When it comes to long-term breastfeeding success, community support is critical

SPOKANE, Wash. – Sept 23, 2013 – As the number of women who choose to breastfeed their newborn continues to rise in Spokane County*Spokane Regional Health District’s Women, Infant and Children (WIC) nutrition program reminds the community that moms face new challenges as their breastfed infants grow older. Supporting breastfeeding women beyond the first few weeks is critical in helping them reach their goals.
Specific challenges breastfeeding moms face include:

  • Social norms that indicate that bottle feeding is the “normal” way to feed infants
  • Poor family and social support
  • Embarrassment in public settings and other social interactions
  • Lactation problems and insufficient milk supply
  • Upon returning to work:
    • Inflexibility in work hours
    • Lack of privacy
    • No place to store expressed breast milk
    • Lack of child care facilities at or near the workplace
    • Fears over job insecurity
    • Limited maternity leave benefits
  • Barriers related to health services including physicians that may be unable to properly counsel patients and offer strategies to combine breastfeeding and work.

WIC plays a key role in providing support to moms throughout the duration of their breastfeeding relationship with their child, helping them to overcome many of these barriers. WIC staff intentionally create an environment that welcomes families and is conducive to helping all moms. WIC’s breastfeeding peer counselors provide personal, one-to-one attention in assisting with breastfeeding problems and helping moms reach their breastfeeding goals. They also lead a support group every Tuesday and Wednesday for WIC moms who are looking for a supportive place to gather and share encouragement and resources. For more information about the WIC Breastfeeding Support Group, click here.
WIC staff also encourage area residents and businesses to support a mom’s decision to continue breastfeeding when returning to work or school. Research shows that providing a lactation support program at work or school is not only highly desired by breastfeeding employees and students, it can also improve an organization's return on investment by saving money in health care and employee expenses. WIC shares in the tools offered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health, and its program, The Business Case for Breastfeeding, with solutions to help employers provide worksite lactation support and privacy for breastfeeding mothers to express milk. The program also offers guidance to employees on breastfeeding and working.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, both babies and mothers gain many benefits from breastfeeding. Human milk provides the most complete form of nutrition for infants. Breast milk is easy to digest and offers breastfeeding infants protection against bacterial and viral infections, such as ear infections and upper respiratory illnesses like asthma. Research indicates that women who breastfeed may have lower rates of certain breast and ovarian cancers.
As WIC staff and peer counselors work tirelessly to tout these health benefits, support in the community, as well as for breastfeeding in general, is growing, as evidenced by the attendance of nearly 200 families at this year’s World Breastfeeding Walk and Celebration, held Aug. 3. Additionally, more than 50 moms participated in the Big Latch On after the walk, a simultaneous international event that helps focus attention on communities’ efforts to provide ongoing breastfeeding support and promotion.
“We’re gratified to see our numbers at the event continue to grow each year and want to thank the community for their support,” said Tiffany Schamber, WIC program manager. “It was especially fun to see so many dads in attendance. This kind of support reinforces our efforts in reminding the community that when it comes to breastfeeding, every ounce does count!”
WIC is a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.
More information about WIC and SRHD can be found at or SRHD’s web site offers comprehensive, updated information about Spokane Regional Health District and its triumphs in making Spokane a safer and healthier community. Become a fan of SRHD on Facebook to receive local safety and wellness tips. You can also follow us on Twitter @spokanehealth.
*In 2011, in 91.3% of births in Spokane County, it was reported that breastfeeding was initiated. The proportion of births where breastfeeding was initiated significantly increased from 2007 to 2011 in Spokane County. From the health district’s 2013 report, Health Families, Better Beginnings