County gets gold award for breastfeeding support
Published 9:56 am Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Freeborn County is receiving statewide recognition for its efforts to support breastfeeding mothers.
The Minnesota Department of Health earlier this month awarded the Freeborn County Public Health Department with the gold level Breastfeeding-Friendly Health Department recognition, along with Dakota County.
The gold status indicates exemplary work in supporting and promoting breastfeeding by establishing a breastfeeding-specific working group, adopting a written department wide breastfeeding policy and completing a series of steps, according to a press release.
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This is the first year of the Department of Health recognition program, which was created by the state Women, Infants and Children program and the Statewide Health Improvement Program.
Cindy Gaudian with the Freeborn County Public Health Department said the department started working on implementing the required 10 steps over a year ago. She said there was a core group that met regularly.
She said the county jumped at the chance to be a part of a pilot program across the state for this, and as it grew, it incorporated more partners in the community.
Part of the effort involves collaboration.
“There’s a really big movement nationwide to become breastfeeding friendly,” Gaudian said. “In order for a woman to choose breastfeeding, she has to have really good support.”
She said breastfeeding is one of the most effective measures a mother can take to protect the health of her infant and herself and that Freeborn County recognizes breastfeeding as the first step toward a lifetime of healthy living.
As part of the effort, the Freeborn County Breastfeeding Coalition formed, which is made up of county workers, employees from Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and other community members. The coalition has a booth at the Freeborn County Fair, is a part of the women’s health fair and tries to get its message out to people on Facebook.
“When we’re at the fair we get a lot of really good comments,” Gaudian said.
They have also gone out and met with business owners and meet bi-monthly as a coalition.
Some of the other steps include educating the community on breastfeeding support, encouraging racially and ethnically diverse resources within the community, supporting mothers in intiating and maintain breastfeeding for up to 12 months and beyond, and encouraging local public places to provide a breastfeeding-friendly environment.
They also facilitate access to information and training for local child care centers to support breastfeeding.
Gaudian said there are breastfeeding classes held during both the day and evening, and expecting mothers are educated about these opportunities at their 28-week appointments.
Another success has been the peer breastfeeding support program, in which mothers can call or text peer counselors when they have questions or concerns about breastfeeding. There are three peer counselors.
“This program has been going very good,” Gaudian said.
The USDA honored the local program with a Gold Award in July.
Gaudian said if anyone has any issues with breastfeeding or they need support, there are nurses who can visit them at their homes or they can talk to them on the phone.
“We want to make sure that women — if they want to choose breastfeeding — they need to have the knowledge of how to make it work, they need to have the support and they need to have someone to call for support,” she said. “Those first few weeks are tough.”
Freeborn County Public Health can be reached at 377-5100.