Local agencies mark World Breastfeeding Awareness Month, offer guidance

Times Report

A key focus for Minnesota Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (MN WIC) during Breastfeeding Awareness Month is to call attention to the importance of breastfeeding and to support parents to get back to all the benefits of higher breastfeeding rates.

Breastfeeding rates among MN WIC participants declined during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to drop in early 2021. Approximately 76 percent of MN WIC participants initiated breastfeeding and 65 percent continued when the baby was eight to 14 days old as of March 2021. Those numbers are down from 80 and 71 percent respectively in January 2020. Some factors contributing to the decline include:

Infants and mothers unnecessarily separated immediately after birth due to concerns about parent-to-child COVID-19 transmission.

Less or no lactation support in some birthing facilities.

Early discharge and fewer post-discharge resources for breastfeeding help.

Breastfeeding benefits babies and mothers. The Polk Norman Mahnomen Community Health Services WIC Program (PNM CHS) is celebrating Minnesota Breastfeeding Awareness Month in August to emphasize the importance of breastfeeding and help pregnant and new moms participating in MN WIC reach their breastfeeding goals.

COVID-19 vaccine recommendations during breastfeeding

As more Minnesotans receive the COVID-19 vaccine, breastfeeding mothers should know the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says COVID-19 vaccines are not considered to be a risk to breastfeeding moms or their babies. Breastfeeding parents should talk about the vaccine benefits and risks with their health care provider before choosing to receive the vaccine.

Recent reports show breastfeeding parents who received COVID-19 vaccines have antibodies in their milk, which could help protect their babies.

Based on similar vaccines, the risk of serious illness from getting sick with COVID-19 is greater than the small relative risk from the vaccine.

Additional resources about breastfeeding during the COVID-19 pandemic are on the MN WIC website.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we provide services and support women and their children, but this important work continues,” said Tammy Conn, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) for PNM CHS WIC. “Being a new mom is wonderful, challenging and sometimes overwhelming. We want to be a key part of a support system and a valuable resource for new moms as they work hard to reach their breastfeeding goals. Breastfeeding Awareness Month calls attention to the importance of breastfeeding and having a strong support system.”

Breastfeeding Awareness Month

World Breastfeeding Week (Aug. 1-7) – Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility

Native Breastfeeding Week (Aug. 8-14) – Nourishing Our Futures

Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Breastfeeding Week (Aug. 15-21) – Reclaiming Our Traditions

This is the first year this breastfeeding week is recognized nationally.

Black Breastfeeding Week (Aug. 25-31) – The Big Pause: Collective Rest for Collective Power

MN WIC Supports Breastfeeding

WIC serves low-income people who encounter greater barriers to achieving their breastfeeding goals. Those who enroll in WIC earlier in pregnancy have improved outcomes, including higher breastfeeding rates. PNM CHS WIC Program supports and celebrates MN WIC moms as they navigate breastfeeding. Staff provide resources explaining the importance and benefits of breastfeeding and answer any questions at every WIC visit. Breastfeeding moms also receive extra foods to support their nutrition as they feed their babies.

Peer Breastfeeding Program

The Peer Breastfeeding Support Program is adding four new programs in Minnesota and expanding capacity in current programs beginning January 1, 2022. The program features women who have successfully breastfed, who are recruited from the communities they serve, and trained to help WIC participants with common breastfeeding issues. The expansion makes peer breastfeeding support available to 15 percent more WIC families statewide and allows existing agency peer programs to serve a higher percentage of families.  The PNM CHS WIC program has offered the Peer breastfeeding counselor program since 2016, to many pregnant and breastfeeding WIC participants in the 3 counties.   Moms have shared comments about how the peer counselors has helped educate and support them on their breastfeeding journey, this marking a success of the program goals.

To Celebrate National Breastfeeding Month, Mama’s Milk Connection, a monthly breastfeeding support group, will host a “Party at the Playground”.  All breastfeeding families are welcome to join us at the Head Start Playground, 1407 Erskine Street, Crookston, on Thursday, August 5th 6-7:00 p.m.  Games, door prizes, and refreshments will be provided.

For more information on breastfeeding, PNM CHS WIC services, or Mama’s Milk Connection, contact Polk County Public Health at 218-281-3385 or Norman Mahnomen Public Health at 218-784-5425