Washington County’s WIC Program to Receive Award for Exemplary Breastfeeding Rates

For Immediate Release: Monday, January 23, 2012

Sponsored by: Health and Human Services Department, Division

On January 31, Washington County's Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program will be presented with a Breastfeeding Performance Award that includes funding to be used for breastfeeding projects in the county. Washington County WIC plans to use the grant in part to work with local businesses to become breastfeeding-friendly, a key part of supporting breastfeeding moms after they return to work.

This award is given by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is part of the Breastfeeding Performance Bonus Award given to the Oregon Nutrition and Screening Program for WIC. Oregon is one of six WIC agencies nationwide to receive an award for highest breastfeeding rates.

This is the first time the awards have focused on the number of WIC mothers who exclusively breastfed their babies for six months (no formula, water or other foods), which the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended since 1997. In 2010, nationally the rate was 3.3%; in Oregon, it was 37%. In Washington County, 40.2% of WIC participants exclusively breastfed for six months.

Feeding an infant only breast milk for the first six months of life is an important way to decrease a child's risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and future risk of obesity, heart disease and some cancers. "Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to give infants a healthy start in life," says Jennifer Vines, M.D., M.P.H., Washington County Deputy Health Officer. "There are benefits to the moms as well, including significantly lower rates of breast and ovarian cancers."

In 2010, Washington County's WIC Program served 34% of all pregnant women in the county and provided services to 20,727 women, infants and children. The county has three certified lactation consultants on staff and offers breastfeeding classes, post-partum breastfeeding support groups, as well as breastfeeding equipment for working moms.

According to Jeanette Howard, Public Health Lactation Consultant and Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Coordinator for Washington County, "We focus on prevention by providing frequent contact with participants early on in pregnancy. Beginning at four months of pregnancy and continuing through four months post-partum, groups of women participate in a series of prenatal education classes together. The groups are designed to be fun, engaging, and promote peer-to-peer breastfeeding support."

"I like the (peer counseling breastfeeding) group," says Jessica Bridgett of Beaverton. "It answered a lot of my questions as I had a hard time breastfeeding my first child.It helped me have the confidence to get this far."

The award will be presented on Tuesday, January 31, at 11:00 AM, in the WIC Classroom on the first floor of the Washington County Public Services Building, located at 155 N. First Avenue in Hillsboro.

Washington County's WIC program focuses on nutritional support to low-income pregnant women and families with young children. It includes breastfeeding support groups, nutrition education, and vouchers for healthful foods available locally. For more information about WIC services or eligibility, call Washington County WIC at 503-846-3555.

Media Contact:

Wendy Gordon, Dept. Communications Coordinator