It takes a village: Breastfeeding support is infant care

By Mary Ellison, Springfield-Greene County WIC Coordinator

August is National Breastfeeding Month. This month is celebrated world-wide to recognize the health benefits for the breastfeeding diad as well as the social and economical impact the choice to breastfeed provides. The Springfield-Greene County Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program joins this celebration. Many new parents may face challenges when it comes to infant feeding. The WIC program is here to support families with the most up-to-date, evidence-based, information so they can make an informed decision about feeding baby. They can also expect that our staff is committed to breaking down barriers and providing support on multiple levels for our families. At Springfield-Greene County Women, Infants and Children (WIC), we work with many community partners that also provide educational resources and breastfeeding support.

Why is breastfeeding important?

Breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for most infants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Breastfeeding provides a host of benefits to both infant and breastfeeding parent, including lowering risk of diseases like asthma, SIDS and ear infections for baby and ovarian cancer, breast cancer and type 2 diabetes for parent.

While the benefits are strong, in the United States only one in four infants are exclusively breastfed by the time they are six months old — the recommended time endorsed by the CDC, the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP views breastfeeding as a public health imperative and a health equity issue.

Why do people stop breastfeeding early or never initiate breastfeeding?

Many factors play into a decline in breastfeeding over the first six months of an infant’s life, which include:

· Issues with lactation and latching.

· Perceived lack of milk supply

· Concerns about infant nutrition and weight.

· Birthing parent’s concern about taking medications while breastfeeding.

· Unsupportive work policies and lack of parental leave.

· Cultural norms and lack of family support.

· Hospital practices and out patient lactation support

These factors disproportionally affect certain populations in the United States. According to the CDC fewer non-Hispanic Black infants (75.5%) are ever breastfed compared with Asian infants (92.4%), non-Hispanic White infants (85.3%) and Hispanic infants (85.0%). Young parents between the ages of 20–29 are also less likely to ever breastfeed than parents over 30 at the time an infant is born.

Deciding to breastfeed is a very personal decision. Springfield-Greene County WIC is committed to support the decision made by our families; our goal is to help them achieve their infant feeding goals. We work in collaboration with the Greater Ozarks Regional Breastfeeding Coalition that includes, Springfield-Greene County Health, NEST partnership, Jordan Valley Community Health Centers, Cox Health, Mercy, and other WIC agencies in southwest Missouri. Overall, we want to ensure that breastfeeding support services are available to everyone.

Breastfeeding support at WIC

All breastfeeding and lactation support services at WIC are of no cost to the WIC participant. If you’re struggling with breastfeeding, we’re available to help. Our staff is made up of internationally board-certified lactation consultants, breastfeeding peer counselors and nutritionists with advanced training in lactation all who can provide support and education when you need it.

WIC also hosts a series of breastfeeding events including classes, support groups, community education and support for businesses that want to provide a breastfeeding friendly work environment.

To access WIC breastfeeding and lactation services, call (417) 864–1540 or make an appointment with Springfield-Greene County WIC Clinic at 440 E. Tampa St. In Springfield. If you need urgent assistance, call our after-hours breastfeeding support line at (417) 838–9992.

Other education resources

Breastfeeding education is important beyond an infant and their parents. Family, workplace and societal understanding grows from education about the benefits and barriers that come with breastfeeding. The CDC breastfeeding resource library is a great place to start learning.

Other breastfeeding education resources include:

· The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which requires employers to provide break time, dedicated space and compensation for breastfeeding individuals.

· The Office on Women’s Health breastfeeding guide.

· La Leche League International.

· KellyMom.

· Stanford Medicine breastfeeding demonstration videos.

With every family comes a unique set of circumstances and reasons for their feeding decisions. While the process often includes hiccups and growing pains, remember that you are not alone; WIC is in your community and we are here for you.

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