New moms who are breastfeeding often have many questions.
What do I have to eat to breastfeed? Can I take medications and breastfeed? How can I use a breast pump at work?
Fortunately, the Arkansas Department of Health’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children Breastfeeding Helpline can answer these and other questions while offering support resources to new moms who are breastfeeding.
“Breastfeeding can be challenging for new mothers. Learning how to breastfeed takes time and patience for both moms and babies,” said Sandra Jones, State WIC breastfeeding coordinator.
Having knowledgeable health care professionals, other experienced moms, supportive worksites, community resources and family to coach, cheer and celebrate with her, can help a mother feel confident that breastfeeding is the right choice for her baby.
“One of the most important decisions new parents will make is how to feed their babies,” Jones said.
Research shows that infants who are not breastfed for their first six months of life are more likely to develop a wide range of diseases and conditions, including ear infections, diarrhea, asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, obesity and respiratory illnesses.
In addition, individuals who were not breastfed as infants are more likely to have health problems like diabetes and obesity. It also has benefits for mothers. Breastfeeding lowers their risk for breast and ovarian cancers.
To promote the importance of breastfeeding support, the Arkansas Department of Health is joining in the celebration of World Breastfeeding Week during Aug. 1-7. This year’s theme, “Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers,” highlights Breastfeeding Peer Counseling and other support that help to make breastfeeding work.
Even when new mothers are able to get off to a good start with breastfeeding, many quit in the early weeks or months after delivery, the most vulnerable time. In the year 2011, 62.4 percent of all Arkansas babies were breastfed compared to 76.9 percent nationally. By 6 months, only 29.7 percent of those Arkansas infants were being breastfed. The U.S. Healthy People 2020 goal is to have 82 percent of all infants breastfed.
Breastfeeding peer counselors are one cost-effective and highly productive way to reach and support a larger number of mothers so they can continue breastfeeding for longer periods of time. Peer counselors are mothers who have successfully breastfed and are trained to prepare, inspire and empower mothers to make an informed decision for feeding their baby. The Arkansas WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program supports 16 peer counselors serving 14 counties in the state. They support and encourage pregnant and new breastfeeding moms one-on-one and through support groups.
In addition to the Peer Counselors, WIC has several other resources to help pregnant women prepare for what to expect and help new moms reach their breastfeeding goals.
1. WIC staff with breastfeeding skills are at local health departments in each county of the state.
2. The Arkansas WIC Breastfeeding Helpline (1-800-445-6175) provides breastfeeding assistance to expectant and new moms as well as health professionals statewide.