By Lisle Cole, Certified Lactation Specialist, MBA, Breastfeeding Counselor, and Akua Odi Boateng, MS, RD, LD, WIC Director
Breastfeeding is beneficial for both parents and babies; it protects babies from infections, aids mothers in healing after delivery, and improves the overall health and well-being of families. Throughout August, Mary’s Center is sharing the importance of breastfeeding support every step of the way in honor of National Breastfeeding Month.
Collaboration between community, families, workplaces, and health care providers anchors the practice of breastfeeding as a norm. All of us have a role to play to inform, assist, and engage mothers to successfully breastfeed their babies.
At the individual level, mothers need the education, skills, and confidence to breastfeed and to sustain milk production. At the community level, family members, healthcare providers, and peer support are crucial in ensuring new parents have adequate resources to make the decision to breastfeed.
Mary’s Center is one of many community organizations that promotes and supports breastfeeding through services such as our Breastfeeding Peer Counselors in the Women, Infants, and Childrens (WIC) Program, Healthy Start, Centering Pregnancy, our Doula Program, and Home Visiting Programs.
When families receive support during their breastfeeding experiences, it helps to strengthen their confidence and minimizes stress, which can increase the duration of time a baby will be breastfed. Mary’s Center engages families and breastfeeding participants both in the clinic and at home through individual education and support, in-person and online group breastfeeding events, and integration of breastfeeding support into pediatric visits for infants.
We continue to support breastfeeding parents outside of the clinic through the provision of breast pumps via insurance or the WIC program, providing 24/7 lactation support using the Pacify App, and giving families the space to discuss successes and challenges with breastfeeding through group classes.
Outside of direct support for breastfeeding parents, Mary’s Center is a strong advocate for breastfeeding in the community. We continue to set a positive example by making all spaces in Mary’s Center breastfeeding friendly. For example, we provide private rooms in all our locations for participants and staff who may want to breastfeed or pump in private, and we do not display or advertise infant formula at our health centers.
We also collaborate with legal organizations and advocacy groups to help prepare parents to return to work and continue breastfeeding. Many states have laws that protect a parent’s right to breastfeed their babies in public. This helps to ease parents’ concerns about being able to breastfeed when they are away from home.
If you or a family you know needs support with breastfeeding, please refer them to the Mary’s Center WIC Program. We provide breastfeeding support virtually through the Beautiful Beginnings Club, our online breastfeeding class, and through one-on-one phone consultation with peer counselors. For additional information, visit our website or contact the WIC Program at 202-232-6679.