hands-on help, and helping businesses learn how to better support breast-feeding families. This is a wonderful collaboration of participants from Public Health, hospital and clinic staff and community members.
Our community is also fortunate that Freeborn County Public Health has a staff that is trained in lactation services with many years of providing education and support to breast-feeding families. That support is even greater now with our Peer Breastfeeding Support Program, which began in the fall of 2011. The PBSP is a federally funded program under Women Infants and Children, aka WIC.
In 2004 the U.S. Food and Nutrition program began using “Loving Support Through Peer Counseling” to train peer counselors to support breast-feeding mothers. Minnesota started in 2004 with three programs. The state now has 20 peer programs and is adding seven more. Other states have had their own peer support services for much longer.
Peer counselors are trained paraprofessionals who work with WIC moms. They help by: serving as a role model for breast-feeding, establishing a connection with the family, helping moms prevent and manage common concerns with breast-feeding, providing ongoing encouragement to help each mom meet her breast-feeding goals, linking moms to breast-feeding help beyond the usual 8-to-5 services, and by filling the gap in services immediately after hospital discharge for seamless continuity of care. Peers will contact moms monthly during pregnancy, frequently during the early days of breast-feeding and monthly as long as baby is breast-feeding.
Issues that are beyond the scope of practice for the peers are directed to the program manager and if needed, to the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, or the woman’s primary care provider.
Freeborn County PBSP has three peer counselors: Blanca Garcia, Julie Hanson Haukoos and Breyan Richardson. I am the PBSP manager. Rita Korman serves as our required IBCLC. Together, they serve over 200 participants and provide support in some form 24/7.
How can you help support breast-feeding in our community?
Speak positively about this very wonderful and very normal experience. Assist families who plan to breast-feed with anything that will help them to be more successful. Read about the absolutely amazing properties of breast milk at womenshealth.gov. Celebrate World Breastfeeding Week Aug. 1-7. Call Freeborn County Public Health at 507-377-5100 or visit our website at www.co.freeborn.mn.us for more information about breastfeeding and support of breastfeeding families.
Cindy Gaudian is a Freeborn County Public Health nurse and lactation specialist. She lives with her husband in rural Hayward. They have four breast-fed children.