On a hot August afternoon, the Northeast Health Center bustled with families celebrating World Breastfeeding Week. Mothers received free massages. Their babies were weighed on scales to track their growth.
The activities were part of the World Breastfeeding Week Celebration at the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program office. Local organizations that provide health services and education to women and their babies joined Multnomah County to provide resources for families.
Commissioner Loretta Smith toured the event with David Brown, program manager of Multnomah County WIC. Brown said the county Health Department’s efforts to improve health outcomes for breastfeeding women have led to breastfeeding rates in the most urban region of Oregon that have surpassed 90 percent -- among the highest rates in the nation..
Last year, managers for Oregon’s WIC program credited Multnomah County WIC for making Oregon a breastfeeding leader nationwide.
Brown said the constant support of breastfeeding at WIC, from the posters on the clinic walls to participant-centered classes to peer educators, have made the difference for women.
“The fact that nearly half the moms in our counties are WIC moms has made it possible to reach moms on a one-on-one basis and overcome the unfounded fears and misinformation women have about breastfeeding,” Brown said.
At any one time almost 750 moms are in the WIC peer-counseling groups that meet monthly from before they are 20 weeks until their baby is 6 months old.
“Moms seem really thankful for peer counseling,” said Mary Wachsmuth, program coordinator for the peer counseling groups. “Even moms who’ve had other children say they’re finding it very valuable, it helps their confidence and makes sure things go well.’’
Multnomah County’s high breastfeeding rates were cited in the Breastfeeding Report Card 2012 published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Oregon infants who began breastfeeding is 90 percent compared with the national average of 77 percent, according to the CDC’s 2013 report. Breastfeeding provides health benefits to babies, including reduced risk of infections, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Benefits to mothers include reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
Commissioner Smith visited with mothers and their children at this event as she prepares to host the National Breastfeeding Awareness Month proclamation at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 15 in the board room of the Multnomah Building, 501 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd., Portland. The presentation will focus on current breastfeeding statistics, county and community efforts to support breastfeeding mothers and ways to continue improving breastfeeding outcomes.
Presenters include Louisa Kaplan, Nurse Family Partnership; Harmony Paul, Future Generations Collaborative; Shafia Monroe, International Center for Traditional Childbearing; Shanta Johnson, Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC); Denise Johnson, CareOregon; and Brittany Vuylsteke, Breastfeeding Coalition of Oregon.
Mothers are encouraged to bring their children to the board room. Event attendees can RSVP by calling Commissioner Smith’s office at 503-988-5219, and visiting the Facebook event page.