Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Moms share breastfeeding advice via new WIC texting program

A state nutrition assistance program for families with limited income has expanded its support for breastfeeding moms through a statewide texting program.
“We know breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed babies, but sometimes new moms need extra support,” said Heidi Hoffman, state director of the Colorado Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). “Using technology, we can help more moms in more places for less money.”
Colorado WIC originally developed its Breastfeeding Peer Counselor program to support pregnant and breastfeeding women. Peer counseling has been shown to increase breastfeeding initiation and duration. Breastfeeding for at least the first six months of a baby’s life improves health, reduces infections and helps prevent childhood obesity.
Under the original program, women could visit or call certain WIC clinics to talk to experienced moms about problems they were having with breastfeeding and get answers, words of encouragement and referrals to helpful community resources. But many WIC clinics couldn’t afford peer counselors and many new moms, especially those from rural areas of Colorado, had trouble visiting their WIC clinic or finding nearby help.
With an obvious need and limited funds, Colorado WIC piloted a texting program with 15 agencies supported by a staff of moms experienced in breastfeeding. Instead of traveling to a clinic, WIC moms could text with WIC peer counselors any time of day, especially during critical periods when they couldn’t get their babies to breastfeed.
When Colorado WIC surveyed participating moms after the pilot program, 95 percent said they would use the program again and 96 percent said they would recommend it to other moms. 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.
Building on the success of the pilot, Colorado WIC rolled out the mom-to-mom texting program to approximately 3,000 moms at 30 agencies statewide. Operated out of the Pueblo WIC program by a staff of five women, the Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Texting Program reaches more than 500 women a month. In addition to answering texts, staff members send encouraging and educational texts to new moms. Meanwhile, women also can find help by phone or in person at their local WIC clinics.
The texting program is another technological effort by Colorado WIC to help families with limited incomes stay healthy. The program also developed an eWIC card to replace monthly food-specific checks, the WICShopper app that identifies allowable foods and tracks purchases, and online nutrition education and support.

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