You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 9 a.m.

Mother-to-Mother Program offers peer counseling for breastfeeding mothers and babies

By Washtenaw County Public Health

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for staffordj_Gayathri Akella.jpg

Gayathri Akella - Breastfeeding Coordinator for Washtenaw County Public Health

Breastfeeding is the most natural, healthy and loving gift a mother can give to her baby. Mother's milk has everything a baby needs to grow and stay healthy.

It's hard to disagree with these facts, but if you're a new mother having difficulty breastfeeding, or an expectant mom with some questions, you should know that the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program at the Washtenaw County Public Health Department (WCPHD) is here to help.

The Washtenaw County WIC program, located at 555 Towner, Ypsilanti, recently started a Mother-to-Mother peer counseling program aimed at helping lower-income women breastfeed. The peer counselors help to remove barriers, answer questions, alleviate fears and offer general support on breastfeeding.

They are mothers with breastfeeding experience who can help you in your home or talk with you by phone. They can help answer your breastfeeding questions before and after your baby is born. Maybe most importantly, a peer counselor is a mother who can share, heart to heart, about breastfeeding.

View Larger Map

Women helping other breastfeeding women are the main tool in a statewide initiative, now in its second year, to boost breastfeeding among lower-income mothers through the WIC program. Using federal dollars, it employs mothers — currently 85 of them throughout the state — who themselves received WIC benefits and who are now trained to help other WIC mothers take to breastfeeding.

The program seeks to intercept pregnant mothers as soon as they apply for WIC benefits and use the intervening months before they give birth to educate them about the benefits of breastfeeding for their babies and themselves.

Michigan ranks 37th among all states and the District of Columbia in the number of mothers who have ever breastfed their babies, with 69.3 percent of mothers saying they started breastfeeding, according to the 2011 Breastfeeding Report Card, compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But most mothers don't stick with it, even though the U.S. Surgeon General and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life to maximize health benefits.

Only 31 percent of Michigan mothers were exclusively breastfeeding by the time their babies were 3 months old, and only 16 percent continued to six months, according to the 2011 report card

The goals of the Mother-to-Mother Program are to:

  • Increase the number of WIC moms who breastfeed their infants;
  • Increase the number of days, weeks and months that breastfeeding continues;
  • Provide breastfeeding encouragement and support to women throughout their infant's first year of life;
  • Enhance state and local WIC/MSUE joint efforts; and
  • Expand services for moms and their breastfed babies.

If you have questions about the Mother-to-Mother program, contact our peers at "Breastfeeding Warm line" at 734-544-2995

More information:

Washtenaw County Public Health WIC program

Breastfeeding is best for baby

Breastfeeding is great for mom, too.

Questions and answers about breastfeeding