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Lawrence – The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department is one of only 16 agencies across the country to receive the Gold Premiere Award of Excellence for its breastfeeding support to WIC families.
Leaders with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Kansas WIC program recognized local agencies on Friday as part of National Breastfeeding Month and World Breastfeeding Week.
“We are honored to receive this award, and it is a result of several years of hard work and compassion from past and current staff members who do an amazing job of connecting with WIC families and effectively sharing the healthy benefits of breastfeeding,” said Linda Craig, Director of Clinic Services at the Health Department.
The USDA established the award program to recognize local WIC agencies that have provided exemplary breastfeeding promotion and support to their communities. Its intent is to showcase local agencies as models and motivate others to strengthen their breastfeeding promotion and support activities.
Ultimately these efforts can increase breastfeeding rates among WIC participants and protect and improve the health of families for generations. In 2017, 25.1% of all of the infants on WIC program were exclusively breastfed in Douglas County. This is above the Kansas WIC program average of 15.5%.
“One thing that makes our program so successful is that all of our staff provides breastfeeding support in some way,” said Cary Allen, who has served as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor since 2006.
The clinic’s receptionists encourage mothers to nurse their babies and offer a quiet and private room, if needed. WIC clinicians help mothers address any breastfeeding challenges and seek to prevent problems. And the clinic checkout staff offers affirmations, while the breastfeeding peer counselors are available to mothers via phone and a text line outside of clinic hours for support.
Elena Johnson, who started in June as a new Breastfeeding Peer Counselor, utilized those support services as a WIC client. She said the texting support line in particular was helpful, especially because it was personalized and much easier than sifting through information on the Internet.
“We want to see everybody on this breastfeeding journey and help see them through their bumps and just want to provide that lifeline,” Johnson said. “I never felt like they would brush me off, and I always felt like there would be someone there to respond to me.”
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has proclaimed August as Breastfeeding Awareness Month in the state.
The WIC Breastfeeding Support campaign’s goal is to share information and resources, as well as provide the breastfeeding support that WIC families need to meet their breastfeeding goals.
Breastfeeding Peer Counseling services are available in most parts of Kansas; find out more on the Kansas WIC Program’s website.