20 Actions in 20 Days: Peer counseling for breastfeeding mothers

20 Actions in 20 Days

Surgeon General Regina Benjamin has called on the entire nation to take 20 concrete action steps from the January 2011 Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding to support the removal of barriers to breastfeeding. The United States Breastfeeding Committee is hosting a “20 Actions in 20 Days” campaign to highlight these action steps and implementation strategies.

Action 3: Strengthen programs that provide mother-to-mother support and peer counseling.

Breastfeeding peer support has been identified as one of the keys to increasing both initiation and duration. In Florida, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program has utilized this method to help women across the state breastfeed.

The Florida WIC program originally funded breastfeeding peer counseling programs in 2004 at 15 local WIC agencies where preexisting programs were already in place. The program was expanded statewide in 2011.

The state administered a survey of the peer counselor program coordinators and counselors. Highlights from the surveys include:

  • The majority of peer coordinators and counselors used the Loving Support Model developed by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service.
  • 99 percent of peer counselors breastfed their babies.
  • While a quarter of the peer counselors were either Certified Lactation Counselors or International Board Certified Lactation Consultants, the majority were neight a CLC nor an IBCLC.
  • Research on the Loving Support Model shows that that contacts made during a woman’s pregnancy are important in increasing duration rates, while regular and frequent contacts at critical weaning intervals are effective at providing support during high need periods. More than half of the WIC agencies contacted women during the last month of pregnancy and postpartum within one month of delivery. Most contacts were made by the peer counselor contacting the client.
  • The top ten issues peer counselors provide counseling on were sore nipples, poor latching baby, low milk supply, non-latching baby, plugged ducts, premature baby, overactive let down, poor weight gain in baby, thrush and mastitis.
  • More than 80 percent of agencies held breastfeeding support classes.

Through the local prenatal and infant Healthy Start programs, more than 100 women were referred to WIC services in 2011-2012.