National Breastfeeding Awareness Month offers a perfect opportunity to focus on the many benefits of breastfeeding as well as the support available to breastfeeding moms in the community and their families.
“Breastfeeding is a worthwhile journey, but it certainly takes time and effort,” explains Rylee Simonsen, supervisor of the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program at the Dare County Department of Health & Human Services. “A very important part of success is having appropriate information and support – it truly takes a village.”
Breastfeeding is the optimal nutrition that can be provided for an infant and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of life, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods for up to two years of age or older.
Among the many benefits to infants include receiving antibodies from their mother; a lower risk of asthma, obesity, type 1 diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome; as well as being less likely to experience ear infections and stomach bugs. Breastfeeding also reduces a mother’s chances of developing ovarian cancer, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
WIC is one of many community resources that helps to support breastfeeding mothers both prenatally and postpartum. During appointments, WIC team members provide information, education and referrals to WIC participants on not only the benefits of breastfeeding, but also what to expect when breastfeeding an infant. In addition, WIC provides nutrition education and counseling on a variety of topics for mothers, infants, and children, and also provides food packages to promote health and nutrition among these populations.
WIC’s Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program is available to anyone on WIC and partners participants with a trained peer counselor who also has breastfeeding experience. Breastfeeding supplies, such as single and multi-user breast pumps, are also available to help support moms who need to be separated from their infants for work, school or other reasons.
“A large part of WIC is making appropriate referrals, so we often refer women to other resources to support lactation,” Simonsen said. “We keep an updated list of community resources in the area to provide to women who want extra information and support.”
Simonsen noted that supporting a breastfeeding mom and baby can look many different ways. Encouragement and positive messaging go a long way, and partners can help by assisting with needs in the home and other needs the baby may have. Family and friends can also help by bringing healthy meals or helping with household duties.
“Most importantly, asking moms how they want to be supported and listening to their perspectives goes a long way,” Simonsen concluded.
WIC has three offices in Dare County. The main office is located at 109 Exeter Street, Manteo, NC 27954. Satellite offices are also at 2601 N. Croatan Highway, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948 and 50347 NC Hwy 12, Frisco, NC. 27936. For more information on WIC, please contact 252.475.5068.