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Breastfeeding and Montana WIC

Breastfeeding and Montana WIC

Why the Big Push to Breastfeed?

Breast milk is the best food for a baby. It is always changing to meet a baby's needs. Breast milk contains just the right amount of fatty acids, lactose, water and amino acids (protein) for a baby's digestion, brain development and growth. Colostrum, the early milk produced by a breastfeeding mother, is rich in nutrients and antibodies. It is the perfect starter food for a baby.

Benefits of Breastfeeding

There are many benefits to breastfeeding. Some are more beneficial to the mother while others are more important to the baby.

  • Breastfeeding requires no special preparation.
  • Breast milk is fresh, clean and at the right temperature.
  • Breast milk is nutritionally superior to any alternative.
  • Breast milk is the least allergic of any food for a baby.
  • Breast milk has many special substances that protect against infection.
  • Breastfed babies have fewer illnesses and stomach upsets.
  • Breastfed babies are less likely to be overfed.
  • Breastfeeding causes the mother's uterus to contract. This helps her body return to its pre-pregnancy shape.
  • Breastfeeding promotes good jaw and tooth development.
  • Breast milk is easy to digest and is gentle on the baby's stomach.
  • Breastfeeding may help protect the mother against breast and ovarian cancer.
  • Breastfeeding generally costs less than commercial formulas. Since there are usually no containers to wash, heat, or dispose of with breast milk, breastfeeding may have a positive environmental impact.
  • Breastfeeding promotes a close mother-baby bond.
  • Breastfeeding may help a mother return to her pre-pregnancy weight sooner.

How WIC Supports Breastfeeding

The Montana WIC Program provides information about breastfeeding to a woman during her pregnancy. After delivery, the Montana WIC Program continues to provide information and advice about any specific breastfeeding issues she has.

Support for new mothers during the first weeks of breastfeeding is essential to ensure breastfeeding success. The Montana WIC Program now has several Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Projects in place around the state. They can be found at the Cascade County WIC Program, Custer County WIC Program, Deer Lodge County WIC Program, Missoula County WIC Program and Ravalli County WIC Program.

Breastfeeding women on the WIC Program receive specific nutritious foods: milk, cheese, eggs, iron-fortified cereal, vitamin C-rich juice and peanut butter/dried beans. If a breastfeeding woman's infant does not receive any formula from the Montana WIC Program, she receives, in addition to the other foods, more cheese, more juice, both peanut butter and dried beans, carrots, and tuna.

The Montana WIC Program has various breast pumps available for breastfeeding mothers and infants. We have hospital-grade, multi-user breast pumps which are used when the mother and infant are separated, such as an infant in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Single-user electric breast pumps are available to mothers who return to work or school and are separated from their infants for long periods of the day. Manual breast pumps are available to mothers who are occasionally separated from their infants for part of the day.

Many of the local program staff have studied and passed the exam to become Certified Lactation Counselors so they can provide mothers help with breastfeeding concerns. In addition four of our local program staff are International Board Certified Lactation Consultants. They have more in-depth knowledge of breastfeeding and can provide mothers help with more difficult breastfeeding situations.

A Statewide Breastfeeding Coalition was formed last year. This was spearheaded by the Nutrition and Physical Activity Program as a means of preventing obesity and other chronic diseases. WIC has been participating in the coalition. This has been a good process because it brings many of the local coalitions, La Leche League members, hospital OB staff, health care providers, WIC staff, local public health department staff and many others interested in breastfeeding together to work on promotion efforts.

The Montana WIC Program provided support during the 1999 Legislative Session for the passage of a Montana law protecting the right of a mother to breastfeed her child in public.

In the 2007 Legislative Session, a bill, sponsored by Representative Carol Williams, has been introduced to support breastfeeding in various government and school workplaces. Many WIC participants return to work shortly after delivery and find it difficult to pump breast milk at the worksite because of lack of support or a conducive space to pump. While this bill addresses only selected worksites, the example it sets would spread to other types of workplaces. The Department of Public Health and Human Services, the Montana WIC Program's parent agency, has provided testimony in support of this bill.

How Successful Have WIC's Efforts Been?

Of all infants born, the national goal is that 75% will breastfeed and that 50% will still be breastfeeding at age 5 to 6 months.

In 2003, the number of Montana WIC children 2 years of age and younger that were breastfed at birth was 74.7%. While this percentage is just below the national goal, it is slowly increasing. In 2003, the number of Montana WIC children still breastfeeding at 5-6 months of age was 30.8%. Again these percentages are below the national average and recently show a decline. Increased support by employers of women returning to work and breastfeeding may result in an increase in the duration of breastfeeding beyond the 5-6 months of age range.

Over the next few years, WIC will be tracking the use of staff knowledgeable in breastfeeding and the availability of breast pumps to determine the impact these have on breastfeeding, especially duration of six months or more.

For More Information contact your local Montana WIC Program. In addition to WIC, your community may also have additional breastfeeding resources, such as certified lactation consultants, La Leche League members and others. Your local Montana WIC Program should be able to provide information about the availability of other resources of breastfeeding information.

Montana WIC Program
1400 Broadway, Cogswell Bldg. C305
PO Box 202951
Helena, MT 59620-2951
Telephone: 800-433-4298 or (406) 444-5533