Breast-feeding improves infant health and
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State sponsors peer groups for young mothers
CHICAGO -- Illinois is
expanding a program that helps young mothers learn to breast-feed
their babies. Carol L. Adams, Ph.D., secretary of the Illinois
Department of Human Services, announced Friday that the Special
Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, also
known as WIC, will receive an additional $484,705 to expand the
newly established breast-feeding peer counselor program.
The additional funding will enhance
breast-feeding promotion and support services for the program, which
serves 282,000 people each month. This increase will be used to
establish new breast-feeding peer counselor programs in WIC agencies
throughout Illinois. The new peer counselor programs will help more
women successfully breast-feed.
"We know that when new mothers have
access to a peer counselor program, it can significantly improve
breast-feeding initiation and duration rates," Adams said. "With
this program, Illinois babies will be healthier, have increased
cognitive abilities and improved overall long-term health benefits."
During the first year of the
multiyear funding, 18 local agencies added one or more peer
counselors to assist new mothers in initiating and maintaining
breast-feeding. Usually WIC participants, peer counselors are women
of the community who have successfully breast-fed their own infants.
They receive specialized training to serve as peer counselors.
Representing diverse cultural backgrounds, they offer encouragement,
information and support to other WIC mothers.
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Studies show that providing peer
counselor support to breast-feeding women leads to improved
breast-feeding outcomes. Besides serving as a role model for what
breast-feeding can be like, peer counselors also provide an
important link to other health services in the community.
The federally funded program,
administered by Illinois Department of Human Services, has helped
many low-income women, infants and children achieve dramatic gains
in health and nutrition. WIC breast-feeding initiation rates have
increased from 26 percent in 1992 to 56 percent in 2004.
To be eligible for WIC, participants
must have an income level at or below 185 percent of the federal
poverty standards and have a health or nutritional risk. For
additional information and to find the nearest WIC clinic, call 1
Department of Human Services news release]