AUGUST – Breastfeeding is known to have a positive effect on the health of the infant. But what about the physical and emotional needs of the mom?
This month is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and the importance of peer support among moms is being emphasized, according to Karen Kowalski, an RN with the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. Research shows that mothers who receive peer counseling from other moms, who are trained to provide assistance to expectant and breastfeeding families, can breastfeed longer and with greater success. Kowalski said this outcome is paramount to the health and wellbeing of both the mother and the infant.
Barb, a mom from Otsego County who tried peer counseling, agreed. "I had two very different breastfeeding experiences with each of my two children," she recalled. "Both times, my peer counselor was very knowledgeable and supportive. She helped me with different techniques and positions, and gave me confidence that I could find a way that would work best for my baby and me. She was right."
In addition to encouragement, peer counselors are able to answer questions and share experiences during a time when moms need support the most. "Even when mothers are able to get off to a good start, all too often there's a sharp decline in breastfeeding rates and practices in the weeks and months after delivery," explained Deb O'Neill, Breastfeeding Peer Counselor. "This is the time when a mother-to-mother support system is essential."
Kowalski added that breastfeeding moms also need support from their families, friends and communities. "We all need to praise and support young families who are breastfeeding," she said.
Peer support is offered to expectant and breastfeeding families at each of the Health Department of Northwest Michigan's local offices in Bellaire, Charlevoix, Gaylord, Harbor Springs/Petoskey and Mancelona. The Health Department also offers the WIC program, newborn home visits and phone consultations with nurses. Moms can call (800) 432-4121 for more information or to schedule an appointment.
The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For more information, visit www.nwhealth.org or call (800) 432-4121.