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For Release: July 25, 2013 - Pamela Williams, Office of Communications - 405/271-5601

Peer Counselors Encourage Mothers to Breastfeed
World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7-- “Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers”

In Oklahoma, mother-to-mother support has proven to be one of the most successful approaches to encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies. Since 2005, the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s WIC Peer Counselor Program has trained breastfeeding peer counselors to work in county health departments and provide one-on-one counseling for mothers wanting to breastfeed. These peer counselors have a passion for breastfeeding and a desire to help mothers have a positive breastfeeding experience. Since the program’s implementation, breastfeeding rates in pilot clinics have increased from 61.6 percent to 83.1 percent of mothers who initiate breastfeeding following childbirth. The program has grown from four pilot clinics to 28 clinics in Blaine, Caddo, Canadian, Cleveland, Comanche, Creek, Custer, Delaware, Haskell, Kingfisher, LeFlore, Lincoln, Logan, McClain, McIntosh, Okmulgee, Ottawa, and Tulsa counties.

Research shows that there are many long-term health benefits for infants who are breastfed exclusively for six months or longer. These benefits reduce chronic diseases, such as obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and some childhood lymphomas and leukemia. Because of these health benefits, increasing breastfeeding rates has become a priority of the WIC program, as well as a benchmark to improving infant outcomes as part of Oklahoma’s “Preparing for a Lifetime – It’s Everyone’s Responsibility” infant mortality prevention initiative.

“I never expected to reap so many gratifying experiences from my work as a peer counselor. I have been able to assist so many mothers to successfully breastfeed their babies. I love the opportunity to positively influence a mother and her child’s life. It is definitely the most valuable work I have ever done,” said Amber DeWinter, WIC Peer Counselor in Comanche County.

During World Breastfeeding Week August 1-7, some county health departments and WIC clinics across the state will host festivities to raise awareness about breastfeeding and promote this year’s peer counseling theme of “Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers.”

In addition to the WIC Peer Counseling Program, Oklahoma has many programs, initiatives and laws that support breastfeeding mothers including the Oklahoma Breastfeeding Hotline, the Breastfeeding Friendly Worksites recognition program, the new Oklahoma Mothers’ Milk Bank, and the Baby-Friendly Hospital International Designation, which recently was awarded to the first Oklahoma Baby-Friendly Hospital, Claremore Indian Hospital. National and state laws also provide support for breastfeeding mothers in public places and in the workplace.

For more information about breastfeeding, visit the OSDH Breastfeeding website at http://bis.health.ok.gov or call the Oklahoma Breastfeeding Hotline 1-877-271-MILK (6455).

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