For the love of baby: Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week

August 6, 2015

Comfort Sam with her daughter Christine at a World Breastfeeding Week celebration thrown by Multnomah County's WIC office.

Comfort Sam sat on a child-sized chair, her long legs tucked close, her daughter Christine on one knee. Christine, who turns one year old next week, stretched a long chubby arm down her mom’s violet t-shirt, reaching for a snack.

Comfort laughed.

“You just ate!” She told Christine, then cooed, “oh, you’re hungry again.” She bounced the girl gently and smiled wide.

“People told me to stop breastfeeding after three months,” she said. “I asked someone here and she breastfed for two years. So I will do it as long as I can.”

Comfort and her daughter had come to the Multnomah County office of Women, Infants and Children (WIC) for a celebration in honor of World Breastfeeding Week. It was the first of three August events offering massages for moms and babies, face painting, cooking demos, door prizes and towering platters of fresh fruits and vegetables.

“I love [breastfeeding],” Comfort said. “I read about the benefits, and I do it for the love I have for my baby. I have something to give my child. I’m passionate about doing it. I want her to be healthy.”

Comfort was one of about 150 mothers and children who visited the WIC office at the Northeast Health Center this week.

Rocio Lopez, a nutrient assistant for WIC, launched the event five years ago to celebrate mothers who choose to breastfeed their newborns.

“We want to praise them for the effort,” she said. “Breastfeeding is not easy.”

That’s an understatement, said Briana Wheeler.

WIC staffer Lea Lipscomb gives moms tips on how to massage their babies.

Wheeler sat on a blanket with her son, Rainer, in an office WIC staff converted for the day into a baby-weighing and massage station. Beside her, Lauren Rosenthal sat with her daughter, Arlo. They rubbed their babies’ wiggling four-month-old frames, mirroring WIC staffer Lea Lipscomb, who was demonstrating baby massage on a plastic doll.

“I was terrified,’’ Wheeler said of breastfeeding her son. When it was initially painful, “I didn’t think I could do it. “It was crazy painful, but it was worth it, and the pain was temporary.”

Wheeler used plastic nipple shields to protect her tender skin. But when she talked to her caseworker at WIC, the woman showed her a technique of holding the breast that changed everything.

She never had trouble after that, she said.

At the Northeast celebration, WIC staffer Elizabeth Bull manned a booth with a breastfeeding version of Wheel of Fortune. But in this game, the answer to every question is “yes” and the winner received a free Subway sandwich shop coupon, entry to a pool or a water bottle.

Next to Bull, the team from the Mother and Child Education Center handed out flyers highlighting their offerings: free pregnancy tests, maternity clothes, diapers,and breastfeeding classes.

Nutrition assistant Brenulla White passed by carrying a platter of grapes, which she settled on to a table between a tower of pita bread and a bowl of bing cherries. Nearby Christina Aguilar sat quietly watching, a plate of food in her hand.

She’s expecting her first child to be born any day. And she said she plans to breastfeed her child.

“It’s the most natural choice and the most economical,” she said. “It’s practical. It helps me recover and it’s good for the baby.”

Where to go for breastfeeding help 

Women, Infants and Children: This federally-funded program run through the county Health Department provides mothers with breastfeeding and nutrition education, referrals to family support services and nutritious food benefits. Program staff speak Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Farsi, Mien and Thai. And the program serves clients in 38 languages through the help of interpreters.

Mother and Child Education Center: This Portland-based nonprofit serves about 1,200 mother a year in English, Spanish and Russian. Their services are always free and include preganncy tests and proof of pregnancy documents, breastfeeding classes, support groups, breast pumps, car seats, diapers, and maternity and baby clothes.

Nursing Mothers Counsel of Oregon: This volunteer run nonprofit offers free prenatal breastfeeding classes, including one specifically for teen moms, free peer counseling, and little to no-cost breast pump rentals and lactation consultant visits for low income breastfeeding mothers.

Breastfeeding Coalition of Oregon: Convened in 2005 by Nursing Mothers Counsel of Oregon, this new nonprofit intends to connect families and culturally specific coalitions across the state to “support, promote and protect” breastfeeding in Oregon.

La Leche League of Oregon: With more than 20 groups around Oregon, this coalition brings nursing mothers together for support and to share tips and education around the benefits of breastfeeding.

Supporting Nursing Moms at Work: This online resource managed by the federal Office on Women’s Health offers Businesses across America tips and ideas about how to support nursing mothers at work.