The Flagler County Health Department is partnering with Florida Hospital Flagler to launch a bi-monthly support group for women who are breastfeeding.
The group next meets in Classrooms A/B at Florida Hospital Flagler April 25 from 6 to 8 p.m. Moms are encouraged to sign up at www.FHBabies.com or call the Hospital’s Parent Education line at 396-231-3152. The support group is facilitated by the Health Department’s Rochelle Stone, a breastfeeding peer counselor.
There are roughly 1,000 births in Flagler County every year. The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes breastfeeding as the best method of feeding and nurturing infants, and recommends breastfeeding for six months to a year, while the World Health Organization recommends that breastfeeding lasts two years.
But it’s not always easy.
“You need that extra encouragement to breastfeed and to go longer,” Stone says. “Sometimes there could be issues with breastfeeding and another mom may have just gone through that.” Health officials find that there’s significant abandonment early on: some women think they’re not producing enough milk. Others find it difficult to balance breastfeeding with work requirements, not keeping up with pumping, for example, though workplaces by law now must provide accommodations to nursing mothers, whether to pump or breastfeed (though the time is not paid). Sometimes there’s pain associated with breastfeeding. But like other issues, there are ways to make it through the various obstacles, and the support group is designed to give encouragement to moms facing some of those obstacles.
But the benefits of breastfeeding as opposed to formula are innumerable and include building a stronger immune system in the baby, stronger health overall, stronger bones, lower risks of sudden infant death syndrome, stronger bonds between mother and child, and materially speaking, it’s a lot cheaper than formula. And the days are long gone when a popular writer like Jack London could describe breastfeeding in public as “libelling all the sacredness of motherhood.” It is now not merely an accepted but a routine and recommended practice, normalized even in the most public places by breastfeeding shirts and other accessories that often allow a mother to breastfeed without anyone around noticing–assuming a mother prefers to be so dissimulating: mothers are also more free to breastfeed less inconspicuously, the rare retrograde finger-wagger aside.
The support-group initiative is in conjunction with the Health Department’s Women Infant and Children nutrition program known as WIC, which currently numbers some 1,800 to 1,900 participants in Flagler County–the third highest proportion of eligible mothers in any of the state’s health departments. Women may participate as soon as they find out they’re pregnant, and stay with the program until their child is 5 years old.
The program provides breastfeeding education and nutrition, including monetary supplements of $50 to $100 a month, with eligibility exceeding the minimums that apply with food stamps. (In other words, women with incomes of up to 185 percent of the poverty line are eligible for WIC, as opposed to 150 percent for food stamps.)
Michelle Morrell, the Health Department’s WIC and Nutrition Services program director, says WIC participants tend to be better prepared–because they’ve been trained longer–when it comes time for breastfeeding. Yet “we usually find a big drop-off around two months,” Morrell said.
The support group–which adds to a schedule of separate, bi-monthly breastfeeding education classes at the hospital–is designed to counter that.
Future meetings of the support group are scheduled for June 27, August 29, October 9 and December 19. To sign up, visit www.FHBabies.com or call the Hospital’s Parent Education line at 396-231-3152.