WIC text-support program is helping breastfeeding mothers | PostIndependent.com

WIC text-support program is helping breastfeeding mothers

Renelle Lott
Special to the Post Independent

A Garfield County nutrition assistance program has expanded its support for breastfeeding moms through a statewide peer texting program.

The Breastfeeding Peer Counselor program allows women to receive text messages from educators, who provide them with guidance throughout their pregnancy and time breastfeeding.

Jasmin Ramos, a local new mother, had questions about breastfeeding and received the support that she needed through the program, which operates through Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

"Before I had my daughter, I wasn't certain for how long I was going to be able to breastfeed," Ramos said. "I applied for WIC because I heard that they help with providing infant formula.

"When I met with the WIC staff, they encouraged me to push through those two first weeks of breastfeeding," she said. "They said they offered a new texting support program and that it would be helpful and free."

Exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first six months of a baby's life improves health, reduces the chances of infections, and helps prevent childhood obesity. However, new moms may sometimes need extra support, and that's where the peer-texting program comes into play.

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"At first I was hesitant, because I wasn't sure what it was going to be like," said Ramos. "I started texting with another woman I'd never met, who was asking questions about my pregnancy. But, as soon as my daughter was born, it turned out she became my go-to for support. It's scary to have a new baby, trying to feed them, and wondering if you are doing it right or wrong."

Statewide, the program reaches more than 500 women a month, and saves mothers the hassle of traveling to a clinic. Moms are able to exchange texts with WIC peer counselors any time of day, especially during critical periods, such as evenings or weekends, when they can't get their babies to breastfeed. Peer counselors may also warn new mothers about potential medical issues that could arise.

"There was one time that I was in a lot of pain during breastfeeding. My peer counselor told me that I needed to see my doctor," Ramos said. "Sure enough, I needed that appointment. She even called me afterward to follow up with me to make sure I was feeling better."

Most mothers, 95 percent, who were surveyed after using the peer-texting program reported they would use it again, and 96 percent said they would recommend it to other moms. Pregnant women and new mothers can also find help by phone or in person at their local WIC Clinic.

"If I needed an answer quickly, I could text and just say, 'Help, I can't do this, or I have a question about this,' and I would get an answer back right away. I always knew that she would respond and be a good source of information to rely on," Ramos said. "It was a good avenue to not be embarrassed to ask these types of questions. The peer mom even told me what to anticipate, such as 'your baby may start to cluster feed during this week.' She told me that when this happens many moms feel like they aren't making enough milk, but it is normal. I didn't even know what cluster feeding was before this program."

Cluster feeding is when babies feed multiple times over a short period of time for a variety of reasons.

The Garfield County Public Health Department recently released its 2017 Annual Report. Last year, the WIC program served 1,030 participants with 90 percent of WIC mothers initiating breastfeeding. A full copy of the report can be found on the Garfield County website (https://www.garfield-county.com/public-health/annual-reports.aspx).

Interested mothers can find more information on the program by contacting the Garfield County WIC offices in Glenwood Springs at (970) 945-6614, and in Rifle at (970) 625-5200.

"Throughout the course of learning to breastfeed, I realized that it isn't black and white," Ramos added. "It was helpful to learn about everything that is going on with my growing daughter. I think this program can be really instrumental for new moms."