Breastfeed important component of health

by Vicki Wood, WIC Peer Counselor, Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC)

The Marquette County Health Department provides public health services to all people of Marquette County, Michigan, which has a population of 67,700. Its mission is “enriching lives in our community by preventing disease, promoting healthy lifestyles, and protecting the environment.”

Part of its mission is to ensure that people achieve the highest quality of life by caring for themselves, one another and the environment.

Breastfeeding is a major component of healthy living for mothers and babies throughout Marquette County and achieves all three of the objectives laid out in the Marquette County Health Department mission statement.

The WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Program reaches the underserved population of pregnant and nursing mothers, infants and children up to five years of age who live at or below 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. For example, a family of four with an annual income of $44,863 (or below) would qualify for WIC benefits.

Currently, there are almost 1,200 enrollees in the Marquette County WIC program. In the past five years, the WIC Peer Counseling Program has worked with these moms and babies and seen a steady increase in the number of mothers who initiate breastfeeding.

The Marquette County Health Department WIC Program is also a part of the Upper Peninsula Breastfeeding Network, which meets quarterly and works to promote, protect and support breastfeeding as a vital part of the health and development of children, their families and their community.

The WIC Peer Counselors provide education and support for pregnant mothers and mothers who are breastfeeding. Their work encompasses all issues related to the breastfeeding dyad: they work directly with moms through the early days of breastfeeding with one-on-one and phone support, help moms transition back to work or school and assist moms in obtaining breast pumps.

The Peer Counselor program also reaches out to community members with Breastfeeding Moms’ Groups that meet twice a month and prenatal breastfeeding classes that are available three times a month.

The Breastfeeding Moms’ Groups are open to any breastfeeding mom and meet at 10:00 a.m. on the second and fourth Fridays of the month at the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum, 123 West Baraga Avenue in Marquette, and at 11:00 a.m. on the third Friday of the month at the Ishpeming Carnegie Library, 317 North Main Street in Ishpeming.

The WIC Peer Counselors offer support and guidance to new mothers in the early weeks of breastfeeding. When breastfeeding problems are addressed quickly and effectively, mothers will continue to breastfeed successfully for a longer length of time.

When breastfeeding rates increase, more mothers are exposed to breastfeeding and it becomes normalized within the community. The greater visibility of breastfeeding in the community positively affects the breastfeeding duration rates in the area since mothers are encouraged and supported to try breastfeeding when they have their babies

Imagine a world where every family was supported, nurtured by its community, and where breastfeeding was a normal part of life. For the past four years, the Peer Counseling Program has hosted a Big Latch-On and Breastfeeding Walk at the Children’s Museum in August in order to celebrate Breastfeeding Month.

The participants from these events have been included in the official count for the international Big Latch-On numbers; 2015 marks the fifth year that this celebration of breastfeeding will occur in Marquette County.

The event will take place at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, August 1 in the courtyard of the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum at 123 W. Baraga in Marquette. This is a free event and open to the community. This year’s theme is Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make it Work!

For details, call the WIC Peer Counselors at (906)315-2638 or visit www.biglatchon.org

—Vicki Wood, WIC Peer Counselor

Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC)

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