WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counseling
WIC Peer Counselors are paraprofessional women, who have successfully breastfed despite barriers and challenges, and are enthusiastic about sharing their breastfeeding experience and knowledge with women of their culture and language. Peer counselors work closely with WIC and healthcare providers to promote breastfeeding in their communities.
The use of breastfeeding peer counselors adds valuable to WIC’s efforts to help women initiate and continue breastfeeding. WIC breastfeeding peer counselors provide a valuable service to their communities, addressing the barriers to breastfeeding by offering breastfeeding education, support, and role modeling. Peer counselors are familiar with the resources available to WIC clients, are familiar with the questions a breastfeeding mother may ask, and recognize when to refer mothers to other resources during critical periods when mothers may experience difficulty.
Currently seven of the 20 WIC Program Agencies in Iowa offer Peer Counselor services; Edgerton Women’s Health Center in Davenport, MATURA Action Corporation in Creston, Mid-Iowa Community Action in Marshalltown and Ames, Operation Threshold in Waterloo, Siouxland WIC in Sioux City, Johnson County Public Health in Iowa City, and Pottawattamie County WIC in Council Bluffs. There are 28 trained Peer Counselors in these seven agencies serving approximately 1,400 pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
Peer Counselors are effective in promoting and sustaining breastfeeding among WIC mothers.
Peer Counselor: Beth
My name is Beth and I am a WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor in Davenport, Iowa. I have three children, all very close in age. My first two were born in Arizona and the WIC office there gave a lot of breastfeeding encouragement but they were not fortunate enough to have a Peer Counseling program. After breastfeeding my first child for about eight months, I got pregnant again and my milk dried up. I was only able to breastfeed my second child for about 5 months due to thyroid issues. Without any breastfeeding education, I had no idea what was happening so I got all my information on breastfeeding from my mom, sister-in-law, and other women around me. Some was good advice, most was not.
My third child was born in Iowa and this time I had a “Peer Counselor”. There were honestly so many changes in my life during this time as I had recently moved from Arizona. I was told about the Peer Counseling program but I was a little confused on what that meant. It turns out my PC was great support! She called monthly to check on me, keeping the call short and simple, as I was trying to adjust to my new life with three children ages three and under. One day after attending a support group at the WIC office called Baby Café, I was asked if I was interested in becoming a PC myself.
Becoming a PC has completely changed my life. The education that I received to be a PC was, not only about breast milk but formula also. The information that I learned through my training was amazing, but at the same time, broke my heart because, with that information, I would have been much more successful with breastfeeding my first two children. Since I can’t go back, I feel good now knowing as a Peer Counselor I can help other women be successful. I am currently breastfeeding my 22 month old which is a GREAT feeling! I never thought I would breastfeed for this long but at the same time, I never knew how magnificent breast milk truly was. I have overcome so many barriers this time around and am so thankful for WIC and the education and support they have given me.
Scott County WIC Peer Counselor