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Colorado moms in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) can text peer counselors any time of day for breastfeeding advice, thanks to a new program being expanded across the state.
WIC is a federal program that boosts healthcare and nutrition for vulnerable women and children. Latinos comprise nearly half of the 8.8 million WIC participants.
WIC aims to improve breastfeeding rates, curb obesity, and boost early childhood development.
Could texting help WIC moms get breastfeeding support they need?
“We know breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed babies, but sometimes new moms need extra support,” Heidi Hoffman, director of WIC in Colorado, said in a news release. “Using technology, we can help more moms in more places for less money.”
The Mom-to-Mom Texting Program
Peer counseling increases breastfeeding initiation and duration. That’s why breastfeeding peer counselors have been an integral part of WIC services since 1989. Peer counselors are key to serving mothers in places like San Antonio.
But Many WIC clinics cannot afford peer counselors.
Also, many new moms cannot get to the WIC clinic or lactation center during critical periods when they cannot get their babies to breastfeed, particularly in rural areas.
So, in December 2013, Colorado WIC piloted a breastfeeding peer counselor texting program with 15 agencies.
The texting program had two functions. One sent automated prenatal and postpartum educational texts. The other featured two-way texting between WIC participants and WIC peer counselors in English and Spanish. Participants can ask specific questions about content in the educational texts and general questions about breastfeeding.
About 95% of mothers said they would re-enroll with a future pregnancy and 96% would recommend to others, according to a WIC follow-up survey. Staff agreed that texting benefits mothers and saved clinics money.
Based on this success, Colorado WIC leaders decided to expand the texting program.
In December 2017, they rolled out a statewide Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Texting Program. As of April 2017, the program is used by 30 agencies across the state to reach 3,000 moms.
What This Means for Latina Moms
Breastfeeding for 1 year or more results in a 47% reduction in obesity rates among Latino kids, and significantly protects kids from becoming obese through age four, according to a Salud America! research review.
Yet, less than 50% of Latina moms still breastfeed their newborns by age 6 months. These moms face many barriers to reaching their personal breastfeeding goals.
The new breastfeeding support texting program is a boon for Latina mothers.
“Not only did the program save new moms the hassle of traveling to a clinic, it cut the cost of peer counseling in half for rural agencies,” according to the news release.
Learn other ways to improve health for Latina moms!