Marquette County Health Department provides breastfeeding support for Marquette County moms

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The Marquette County Health Department provides public health services to all people of Marquette County and its 67,700 residents. At the health department, our mission is “enriching lives in our community by preventing disease, promoting healthy lifestyles, and protecting the environment.” Part of our 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 5 years of age living below the poverty level. There are almost 1,200 enrollees in the Marquette County WIC program. Over the past six years, the WIC peer counseling program has worked with these moms and babies and seen a steady increase in the number of mothers that 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.

Beginning this year, WIC peer counselors provide education and support for all pregnant mothers and mothers who are breastfeeding regardless of their WIC eligibility. 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 Breastfeeding Peer Counseling program also reaches out to community members with a Breastfeeding Moms’ Group that meets three times a month, and prenatal breastfeeding classes that are available two times a month. The moms’ group and the breastfeeding classes are free and open to the public.

Both WIC peer counselors, Linda Marshall and Vicki Wood, are certified lactation counselors (CLCs), trained and accredited, and they practice evidence-based lactation support. A full array of lactation services is now available for any mom in Marquette County who is experiencing breastfeeding difficulties or who needs breastfeeding support. Peer counselors meet with moms in order to help solve breastfeeding challenges and offer breastfeeding support throughout all stages of a mother’s breastfeeding relationship.

August is a special time in the global breastfeeding community because it marks World Breastfeeding Month. Marquette County will once again join in the celebration. At 10 a.m. Saturday, August 6, all families are invited to the U.P. Children’s Museum for the sixth annual Big Latch On Breastfeeding celebration. The Global Big Latch On takes place around the world, where women gather together to breastfeed their babies, and family and friends join the celebration to promote and support breastfeeding. The event is family-friendly and includes face painting and snacks. The Big Latch On is a free event and open to the entire community. Immediately following the Big Latch On, there will be a breastfeeding walk throughout downtown Marquette that all families are invited to attend. It’s a fun way to show your support for breastfeeding.

The Big Latch On aims to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding families by:

• Providing support for communities to identify and grow opportunities to provide on-going breastfeeding support and promotion in local communities.

• Raising awareness of breastfeeding support and knowledge available locally and globally.

• Helping communities positively support breastfeeding in public places.

• Making breastfeeding as a normal part of day-to-day life at the local community level.

• Increasing support for women who breastfeed – women are supported by their partners, family and their communities.

• Ensuring communities have the resources to advocate for coordinated appropriate and accessible breastfeeding support services.

The Global Big Latch On is a highly successful, targeted community development initiative that raises awareness of breastfeeding, encourages the formation of support networks between breastfeeding women and aims to normalize breastfeeding as a part of daily life.

Why is breastfeeding so important for families and the community? First, breastfeeding provides life-saving benefits for a newborn. It is the biological norm and the easiest, most affordable way to give babies health benefits that no other substance can provide. Breast milk has everything a baby needs, it is always available, cannot be duplicated by artificial milk substitutes such as formula and prevents many infant diseases.

Breast milk really is the original fast food! Second, breastfeeding is a great way to prevent future health problems and saves money for families and the community. Less trips to the doctor or ER for the breastfeeding baby translates into money saved and less dollars spent on health care costs. Lastly, breastfeeding increases confidence in mothers and fathers that they can meet their baby’s needs and learn their baby’s signals and cues.

Breastfeeding can really help parents to understand their babies better. Parenting is for a lifetime and breastfeeding is the optimal way to get that life-long relationship started.     

Breastfeeding is also protected by law in the state of Michigan. A mother can breastfeed anytime, anywhere based on the 2014 Michigan Breastfeeding Antidiscrimination Act, which ensures that women have the right to breastfeed their babies in public (SB 674).

It’s important for mothers to know that they are protected and that they shouldn’t feel intimidated when they need to feed their babies. This protection under law is another step that helps to normalize breastfeeding in our community.

Those with questions regarding the WIC breastfeeding program or need lactation support should call 315-2638.

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