Women, Infant and Children (WIC) in Washtenaw county was recently recognized by the US Department of Agriculture for its work to promote and support breastfeeding.
WIC is a supplemental nutrition program for pregnant and postpartum women as well as infants and kids up to five years old who are income eligible. About half of babies born in the county qualify for the program.
“This award recognizes our work to continually assess and respond to our community’s needs,” said Duaa Cannon, RD, CLC, Washtenaw County WIC’s breastfeeding coordinator. “We’re always looking for ways to effectively address gaps and make sure our participants are served.”
The breastfeeding support program was recognized with a Gold award for its strong community partnerships and efforts to address inequities in services. InterCare Community Health Network in southwest Michigan also received this level of recognition.
What it means to support breastfeeding
“We want to meet people where they are, and that means accessibility and inclusivity are essential,” said Cannon.
WIC participants who are pregnant and interested in breastfeeding are provided with information, support and resources before their babies are born. This gives them the tools they need to serve as their own advocates after delivery and prepare for what to expect.
The program also uses the peer counselor model to provide support in those early months. Research has shown that peer support is very effective at improving breastfeeding initiation rates.
WIC participants can call, text and video chat with peer counselors or drop in and see them at the WIC office in the Washtenaw County Public Health building at 555 Towner St, Ypsilanti.
Lactation consultants can also be brought in to help with specific issues. These services are available in Spanish, Arabic and American Sign Language (ASL). The program has interpreters available for additional language needs.
“It is our goal that participants have the tools, resources and support they need to make the best feeding decision for their baby, themselves and their family,” Cannon said. “Human lactation is not an all or nothing experience and our participants are the experts on what the needs of their family are. We are here to support them every step of the way.”
The program distributes lactation supplies and helps participants navigate whatever they need to maintain breastfeeding over time. This includes managing the transition to the workplace and advocating for the needs of families.
A model for other agencies and organizations
The USDA Breastfeeding Award of Excellence program was established to recognize local WIC agencies that have provided exemplary breastfeeding promotion and support activities.
The intent is to provide models which will motivate other local agencies to strengthen their breastfeeding promotion and support activities, ultimately increasing breastfeeding initiation and duration rates among WIC participants.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding of infants for the first six months of life before introducing nutritious complementary foods, while encouraging social and systemic changes to support parents who choose to breastfeed.
To connect with Washtenaw County WIC, call 734-544-6800.