March is Women’s History month, a time when we highlight everything woman. In the midst of farming and biofuels, research and forestry would you believe that the USDA also finds time to promote breastfeeding? The answer is absolutely! You already know that the agency supports a myriad of nutrition programs to help make America’s children healthy and hunger-free. Research has shown that there is no better food than breast milk for a baby’s first year of life. Breastfeeding provides many health, nutritional, economical and emotional benefits to mother and baby. Since a major goal of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) Program is to improve the nutritional status of infants, WIC mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their infants. WIC promotes breastfeeding to all pregnant women as the optimal infant feeding choice, unless medically contraindicated. So what exactly is WIC doing to support breastfeeding? The answer is a lot!
- WIC moms and babies who exclusively breastfeed receive an enhanced food package for a longer duration than non-breastfeeding mothers.
- Exclusively breastfed babies do not receive formula in their package.
- Breastfeeding moms can receive breast pumps, breast shells, and other nursing supplies to encourage increased initiation and duration of breastfeeding.
- WIC mom’s who breastfeed receive support through counseling, educational materials, and peer support from fellow WIC moms that have breastfed their babies.
We recognize that the food package alone is not enough to change behaviors. Mother’s need support education, and encouragement to breastfeed. WIC clinics provide peer counselors, women who can personally relate to other WIC moms, to help support breastfeeding. Some WIC clinics also provide education to fathers and grandmothers as we recognize that they play a crucial role in a mother’s decision to breastfeed.
USDA doesn’t just promote breastfeeding for the clients it serves; we are helping to support women who choose to breastfeed when they return to work at USDA as well. The Nursing Mother’s Working Group is committed to investigating whether USDA is currently meeting the needs and requirements of its new and expectant mothers who wish to continue lactation after they return to the office. A Department-wide effort is underway to assess the current state of the USDA Nursing Mother’s Program and identify where improvements need to be made. The USDA hopes to be a leader in the Federal Government in changing the culture of the workplace to support employees who are devoted to their families.
USDA is in the midst of updating its Loving Support makes Breastfeeding Work campaign. This is a nationwide social marketing campaign to encourage the initiation and duration of breastfeeding for all women. Stay tuned for events leading up to World Breastfeeding Week in August.