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A Little Help from Friends: Training Peer Counselors to Promote Breastfeeding in Texas

Here at FNS, we are working hard to increase breastfeeding rates through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. One of the ways we’re doing this is by using peer counselors who can provide more effective support to other breastfeeding mothers.

In July, I attended the “Breastfeeding Peer Counseling” course, which was hosted by the Food and Nutrition Service’s Southwest Regional Office and a nonprofit organization called Every Mother Inc. This organization provides counseling, lactation training and resources, and it was great to have them on hand for the training.  We also drew on the expertise of the national WIC staff, which directs the WIC program in serving over 9 million women, infants and children each month.

A local WIC staff member holds her sleeping baby as she listens to the peer counseling instructor.

A local WIC staff member holds her sleeping baby as she listens to the peer counseling instructor.

The course was attended by a diverse group including state and local agency WIC managers and directors as well as coordinators for nutrition, peer counseling, and breastfeeding. The course featured tools and techniques that are part of the national promotional campaign, “Loving Support Makes Breastfeeding Work.” The campaign especially encourages mothers to continue breastfeeding throughout a baby’s first year.  A few of the attendees even brought their babies with them to class!

One of the best things about the course was the emphasis on addressing barriers such as returning to work/school, time, insufficient milk supply, etc., that often cause women to quit breastfeeding. It was also a great opportunity to share success stories can be used to enhance peer counseling programs nationwide and to start new ones.

(from left to right) Deborah Parnell, breastfeeding coordinator of City of Dallas WIC, Cathy Carothers, co-director of Every Mother Inc., Robert Lane, director of Aspire Communications, Hitesh Bakshi, nutritionist of SWR WIC, Eddie Longoria, director of SWR WIC, Kendall Cox, co-director of Every Mother Inc., Patti Mitchell, program analyst of FNS national office, Tracy Erickson, breastfeeding coordinator of Texas WIC, Kristina Arrietta, peer counselor coordinator of Texas WIC

(from left to right) Deborah Parnell, breastfeeding coordinator of City of Dallas WIC, Cathy Carothers, co-director of Every Mother Inc., Robert Lane, director of Aspire Communications, Hitesh Bakshi, nutritionist of SWR WIC, Eddie Longoria, director of SWR WIC, Kendall Cox, co-director of Every Mother Inc., Patti Mitchell, program analyst of FNS national office, Tracy Erickson, breastfeeding coordinator of Texas WIC, Kristina Arrietta, peer counselor coordinator of Texas WIC

The Breastfeeding Peer Counseling program is one of the many methods FNS is using in the Southwest and nationwide, to improve breastfeeding rates and WIC participation.

For more information on the WIC program, click here.

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