The High Life of a WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor

Yesterday, The Huffington Post ran the story “Virginia Foxx Proposes To Cut Breastfeeding Support Funds.” In light of the news regarding a proposal to cut funding to the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) for the breastfeeding peer counselor program in the USA, my friend (and helping admin. on TLB Facebook) Star shares her perspective as a peer counselor.  Star, like almost all peer counselor in the WIC program, works part time supporting women in breastfeeding meaning she receives no benefits.  Her response to the proposition of Rep. Foxx indirectly addresses the very serious implications of such a proposal: we do not value breastfeeding as a culture.  We claim we do but then, as Star says, we do not walk the walk. Additionally an action such as this demonstrates that we don’t understand the very nature of breastfeeding education and support which is a major contributing factor in why so many women that start out breastfeeding are no longer breastfeeding within a few weeks or months.  We should be examining how to make support for breastfeeding more available to women, not less so.  I’m proud to present this guest post from Star.

Hi. I’m Star, and I’m a breastfeeding peer counselor for WIC.

However, if Representative Virginia Foxx from North Carolina has her way, I won’t be able to say that for much longer. “All this money is being spent on salaries, benefits and cell phones for a program the federal government has no business doing,” Foxx was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

You caught me, Virginia Foxx. I am living the high life on government money while performing a totally unneeded job. I’m so glad you exposed my career as the farce that it is. Thank you.

All sarcasm aside, let’s talk about what I do.

First of all, let’s have a (really brief and as non-boring as possible) history of the peer counselor program. WIC used to be seen as “that formula distribution center for poor people.” WIC decided, in the early 2000s, that they needed to get serious about promoting the normal way of feeding a child – breastfeeding. So they initiated a pilot program of peer counseling. After all, their research showed that mother to mother support made a huge difference in breastfeeding. They would hire women – women who were or had been on WIC that the other moms could relate to, who had successfully nursed babies. They would provide training and education and these peers would give support and advice. They would also, they hoped, get more mothers to breastfeed.

It worked. It worked so well that WIC decided to roll it out around the nation.

So what do I do, exactly?

Well, it’s not as glamorous as Virginia Foxx makes it out to be. First of all, my salary is a pittance. Most peer counselors make between $8 to $10 per hour. I get no sick days, no health insurance, no paid vacation time, no 401k. I run a Facebook group that is only peer counselors, and I have never heard one of them discuss the awesome benefits or salary of the job, so I’m pretty sure that this is country wide. I get to bring my child to work with me until she’s two, but that’s my office and not reflective of every WIC everywhere. Sometimes my boss buys cookies. I once got a t-shirt.

I know, I know. Try not to die of jealousy, everyone.

Now let’s look at a typical day in the life of me. I get to work, check voicemail, counsel prenatal moms about the benefits of breastfeeding, what to expect, and what to do when they go back to work. I rent our breastpumps. I do feeding assessments if moms are concerned about baby not getting enough. I call clients. I evaluate latches. I teach classes. I leave notes in the files so that other staff knows what is going on with the client. I do everything an IBCLC through a private practice or hospital might do, I just do it much cheaper. (Please note: not all WIC counselors are IBCLCs. I am not, although I am taking the exam this summer. I am not trying to say that I currently should or could make the same amount of money as one. I will say that IBLCE had very stringent requirements for the counseling hours that you need before you sit the exam, though, and currently WIC and LLLI are the only two ways to get that experience that don’t require a career in medicine or a mentorship, though, so we must have pretty awesome training.)

At four, I go home and leave all my work behind me.

*bursts into hysterical laughter*

At four, I do clock out. Then I turn on my cell phone – MY cell phone, Representative Foxx, the one that is not paid for by the company, thank you very much – and I run my own warmline for my clients. Sometimes, I don’t get a lot of calls. Sometimes I do. I have taken calls that have lasted hours. I have taken middle of the night calls. I have taken texts. I have taken calls on major holidays, most notably Christmas Eve. I took a call when my daughter was in the hospital and I was frazzled and upset and kind of really wanted to let it just go to voicemail.

I have been paid for zero of those calls.

I also make calls, from home, from the road (when someone else is driving.) I stuff envelopes with breastfeeding information. I ask local businesses to donate prizes to the mom’s group. I advocate at businesses. I talk to the media.

I rarely get paid for any of that, either. I probably could, but I have never asked. I have never asked because I’d rather have the extra money in the budget go to helping my moms breastfeed. I would rather we buy a pump for an exclusively breastfeeding mom who is returning to work at 4 weeks postpartum doing 12 hour days than line my pocket.

I didn’t take this job for the money. I took it because I have a passion for breastfeeding and helping families. I took it because helping low income mothers who can’t get help elsewhere fulfills me in a way that working in a large clinic or hospital (and, yes, I’ve had offers for once I get my board certified status) would.

I took this job for the clients I have. Man, they are amazing. I have students, and full time workers. I have moms who have babies in the NICU who are totally committed to breastfeeding, despite the challenges. I have moms whose babies never latched who have pumped and struggled for months on end because this is that important to them. I have moms with breast injuries that keep them from producing enough milk who still do as much as they can.. I have mothers who have lost their babies and are still pumping, donating milk, for other babies. My clients are diverse and wonderful. They are black and white and Asian and Hispanic. They are lesbian and straight. They are teen moms and forty somethings. They are incredible parents and they humble me every single day.

I took this job because I care.

But why should you? Maybe you’re not a breastfeeding advocate, or maybe you do think that WIC should have their funds cut. After all, we’re in a bleak economy, right?

Let’s look at what happens if the peer counselors no longer have funding. Well, clearly, we all lose our jobs. So there’s that burden on the economy. Some of us will go on assistance programs ourselves. Some of us will just spend less, negatively impacting our local economies.

In many WIC offices, the peer counselor is the knowledgeable one about breastfeeding. So when she’s not there to answer a phone or see a mom, the breastfeeding rates drop. The money WIC spends on formula increases. Let’s not forget, either, that many a baby has issues with formula.. WIC pays for more costly formulas if you have a doctor’s note. Some of those formulas are $40-$50 a can. Cans last roughly two days to a week. Nice little burden for us taxpayers there.

But wait. There’s more.

Research shows that statistically breastfed babies are healthier than formula fed babies. They have less chance of a number of serious illnesses. They also have immune protection specifically tailored to their environment, so when the other kid at daycare has the flu, they may not get it. So more people on WIC formula feeding = more children that are on WIC getting sicker. Know how many kids on WIC are also on Medicaid? A lot. Medicaid is getting ready to expand in 2014 under health care reform, too. Sick kids = higher taxpayer burden.

And let’s not forget the cost that illness has on the workforce. A sick kid has to go somewhere, and it can’t be daycare. Who stays home with that kid? Mom or Dad, right? So that leaves a business short staffed. Many WIC participants are working jobs with pretty stringent attendance requirements, too. So Mom or Dad loses the job. Suddenly, they need more assistance and contribute to the economy less.

It’s a snowball effect that winds up spending more taxpayer dollars… All because I lost my job.  All because the peer counselor program was cancelled and moms didn’t receive the support they needed to breastfeed.

This idea was struck down yesterday. However, these are tough economic times, and the idea of cutting funds for this may emerge again. You can see how your representative voted here (http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2011/roll431.xml) and then you can send them a letter, e-mail, or even call them to congratulate them or condone them for their vote. You can also send Representative Foxx a note telling her how you feel about cutting breastfeeding support. And if you’re not sure who your representative is, look here (http://www.house.gov/zip/ZIP2Rep.html)

Finally, you can share this with your friends. You can post it to Facebook, or just talk to them about it. Advocating doesn’t have to be hard, but it will absolutely make a difference.

On behalf of those of us working for moms, I thank you.

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Comments

  1. WOuld like to convey a big heartfelt thank you to Star for her work. I am not on WIC, but am a mother that struggled with breastfeeding and would not have been successful unless I had help from someone in a position similar to hers. I would love to myself one day be able to provide support and education to other moms who so desperately want to breastfeed their babies, but are worried, struggling, or second-guessing themselves. Star should be very proud of her work and commended for her caring and dedication.

  2. Lisa Letzelter says:

    Can I be you please? I just started peer counseling for WIC in April. I have to say I’m humbled by how much time and effort you give your clients and your office. I’m working from home entirely, so I do actually get a cell phone paid for by the program, but there is a ton of paperwork I have to fill out, and the phone bill is audited to make sure it’s used only for work purposes. I also currently only work 3-5hrs a week, although as the program expands due to recently received grant money, they hope they’ll be able to give all of us(peer counselors) more hours. I go into the clinic once a week to talk to moms in the waiting room. If it’s slow, I help with other things that need to get done. I’d like to be able to do more. Sounds like you could give me some pointers, lol.

  3. Kristine Keller says:

    Thank you for this post! I too am a WIC Breastfeeding PC & couldn’t agree more. Our clients (as with all BF moms) are way undersupported…and even if I am only able to help one at a time, it is totally worth it to me.

  4. Christina Marrufo says:

    WHOOO HOOOO! Im trying to become a peer counselor in my county and they don’t even PAY. 😀 thank you for this post 🙂

  5. This was fabulous! What an intellegent woman! Strong women like this give me hope for America. I love the fact that she showed how all walks of life use the WIC Program and really revealed what her job was and her pay. Thats a woman that cares about her children, and all of ours; by taking care of our economy with this post and helping people like me (formula fed my daughter but wish I’d had a woman like her around) in the WIC Program. What a beautiful soul she must have!

  6. Thank you for this article. Star nicely laid out the effect a ‘yes’ vote could produce. I was sure to email my representative and (yay!!) thank him for his ‘no’ vote.

  7. I wrote a huge thank you to my local Massachusetts representative. She voted no on the issue at hand (ie to keep BF services in our WIC offices). I have been on WIC, I have utilized their peer counseling. I am 16 months postpartum and 4 months pregnant with no end to my BF efforts in sight. Just the way I want it. Thank you for posting this and keeping us informed 🙂

  8. Gaetane Joseph says:

    I went through the WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor training here in Miami Dade county but did not gain employment for many reasons. I am now working as a Social Worker through the Healthy Start program and am the breastfeeding insructor. You expressed the same concerns that I also have for my clients (who do have WIC and Medicaid). For that I thank you

  9. Thank you for this article

  10. Jennifer P says:

    Thank you for being so dedicated and doing such a wonderful job for your clients. What an inspiration!

  11. You even helped your photographer when she had a few questions for herself and a friend who was adopting who wanted to nurse. You are definitely a rock Star, and I think that’s just awesome.

    Sharing!

  12. Thank you Star for such a wonderfully written explanation of how great this program actually is and how much it BENEFITS our society. I am a product of the peer counseling program. I would not have been able to get through breastfeeding without the knowledge and support the peer counseling program provided me. I am now breastfeeding my daughter still at 16months old! She’s never had a drop of formula [We stopped taking WIC checks when she was 3 months old bc she had a milk protein intolerance]. I wish all mothers knew of this great source! I emailed my representative and thanked him for turning the bill down!

  13. great article! I took your advice and sent a thank you note to my Congresswoman for her support. Also linked her back to your article so she could read about life as a WIC counselor.

    Thanks for your hard work!

  14. Mellissa Alvarado says:

    This is the 20th year of the Peer Counselor program in Texas, and hopefully we get to keep our program another 20.

  15. Oh my gosh. Thank you, everyone. I wrote this, and even though I knew Jessica was going to share it, I never imagined all the support that would come from it. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    I felt so unvalued when I heard about the proposed cuts yesterday. What I do is worthwhile. It’s underpaid and not respected enough, but so so worth it. To hear people say that it is not breaks my heart. It physically had an effect on me.

    To all the other peer counselors, thank you for all you do. To everyone who commented or shared or wrote to someone, thank you so much. Your support means more than you could know.

    • Rebecca says:

      Thank you so much for being an advocate. I personally applied for the same position in my own county twice but didn’t get it either time. Your words brought me to tears. I could just feel your love for what you do. If it were not for peer councelors like you so many women would be without any support at all. Thank you thank you thank you for all you have done and will continue to do. I know you haven’t heard it nearly enough. Thanks to WIC and thier support, I sucessfully breastfed my 4 children. My first two I pumped at work with a hand pump. With my third WIC approved me for an electric pump. I cried so hard that day with the joy of knowing I no longer had to hand pump milk for my baby. I continued to use it with my 4th (and yes last). THANK YOU SO MUCH!

    • I would try calling your local WIC ofecifs. Maybe they can tell you how many women they help. Then you can kind of get an idea of how much they spend. Its hard to figure though. There are thousands of WIC ofecifs and formula varies in price.

  16. Awesome post Star – I am going to post a link to this from my blog as well. You are such an inspiration! Thank you for doing what you do – Judy

  17. Stephanie says:

    This is what I just left my rep… I am NOT happy about this at all… I have applied to become a BF Peer Counselor at my local office and I have a feeling why I haven’t heard back has a lot to do with this…

    I am very proud that I am a breastfeeding mother. The WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor program is a very important source of support and information for women. In our society today breastfeeding is frowned upon and that is wrong. It is the best and the natural way of feeding our babies. Were you breastfeed as a baby? I bet you were. How would your mother feel that you were wanting to get rid of a program like this? Formula feeding costs more money to everyone. Formula fed babies get sick more often. Do you want more sick children? Think about what this does! This will cause a chain reaction of bad events… I don’t understand how ANYONE would want to hurt our future, because that is what you are doing. You are depriving an important resource for mothers, which in turn will lower the rate of breastfeeding, that will cause more women to turn to formula, which makes for more sick babies, more doctor appointments and parents missing work and potentially losing their jobs… Our children our a future and when programs like this get cut all we are doing is digging a deeper hole for our country. I am NOT happy with how you and many others voted.

  18. Excellent post, Star. Keep fighting the good fight!

  19. I wrote an e-mail to my representative (thank you so much for including the information about how to find the rep and see what he/she voted!). I thought others might want to write respectful letters to a representative who voted ‘yes’ and so I am posting my letter here. If anyone wants to copy it please do so 🙂

    Hello. My name is Megan Gardner and I am writing to tell you that I was disappointed to see that you voted “yes” on a proposal to cut funding for the breastfeeding peer counselor work done through the WIC program.
    I read an article by one of the counselors, and I think she did a great job of detailing how the program actually saves taxpayer money – even if you ignore the research about healthy babies and just focus on the cost of the formula that would be provided to those same families. The web address of the article is: http://theleakyboob.com/2011/06/the-high-life-of-a-wic-breastfeeding-peer-counselor/
    I feel that programs such as the breastfeeding peer counselor program are exactly what we should be offering to those in need of help. When we offer education about health to people that depend on taxpayer money to recover from illnesses, we’re really doing everyone a favor financially, as well as helping to reduce the spread of sicknesses.
    I hope that if this issue is raised again you will vote against it.

  20. Thank you, and all the peer counselors, for incredibly important work you do everyday!

  21. Inkedstar says:

    Great article Star! I was a PC for the WIC program from 2005-Jan 2011. Unfortunately, they took away our option to work from home (i worked ’20 hrs’ a week, often more than that!) so I decided to resign. My main reason for quitting was to avoid putting my child in childcare (and with another baby due next month, the ends certainly didn’t justify the means), and working strict hours would restrict the availability I had for my clients, it simply wasn’t possible to NOT help my clients outside of ‘office hours’. I wish more peer counselors like you were involved in this program and that PC’s were more fairly compensated for their time. It’s a challenging, frusterating, and rewarding job.

  22. chloe colestock says:

    THANK YOU, Star- for a wonderful and smart response to the ridiculous comments of Rep. Foxx. You rock! I am so thankful to the support I was given by a breastfeeding consultant that my midwifery practice connected me to after my first child was born. And so happy yo have nursed two beautiful and healthy babies. Keep up your phenomenally important work.

  23. ArndtYouErin says:

    Wonderful article Star! Good luck on your exam!
    I too was on WIC and breastfed 2, soon to be 3 children. You are truly an inspiration!

  24. I think the WIC program needs to be cut out all together. It isn’t the governments place to feed your child, that is your responsibility. If you chose to feed your child a certain way then own that choice. Pay for your own lactation consultant, pump rental if you choose to breastfeed. If you choose to bottle feed than pay for your own formula and bottles. Its called individual responsibility ladies. If you cannot afford to provide for your children you should not be having them. I am sick of working and paying taxes for people to breed children they cannot take care of. Programs like WIC, TANF, SNAP etc just encourage this behavior. Formula is expensive, but guy generic if you must. I used to work at the local health department and many of these moms who came in there had the IQ of rock. We offered family planning, encouraged it, but they were too lazy or ignorant to use it. Yet when they got pregnant with the 3rd. 4th child each by a different man they would come in for WIC. Thank God I now have a better paying job and can afford to support my children. I would work 2 or 3 jobs to provide for them rather than depending on the government to do it. If you need help with breastfeeding join the local LLL, there dues are modest and they can provide a world of help and support. There are also numerous books on the subject of BF at the local public library. We also have the internet that offers way for moms to connect with other moms should they need help with BF or any other aspect of motherhood.

    • Not everyone has access to affordable birth control methods. I don’t know if you are anti-abortion, but if you are, I don’t suppose you can see the hypocrisy in working to ensure those babies are birthed, and then dropping them and their care like a hot potato.

      The reason we have WIC is that as a nation, we were dealing with the consequences of abysmal infant and child nutrition. Mothers were watering down formula, making their own formulas, and generally jeopardizing the lives, intelligence, and health of their babies because they simply couldn’t afford to feed their children.

      Unfortunately, our society is not supportive of breastfeeding. Especially for low-income mothers, there are myriad pressures to formula-feed, ranging from unsupportive employers to lack of family support and certainly including a lack of knowledge. As a highly educated woman from a family who breastfeeds, I was still inundated with inaccurate “advice” about breastfeeding from most other women I know, much of it easily summed up as follows: “You won’t make enough milk, formula-feeding is easier, I was naive like you but my doctor told me I wasn’t making enough milk and neither will you.” It caused me to doubt my ability, despite all my knowledge and experience in a breastfeeding family.

      I pay the consequences for babies not being breastfed when my family’s health insurance premiums go up, and when our taxes go up to cover increased expenses in Medicare and Medicaid.

      I have a friend whose two children were covered by WIC. Through WIC, she was able to breastfeed without supplementing past a year of age with each of them (WIC provided her with an electric breast pump). I’m not sure you’re aware of how exclusionary your statements about not having kids if you can’t afford them are, but next time you eat steak, know that the low prices you pay for it at the grocery store are the reason she and her husband, a ranching family, needed WIC despite both working full-time.

    • Genevieve says:

      And who is going to pay child care expenses while these moms and dads are working their 2nd and 3rd jobs? And while we’re talking about ignorant people and bad advice… La Leche League meetings are FREE of charge. Those who can afford to pay yearly dues help keep the organization up and running. But NO ONE will ever be turned away from a support meeting because they can’t pay the “modest dues” – and you don’t even have to go to a meeting to receive assistance from a LLL Leader over the phone or via email.

      I’m a mom of three who has received WIC benefits. My husband had a decent paying job that covered all our expenses when the second was born. Due to cutbacks where he worked for 4 years before #2 was born, his decent pay was cut back to 2/3 pay… and we needed assistance to make ends meet. Should we have instead ditched the extra kid? I mean, his job was enough when she was born – and we lived in rural America where there weren’t other jobs available. I’m glad that you’ve never found yourself in a position where you needed extra help – I hope it stays that way. But please don’t put down those who do, and of whom you know little to nothing about their personal financial situations.

    • amymommy says:

      Someone is a little high-and-mighty. A little smarter-and-better than everyone else? Yeah, we live in a place called “the REAL world” where unexpected things happen to good people. And I for one, don’t mind paying a little more in taxes to live in a world where my fellow man/woman can get help when they need it, and sleep well at night knowing that innocent babies are not starving in the streets! I’m fortunate enough to have never needed the help of WIC, but not stupid enough to condemn those who have. The mothers in abusive relationships who left with no where to go and no where to turn, the fathers who had a great job with benefits one minute and lost it due to the economy the next minute. How selfish and ignorant are you! Do you want your children to grow up in that world? Where people are only concerned witth what they have and they don’t want to share it with others?! Wow, I just can’t get over your self-centereness and ignorance!

    • Lisa Letzelter says:

      Either this person is ignorant, a troll, or has led a very sheltered life. I hope it’s the third. There are some women that abuse the system unfortunately. But there are many others who are only on these programs because they have no other way. I’m a good example of that. My husband was in a well paying apprentiship program, and I had a full time job. We had saved up some money and were doing well, so we decided to start a family. Then the bottom dropped out of the market. He was unemployed and unable to find a job for a year. Then unemployment ran out. We no longer qualified. Despite having a newborn at home, I picked up my hours at work, and my husband stayed with our son. Soon our savings money was gone, and to top it off, the new owners of our apartment complex hiked the rent up another $150. My husband still had no luck finding a job, and I had been unable to find a second job. So he decided to go back to school, we moved in with my dad, and went on financial assistance. Currently, we are on WIC, and my son is on FAMIS since we can’t afford insurance for him. I work 2 part time jobs, my husband does work study at school, and my father helps support us. I qualify for food stamps, but I haven’t applied because thanks to my dad we don’t need them yet. I’d say that most of the women I’ve worked with as a peer counselor are in similar positions. Not same circumstance, but on financial aid due to circumstances beyond their control. Until you’ve been there, you don’t know. It’s not as easy as you make it sound. You’ve been lucky, we haven’t. Period. As I said, there are women who take advantage of the system, and they make all of us look bad. I wish there were more stringent regulations in place for the breast pumps we borrow out for example, since there are many women who have kept them well beyond the allotted time and still not returned them. I also once saw a woman in front of me at the grocery store use her food stamps and then spend about $50 on beer, cigarettes, and junk food. But from my experience, these women are in the minority. I also look at it this way. When my husband and I were both working full time, our tax dollars went to support these programs. So we have paid for the aid we are receiving. And if you are ever in a similar position where you have to choose between your pride and feeding your child, you can take advantage of your tax dollars too. Besides, there are so many other things that our tax dollars fund that are far less beneficial to society. This program is not the one to cut. And while La Leche League is free, and widely available, you’d be surprised how many women are unaware they have groups in the area. It’s one of the things I regularly inform women of, and recommend they go to. But La Leche League is only once or twice a month. Some leaders don’t mind being contacted by phone, and others do. They are trained, but the training is more informal. Peer Counselors are available every day if you have questions, and some are even available 24/7. They’ll visit you at home, or in the hospital, and many peer counselors do this on a volunteer basis. Not all get paid. Even the programs that are volunteer need funding. Resources, training, these things cost money. And I bet less than 1% of what you pay in taxes goes to programs like these. We’re not exactly at the top of the governments priority list. Sorry for such a long post. I hope some of what I’ve said gets through.

    • wow, your post just made me throw up a bit in my mouth. Tea party much?

      • Actually Im a Libertarian, so yes I am pro choice. Abortion should be between a woman and her doctor. Not the governments business.We need to cut out all social welfare programs run by the government as we can see that it encourages generational poverty If people are truly down on their luck that is what religious organizations and private charities are for. Those are where people in need should turn to for help, not the government. I grew up dirt poor but my parents busted their tails to provide for my brother and I. They didnt go to the government for handouts, they turned to family and church in the one case when my dad lost his job. I grew up wearing hand me downs and never thought I was high and mighty. I was also taught a good work ethic and have been working since I was 15. I didnt take advantage of goverment aid to got to college. I joined the Army out of high school, so my education was paid for in return for my service to my country. As for access to birth control.. is a box of condoms from CVS really that expensive? It is also available at Planned Parenthood and local health departments often free or on a sliding scale based on income. Just too many people are too lazy to take advantage of it

        • You may choose to consider the government paying for your college not “government assistance,” but you got a hand up that we tax payers paid for.

          When your parents chose not to put you on free and reduced lunch programs at school, and your church assisted you instead, that doesn’t make your family’s choices better than the choices of the family who accepted government assistance. Frankly, having worked with low-income college prep programs, I’ve encountered more than one family whose pride about not taking government assistance negatively impacted their child(ren)’s nutrition and stability.

          I know there are some Libertarians who firmly believe in the goodness of the people around them, who they think will help anyone who needs help, at any time. Unfortunately, many of those Libertarians say things like, “If you cannot afford to provide for your children you should not be having them. I am sick of working and paying taxes for people to breed children they cannot take care of.” Rather than recognizing that a mother may be requesting the assistance as a result of, say, leaving an abusive relationship — or because her husband lost his job. When our national unemployment rate is over 9%, it’s clear that there aren’t enough jobs out there. It’s not enough to want a job, you need to have a job available. And don’t tell me that the parent(s) could take a minimum wage job (or 4) – first, many have those jobs and still can’t cover their mortgage payments, car payments, etc. A momentary financial downturn shouldn’t result in a lifelong sentence of poverty for a family.

          You use our streets, your kids play in the parks tax payers maintain, they may well attend publicly funded schools. You didn’t get here (and neither did they) through sheer talent and work. Government entities (local, state, national) provided assistance to you whether you choose to recognize it or not.

          • I pay taxes, which I have no issue with for roads, schools and education. I didnt get a free ride to go to college, I enlisted in the military after high school. I earned that college education. by serving my country for 6 years. The same with every other service member who went to college on the GI Bill. No my child does not attend public school. He attends a private school. Im a social worker by occupation, I have worked for both DSS and as a home visitor for the local health dept. Im not rolling in money by any means, just live within my means and like everyone am having to pinch pennies. I did not always feel the way I do about welfare programs, just almost 20 years in the field has made me open my eyes. My family one time turned to our family and our church when my dad lost his job. This was back in the 70’s, that was what one did. You did not turn to the government except as a last resort. These were our neighbors and friends, people who knew us. They helped us and when they needed help, we helped them. People do not seem to have that concept any more. When I worked at DSS I was an eligibility intake worker it would often be the same people coming in year after year, never making an effort to improve themselves and get off the dole. Every other year or so a new baby was added to the family it seemed with a different father. Then I went to work for the local health department as a home visitor. My clients were low income pregnant women and mothers with children under 3. Of course most if not all of these mother were WIC and welfare moms. I cannot count how many times I went into a home and found the places dirty, inadequate food, lack of clothes for the children, yet plenty of cigarettes, booze, and in a few cases illicit drugs in sight. Usually the father is in jail or not around, if they are lucky to know who the father of the child is. I would do all I could to educate these ladies about proper nutrition, housekeeping, immunizations and basic life skills. They had no desire to learn or improve themselves in anyway. Why should they when they can just get WIC, food stamps and welfare checks ? There are supposed to be child caps on cash benefits per the 1996 welfare reforms, but usually people get around the rules. They have no pride in themselves, why should they have pride in their kids or homes? I got sick of trying to help people who refused to help themselves. Who did not appreciate a bit of help they were given.. just stood there with their hands out thinking the world owes them a living. I left that job for a position at a local hospital as a social worker. I help people get connected with resources to help pay their bills and get other care they need. Yes that includes some government resources for some of these people, but most are from private sources. These patients and their families appreciate what is being done for them. Ive had to battle many insurance companies on the phone to get approval to pay for treatment and meds they otherwise wouldnt cover. I got an increase in salary, but do not have the benefit package I did in the public sector, so I buy my own health insurance. I love my job and enjoy helping people who really need it the most. Maybe it is because as a breast cancer survivor I know how scary it can be wondering if the treatment you get will be approved or not or where the money is going to come from. I have been in remission for almost 10 years now.

        • amymommy says:

          Not everyone believes in religion, therefore would never turn to a religious organization for help. But everyone does pay taxes, or has at one time or another, therefore it is their right to turn to the government. That’s what taxes are there for, it’s like a bank account. We pay taxes to ensure that we will have social security and medicare when we are old, we pay taxes so that our nation is protected, we pay taxes so that our nation has leaders, and we pay taxes so that we can turn to our government in times of need. SOME people take advantage of the system, but not most. And it is a travesty to let a few bad apples ruin it for everyone else. As I said before, I’m happy to pay higher taxes so that I know my fellow man/woman is getting the help they need in the times they need it and to ensure that innocent babies are not starving in the streets! Seriously, if you are a parent, you should really think more about the example you are setting for your children. Do you want them to grow up in a world where people don’t help each other and pass judgement upon those in need? Or where people help each other out without prejudice?

  25. Heather McGinnis says:

    I’m a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor in Georgia, and more of our reps. voted yea, than nea. We have a TON of work to do here in Georgia. Mindsets to enlighten, cultures to reeducate.. the whole works. But I love my job for the same reason you do. I’m passionate about Breastfeeding. I wish for moms who are going to breastfeed to bypass the struggles I went through. Granted my phone rarely rings, because we have VERY LOW breastfeeding rates.. but when I get that excited client who has a ton of questions, you bet I’m all game and I want her to succeed more that I did at breastfeeding.

    I really wish everyone understood that breastfeeding saves lives and money! Just look up the information on pre-term births and the impact breastmilk has on the mortaily rate. I wish everyone understood that IF formula was taken off the market, then YES we wouldn’t need the Peer Counselor program, because it would be like it was “a million years ago” when everyone breastfed. They didn’t need a counselor because their mom breastfed, their aunts, older sisters, best friends, and neighbors had already been there done that. Every woman with a baby was a Breastfeeding Counselor. And everyone breastfed. Except for that less that 1% who couldn’t (or was considered too wealthy to breastfeed and had a wet nurse do it for her.) I wish that was the case, maybe I wouldn’t have had so many problems in the first place.

    But those problems are the reason I have my awesome job. And I really don’t care about not having benefits. I’m just happy to have a job that I love doing and working with great people. 🙂

  26. Star, that was amazing to read. This is a piece that is so good, it should be read out loud to Congress. My sister was a lactation consultant with WIC in NY, and she helped so many people, including myself! You said everything that needed saying. My thanks.

  27. I too am a peer counselor. I work mostly from home do I do have a work phone. that also means my phone is on 24/7. i teach a breastfeeding class 2 times a month and run a support group. i take phone calls and texts at all hours. i got a text 2 days ago at 2:58 am with a picture of a new baby just born, a message from the mom to let me know her baby has arrived. the hospital where she delivered has no lactation consultant. before i worked for WIC i was an OB nurse at a very busy womens hospital. i know how busy nurses are with new moms and babies and i know how little time they have to focus one on one with a new mom having a latch problem. my clients know they can call and ask me anything.
    not only are we talking about less sick children, but lets look at the long run. breastfeeding reduces risks of diabetes, obesity, BREAST CANCER!!! this is a super food. please let us all see the importance of giving our baby what our bodies were meant to do. no other mammal in the world supplements without human interference. i have never seen a dolphin or dog or cat ask for formula because they had a supply issue or because they were too tired to nurse. we intervene too much and ruin a good thing. let us assist those that need it, and keep our future healthier!!!

  28. I would love it if someone from this site could contact me. I am a filmmaker and I think this is a fantastic story – a way to convey not only great breastfeeding information but also the biased that is inherent in our culture. I really, really, really would love to talk more with Star!! thanks in advance…

  29. Melissa Cline says:

    The only entities that would benefit from cutting WIC Peer Counselors are formula companies. Not the government, not families, not WIC employees. Just formula companies. I guess they make nice campaign donations.
    How can Foxx’s staff say there’s no need for breastfeeding help with a straight face? Have they SEEN the breastfeeding rates in this country? Consistently lower than the Healthy People goals. Initiation rates up, but boy those exclusive (at pretty much any age) rates still suck. The missing link is SUPPORT. It takes determination to breastfeed in this formula feeding culture. Women may have been breastfeeding for “millions of years” but it took less than a hundred years to change that.
    Keep up the good work, Star!

  30. Ashley Hedrick Browning says:

    AMEN!!!!

  31. I probably would have failed at breastfeeding without the assistance of my local WIC Peer Counselors. I pumped for the first month, and and after I burned through the double pump my sister-in-law lent me WIC provided me with one for a couple weeks while giving me one-on-one counseling regarding latch and my own body position.

    I had my gallbladder out at two weeks postpartum and worried it would destroy any chance of success at nursing, but I ultimately succeeded, and I honestly attribute that to the help I got from my peer counselors. Thank you all for the work you do, the time you give, the help you provide to mothers like me.

  32. I wrote my representative who voted “Aye” in support of the bill. Boo!

  33. Thank You for this article!! I am a volunteer breastfeeding meeting leader and people do not seem to understand how important the support system is for the nursing relationship. I was very happy to see that my Rep was one of the Republicans who voted NAY and I emailed him to thank him for that.

  34. Thank you to all of the peer counselors. These representatives should really reevaluate which part of the WIC program they want to cut if America wants to support “normalcy” of breastfeeding. Most of the people I see use WIC don’t even try breastfeeding and I don’t think it’s fair that they don’t even try it because they know they will get their free formula.

    • Im sure many of you would have no qualms about totally cutting out formula from the WIC program in order to “force” more moms to nurse right? Lets be fair and make people pay for their own formula and their own BF related expenses.

      • NO.

        We all realize how little support mothers working low-income jobs receive for breastfeeding. We’re aware that waitresses, CPNs, store clerks seldom are able to pump their milk effectively or predictably. So rather than trying to prevent them from having access to safe food to supplement the nursing they do for their child, we fight for protection of their rights to express their milk, to not be discriminated against for requesting to express their milk, and for more overall support of a mother’s choice to nurse her child.

      • Absolutely not, Bree. I meet with women daily who literally cannot breastfeed for various reasons. I am not and will never be anti-formula. Anti-marketing, yes. Pro better regulation, certainly. Anti-formula, nope.

  35. WIC needs to be abolished all together.

    • I strongly disagree.

    • Lisa Letzelter says:

      Scroll up and read the responses to the others who’ve posted this.

    • Joan Culhane says:

      I am a great grand mother who would have done anything to have had an organization like WIC available to help me with my nursing problems. I was trying to nurse before there was La Leche League & formula was promoted for all babies. Breast Feeding was not IN. I have terrible allergies and believed my babies would do better if they weren’t given formula. They would have been. They had many digestive problems & have many allergies. I also have very sensitive fair skin and had no support on how to handle these problems. My mother tried & failed at nursing as did her only sister Where do you turn? My daughter is successful with Breast Feeding & is a counselor for WIC. I am so proud of her.
      Bree, I am sorry you are such an angry person. Try looking at these Representatives that are taking yearly raises while holding back raises from Social Security & Pensioniers for the last 3 years. They are willing to take away from others but not willing to give of themselves. Familiar Miss Independent?

  36. I’m glad Bree’s position isn’t representative of these comments. As a long-time LLL Leader (35 years) and IBCLC, I wish every woman had a peer counselor as wonderful as Star, not just those who are part of WIC. Mothers don’t need to be discouraged from breastfeeding by this attitude that we all need to go it alone. That’s just a sick fantasy, and the cause of much unhappiness. Women are strong together, when they help each other. From pioneer times it has been the American way to give your neighbor a hand, and women did. If Americans want a culture of healthy citizens with empathy and normal attachment, this is the way to go.

    • I have never suggested that anyone go at it alone with breastfeeding other than insisting that if one makes a feeding choice to pay for it themselves? We have LLL which is a wonderful source for nursing moms. Like a poster said they wont turn away anyone who cant pay the dues. The meetings are free. I wish I could have breastfed my son. but breast cancer that required a mastectomy when I was 33 took care of that. Kind of hard to nurse when you have no breasts to work with. There are also books at the public library on BF and the internet has many sources and groups that connect moms to each other. Support and education is out there and not at the expense of the taxpayers.

      • My nearest breastfeeding support group is 120 miles away in a different state. In-person support is much more effective than a phone call or the internet.

        Our WIC office, though, helped me (even though I am above income requirements) with the supply problems I had with my first child. The WIC IBCLC met with me during her lunch hour to assist me since I wasn’t technically qualified for the program.

      • I’ve volunteered with La Leche League for 20 years because the need is great and I like to help when I can.
        But gee, don’t volunteer my and my fellow Leaders time to provide free health care to the entire nation.
        As a culture we pay for what we value and as an IBCLC I appreciate being paid so I can care for my family as well
        as caring for the public. There are plenty of books on natural birth out there but we don’t say ‘good luck’ and
        expect women to do it on their own. Not to mention that you’re missing the point that providing lactation support
        is actually saving us all money.
        p.s. I would like to see WIC only give formula based on medical need, not because women just don’t feel like breastfeeding.
        Most WIC moms are facing big struggles with work/school and lack of support but there are some who would bf if they
        had to pay for it themselves. I’d rather see the mom get more food support.

  37. Cassie Wiley says:

    Love it 🙂 I know I’ve said it before, but I reallllly wish I knew you when I had Hailey. The hospital I was at, and the local WIC office didn’t offer much support, and I was frustrated, and confused, and breastfeeding was an awful experience, and I wish it wasn’t. 🙁 the world needs more Stars 🙂

  38. Penny I couldn’t agree with you more !!! They should be required to take some class or SOMETHING about breastfeeding and maybe at least try to give the baby a couple weeks worth…at least learn about it and try it !!

    • To my knowledge most WIC clients are required to attend nutrition classes. Breastfeeding classes if offered are optional. I also think if we must have this program then why not also teach how to properly bottlefeed as well? This seems to be a much neglected area of the WIC program. Many moms dont know how to sterilize and properly prepare bottles.

  39. I too am a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor (and will be looking for your FB group). I work with a wonderfully supported program in Oregon, one of the first in the nation. I can see that the work I do is important and I feel very passionate about helping these moms.

    I’m happy to report that my Representative voted ‘no’ and will be sending him a big thank you.

  40. Genevieve says:

    THANK YOU for your excellent post. I looked up my Representative, found that he voted against her proposed amendment, and wrote him a thank you email… including the link to this post.

    Keep up the great work!

  41. marisela flores says:

    You go momma!
    Awesome, and thank you 🙂

  42. Sandra Schreiber says:

    WIC peer helpers are my strongest support system for breastfeeding, if it wasn’t for them I have no idea how I would’ve gotten through the tough times. I really hope they dont take away the support new moms need.

  43. marisela flores says:

    I just email my representative, who voted no 🙂

  44. amymommy says:

    Star, this was a wonderful article! I will be sharing on my personal FB page and on my Lactivist page as well. I was working to become an LLL leader and a Peer Counselor, but life got in the way (and the fact that I am spread a little thin running my own FB pages and admining for a few others) but this article has encouraged me to keep going for it! I want to run a “nursing mamas hotline” much like what you do! You are my personal hero right now! (And bumping Jessica of TLB, and Emma K. is no easy feat!)

  45. Sabrina Lewis says:

    I am a mom that has benefited from the WIC program and I just wanted to say THANK YOU to all the hard work you guys do. I received a lot of my help from my LLL group, but the WIC breastfeeding class (required) during my first pregnancy was a really big part of me being inspired to set out to be breastfeed my children.

    My representative sadly voted in favor of the amendment, I am going to e mail him and encourage other local mamas to do the same. I also shared this on my Facebook with a note saying “Hey taxpayers…” hoping friends and family that aren’t breastfeeding advocates will see the importance and also email him.

  46. What a wonderfully thorough article, completely relate able and full of breastfeeding education. I know there are enough of us out there to stop this pay cut.

  47. Wow, Star, I had no idea this was what you do. Very well written, too. While Colin & I have not been able to have kids (and it doesn’t look like it’s likely to happen any time soon), when we were trying, we were committed to breastfeed as long as possible. Thank you for your work, your advocacy, and your example.

  48. melissa says:

    I love it, thanks Star. I am a wic IBCLC. I work full time helping moms. I am on call 24/7 with a state cell phone. It costs about $25 a month. Why the cell phone? Moms and newborn babies need help afterhours and holiday. Peer counselor program has been around for about 20 years. If we cut anything it needs to be the formula. I understand the other health dept worker point also. You see lots of abuse in any government support system. But we in the breastfeeding dept help so many moms. We are the one system that makes long term postive change. But formula needs to go.

  49. Ann Marie says:

    I sent a thank-you note to my Representative (David Price of NC), since he voted against the amendment.

  50. Deanna Crowley says:

    Great Article Star ! I am a Peer Counselor here in Randolph County and agree with you and appreciate your example ! I love my job as well and it feels good to know even if in a small way you can make a impact 😉

  51. Star, thank you for your time and commitment to what you do. I am a BFPC and WIC Ed. in the Denver, Colorado area. I am passionate about what I do and the people I help because I have been there.
    Could you or someone share with me the BFPC Facebook page you have, I would love to join and hear more about what others are doing in their communities.
    Many Thanks- Valerie

  52. I have so many comments to reply to, and I love and appreciate all of you for taking the time to comment/share/etc. If you are a peer counselor interested in the group, please friend my work profile and I will add you! My work FB is here: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001395844988

  53. Well said, Star. Blessings to you and all your tribe. These are tough times, and you are right. You help make them better for everyone. Working with you guys was one of the great things about my 19 years in southern Cal and one of the things I often miss. Thank you, thank you, thank you, and keep up the good work.

  54. Thank you to Star and the Leaky B@@b for this awesome post … and the comments are tremendous. I blogged about the HuffPo article this week and many of the negative comments there discouraged me. This post just reinforced how many women are so thankful for WIC, peer counselors, and any care and support they can get for breastfeeding.

  55. thanks so much for this. just emailed my rep, who was unfortunately one of the ones who voted yes.

  56. mama bear x 3 says:

    In a hurry, but am a former bfpc, and just wanna say keep up the good fight. when i left my position 8 days before my second child’s birth, that was the last time my clinic had a bfpc. the position was cut about a year later. that was in 2004. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how much rates plummeted. I continue to do “free” help online with mamas, and it is still rewarding and i still i am helping in some way.

    • It is good that you are willing to donate your time to help other moms who might need help. Maybe if more women would do this, there would be no need for the taxpayer to have to pay for them.

      • Wow, Bree. Apparently you missed the part of the post where I talked about how I get paid for, oh, 50% of what I actually do, and get paid next to nothing at that. Nothing of the countless women I’ve helped that weren’t WIC eligible or were not in my area or whatever the case was.

        I’m sorry that you have such a serious and severe chip on your shoulder that you feel the need to disrespect an entire socio-economic class of women. That’s simply sad. It is quite irritating when people would call others…what was the charming phrase you used earlier? “Dumb as rocks” perhaps?

        Far from being dumb, many of our participants are either professionals who have lost their jobs due to the current economic climate or people who are and have been actively working on bettering themselves. They deserve far more than your disdain, especially during a time when there’s roughly a 20% poverty level in most states.

        • Maybe in you area you do not have the same clientale as I did. Calling some of the clients I had to deal with dumb as rocks is being nice and that is after countless times of telling them things. For example that it is not a good idea to put the 6 month old to bed with a bottle of soda for the upteenth time! That the child needs to be put in a carseat in a motor vehicle. That ketchup isnt a veggie and the kids need fruit and veggies. They cant live off of McDonalds, pizza and mac/cheese alone! If you are pregnant, you need to eat well. Alot of them traded their WIC foods or sold their vouchers. That the dishes need to be washed at least once a day and trash needs to be taken out or roaches will come. OMG the list could go on and on. Most of my clients didnt finish high school and had no interest in GED classes that are offered free! They did not want to improve themselves or learn anything! I didnt get all the WIC clients, what I got most were the high risk clients. Some of my clients BF, others FF and frankly at times I was relieved if the child was FF, especially when the mother would eat junk food, drink sodas and never eat anything healthy, hence neither did the kids. At least with formula they were getting some better source of nutrition. Breastmilk is only as good as the diet and health of the mother. Others say that isnt the case, but I beg to differ. Sadly I have seen more people abust these programs than anything else. One thing about life is that the bad apples ruin it for everyone else sometimes. I got into social work because I wanted to help people, not because I felt superior. I dont feel superior. You have many people who are poor, but work their butts off and are good people. Most of them dont get on govt assistance or if they use it, its temporary and only if family or church cannot help them.

          • Bree your experiences as a social worker sound horrible and I can tell it is very frustrating for you. But, I can guarantee they do not apply universally.

          • You would do well to educate yourself before actually speaking as if you know what you are talking about. The composition of breastmilk stays mostly the same no matter the diet of the mother. Flavors change, but the fat, protein, and vitamin content stays mostly the same, not to mention the more than 300 components that are found in breastmilk that science hasn’t even begun to be able to reproduce. It is the health of the mother than will fail if she is not nourishing herself properly while nursing. As in pregnancy, the baby will take what it needs first. During milk production, the body will prioritize the milk, so it will continue to make the milk rich and full, and the mother will suffer. Not good for the mother, but much better for the baby than formula!

      • I wonder – do you think if more Wall Street Wizards volunteered their time, the tax payers would have to bale out fewer financial institutions?

        • The government had no business baling out anyone, least of all big corporations. They should have let them fail and fall.

  57. From one peer counselor to another…..thank you! Well said…

  58. Jennifer says:

    I, too, am a breastfeeding peer counselor for WIC in Georgia. I started out as a volunteer. There is NOTHING glamourous about what we do! This week was the perfect example. I worked the entire week from home because three of my four children were sick. Somehow, between the doctors’ visits, the never ending laundry, and the constant whining of pitiful children, I managed to field calls from coworkers and clients and started a project to help with the breastfeeding policies at one of our local Wal-Mart Supercenters.

    I thank God everyday for my job. I love it so much. I would have never been able to find a job like this outside of WIC. Yes, I don’t receive paid days off or overtime or vacations, but the benefits of being able to work from home, set my own schedule, and to help other moms just like me are priceless!!!

    Thank you, Star. Thank you so much.

  59. I so appreciate your work – I work with my local WIC office through LLL. It has been great to see that they are making an effort and realizing at least cost benefits to breastfeeding. 😉 At least you get paid – my phone calls, email, newsletter, gas, meeting, town promotions and website updates are all done through me as a volunteer. This is my donation to society and my passion – glad to have you out there!!
    Blessings,
    Erin

  60. Jessica says:

    Well said! I just got done “shame-shaming” my representative for voting on this clearly irresponsible and counter productive bill. Thanks for keeping us all informed!

  61. You do absolutely wonderful work, and not funding it fully is being short-sighted. Thank you for all you do, Star!

  62. Chelsea says:

    Good work, and great post. I’m not a militant breastfeeder, but the government needs to realize that having women breastfeed is a great savings overall, so if someone is willing to breastfeed, give her the support– it’s worth it!

  63. I too am a peer counselor. I work at wic but not for wic, i was hired thru an agency for four weeks. My last day is june 3oth. I have been a p.c. since 2002 so this is something i love to do. They was a delay in the grant that is supposed to be used to pay a handful of peer counselors spread throughout my city, therefore we have yet to be paid. I have for children and i am expecting my 5th this august. I do need the money very badly but because i love doing this im holding my peace but somethings gotta give. One p.c. burst out in tears because she as well has 4 kids and needs the money that we were promised but have yet to receive with about 12 days left on the job. what are we to do?

  64. Catherine says:

    What a fabulous article! I am very familiar with WIC although I’ve never been a client myself. For some reason, it seems that many people are pushed into formula feeding by doctors, nurses, or whomever, and even.if they are interested in breastfeeding, they lack guidance and assistance and are quick to abandon it. I come from.a long line of breastfeeders and when I had my son it was the one thing I was unwilling to compromise on. Still, a line of nurses and even my own pediatrician tried to switch me to formula after he was born… people need SUPPORT and the ability to communicate with another human being as questions or troubles arise (not a book from the library or a website…). WAY TO GO! Keep up the amazing work!

  65. Catherine says:

    Bree, Im truly sorry that because of physical limitations you were unable to nurse your own child, honestly I am. It is the most magical and meaningful time a mother can spend with their child, but is definitely NOT easy and is NOT something that can be easily learned from a book or the internet especially if you are having difficulties. I am truly saddened by your viewpoints and feel that if you actually were given the opportunity to breastfeed, your opinions would be far different.

    • Catherine you are saying because I wasnt physically able to nurse that I missed out on the most wonderful aspect of motherhood? That the most wonderful way I can bond with my child was by no offense popping a boob into their mouth? I thought there was more to motherhood than that! People on here have called me insensitive, but to say that BF is the most meaningful time a mother can spend with her child is absurd! I am not demeaning BF by any means but it is a small part of parenthood. I find reading my son stories and just the everyday little things in life are the most important and wonderful ways to spend time with a child. These times shouldn’t stop because you don’t BF! The only way to be a real mother is if one has breasts, well thanks alot! I guess my child got cheated because I did not have boobs. What a crappy thing to say ! I never expected to be able to have a child after chemo and radiation you know, but thanks to be God I concieved. That in and of itself is the most wonderful thing to have happened to me.

      • Nope. Although some of that is true. What she’s saying is that you are being so incredibly rude and negative (and commenting on some people’s posts that have absolutely nothing to do with you just to be rude and start a fight) because you obviously have guilt issues. She’s saying that you are this way (mean and rude and nasty and selfish) for a reason. And since you are acting like this on a “pro-breastfeeding” site, then it is obviously because you couldn’t breastfeed and you lash out at those who could. We see it all the time. Jealousy, envy, and guilt cause people to do all kinds of crazy things.

        • I should feel guilty about having gotten breast cancer, having a double mastectomy and not being able to BF? I don’t feel guilty about it all. I wish I could have BF, but I realize that sometimes things don’t work out the way we want them too. I wish more mom’s who can would BF and get the education they need to do it. I just do not think the government should have to pay for anyone’s feeding choice. Formula or BF related. I do admit that the attitude of some women who BF does bother me, those who think they are more of a woman or mother because they do. Yes that bothers me and many other women who BF Im sure. I got flack from some moms because I couldn’t and refused to turn to donor milk, which is incredibly expensive and IMHO too unregulated. Those are a small minority of BF moms.

  66. Bree, I too am sorry that your severe health problem seems to have cruelly dictated a different direction for your personal life. But I hate to see so many people “tarred” with the same bitter brush as you have seemed to do. I want to point out that because the income guidelines are wisely, I think, and deliberately set well above what is known as the poverty level, many of our local WIC clients are wives and children (and sometimes active members) of our military stationed at a very large local Air Force base, as well as people trying valiantly to complete some level of education in order to be self-supporting (and pay back for years in the future with their taxes). Over the years, several of my own family, including more than a half dozen of my grandchildren were WIC recipients at various times. Though I too have seen many examples over the years of those who take unfair advantage of government programs, the large majority I see in my WIC volunteer LC hours are loving, responsible parents trying to be the best citizens and raise their children to be the best citizens they have it in their ablity to be. Most of them warm to the respectful, understanding, non-judgemental attention they receive, especially from the peer counselors who are selected from a similar age group and set of experiences so they and their clients can identify more easily with each other. And just to set the record straight, WIC’s complete formal title describes its priorities. It is a first of all, a nutrition education program and secondly, a supplemental nutrition program. It provides expert nutritional education before it provides anything else. Many people would be far less healthy without this nutrition education alone. even if no supplemental food were provided. WIC does NOT supply all the formula a baby will ever need. Parents who formula feed exclusively will have to buy extra formula each month by the time their baby weighs ten pounds, so even if a mother partially breastfeeds, sometimes with the help of a breastpump loaned by WIC, she will need to spend less on formula. I’ve been around since before the program was started, and I remember the mothers and babies I saw then. A child’s brain and body only develp once. We are all better off if it’s healthy growth. I say hats off to all the WIC staff, and especially the peer counselors.

    • Our experiences are what form our world view. My health issues have nothing to do with my views on welfare, that has to do with working for 12 years at the local DSS and 4 years with the local health dept outreach program to new moms. My breast cancer was a stumbling block in my life and Im thankful to be here, boobless and all. I do want to add that I support BF if a mom wants to do it, it should be her choice. The same as with FF. Nobody has a right to judge another for what is best for their family. You can bond just as much with a bottle as a breast if you hold that child close. Its the closeness of the mothers skin and heartbeat,that makes the baby feel secure. The breast or bottle is merely the tool that delivers the nourishment. You bond with your heart, not your breasts.

  67. AMEN! I work for WIC and cannot tell you how priceless our BF peer and BF coordinator are to our program! Nice blog!

  68. Beautiful article! And with the exception of one poster, all of the comments have been wonderfully supportive as well. I will be sharing this with everyone I know and writing a letter to thank and encourage every congress person who voted against this ridiculous bill! Good work and good luck!

  69. One of the missions of WIC is to help those deemed most at nutritional risk right? Than what would be wrong with requiring a note from a physician stating that the mother to be or the baby is anemic or has other issues and they could benefit from the program? That way those who truly need it will get the benefit and more people can be served. If I remember correctly, there is only a certain amount of funding allotted for each year for WIC. Once that funding runs out people who would otherwise qualify are placed on a waiting list. In this economy if we are going to have such programs than those who need it the most should get first priority based on medical and nutritional reason, not solely on income. If a mother has medical issues and cannot BF, but wants to pump than the note from her doctor would allow her to get one through WIC, same thing for obtaining formula. Im willing to say that maybe it shouldnt be abolished in this economy, but a doctors note should be required stating why the person needs the services.

  70. katherine says:

    I am a WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor in Nevada, this just made my day 🙂 Thank you!

  71. Bree- Respectfully, I feel you are someone who needs to have it broken down into a harsher reality: People will do whatever it takes to survive. If someone has lost a job, has a brand new baby who is starving (because affordable BF help wasn’t available when the mother needed it), what do you think will happen? Takes a couple weeks for a pay check. (if he or she was lucky enough to get a job in this economy- a job that allows babies for some) Babies can’t wait that long to eat. So, what do you think will happen? It’s a bit of a history lesson here. Have you heard of the quote, “desperate times calls for desperate measures”? Certain circumstances can create negative change in the best of people.
    Good, honest, hard working people need help sometimes, too.

    • I would think they would ask family for help first and there are always food banks that often have donated formula on hand. Times are hard we all have to tighten our belts. If the issue is BF troubles contact the local LLL chapter they are more than willing to offer advice and help for free. Other than that go to the doctor and see if there is a medical reason one may not be producing milk, poor latch etc. I still believe that the WIC guidelines need to change and that a note from a doctor should be required to certify that a woman or child is at a genuine nutritional risks, not just because she may meet the income guidelines. Also if people know they arent in a position to have a child financially use birth control. If you cant afford birth control you cant afford a child and if you fall pregnant then give the child up for adoption to people who can afford to take care of the child.

      • Bree, I have to ask, Is this what you would say to a young mother that doesn’t want to breastfeed because of a history of sexual abuse from a family member? She won’t get a doctor’s note and she’s not likely to have family she can turn to for help. And if the WIC were to change those food banks you speak of would regularly be OUT of formula for all those people that have to go somewhere. Because statistically speaking, there’s a large number of sexual abuse survivors and many of them are uncomfortable with the idea of breastfeeding.

        I don’t know if you realize this but you’re coming across as very heartless. I have twice found myself pregnant while on birth control and I couldn’t afford to have another child but I loved my baby and would rather struggle to support all of us than to give her up because of money. I can even swallow my pride enough to ask for help from others in order to take care of the child(ren) I love so much. Even though I know people like you judge me for it. When my husband and I both lost our jobs and couldn’t afford much of anything I wasn’t about to give my children up for adoption, why would I do that with a baby I’ve come to know and love growing inside of me? The human spirit isn’t so pragmatic, which is actually a good thing. ~Jessica

  72. Pushpa Panadam says:

    Dear Leakkyboob, thank you so much for the article by Star, the Peer Counselor and all that she does to help mothers and babies, to breastfeed. I am one of the editors of WABA’s Mother Support E-Newsletter, http://www.waba.org.my/whatwedo/gims/index.htm and we would like your permission and the writer’s to have this article included in our E-Newsletter and also if possible on the WABA MSTF Section. Please email me at [email protected] Would really appreciate it. Thank you. Pushpa Panadam

  73. Christine Sage says:

    I am happy to say that I am exclusively BF my 10 m old baby boy. I had not given thought to how I would feed my son until a great women at the WIC office talked to me, It changed my life. The new health care bill helped me too because it now has a law that makes employers give breastfeed moms pumping breaks and a place to pump so with that bill and with the WIC office providing me with a pump I am able to provide my son with the best 🙂 Sadly the lady who had turned me on breastfeeding quit but now I have applied for that position. I have found my self to be so passionate about breastfeeding and I cannot wait for the interview for this job and to hopefully get it!!! I couldn’t imagine the gov. cutting the funding to such a wonderful program. Your store inspires me even more, thank you.

  74. Stephanie M says:

    I am also a Breastfeeding Peer for WIC. I have taken time away from my kids to visit new moms in the hospital. I have talked to dads on my cell who are trying to coach their wives through the fews few days. I have seen the look on the face of moms who want more than anything to breastfeed and just can’t get the hang of it without a ton of help. Most importantly, I have had parents bring me pictures of their beautiful little babies with messages on the back that say “I couldn’t have done it with out you.”

    Thank you for your post and my Rep voted no.

  75. Hello I was certified as a WIC Peer counselor 14 years ago when they werent paying counselors for the work they did, so I left the volunteer work and focused on raising my family. I have since helped some women get off to good starts breastfeeding their first born. I have a renewed interest in becoming a peer counselor and have been doing research on becoming certified. I have just moved to Buford Ga can anyone tell me where would be the best place for me to get started as a peer counselor. Im very interested in working part time at first as I still have a little one at home. Thank you Pam

  76. Zack Osgood says:

    Good morning,

    We have a FT opening for a Bilingual Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Specialist at our Rockville, MD offices. The Specialist will work on a call center project for the Office on Women’s Health, and serve as a culturally sensitive first point of contact to receive, respond to, refer and document oral and/or written inquiries regarding women’s health issues.

    The purpose of the project is to provide comprehensive communication services. The breastfeeding specialists will respond to oral and written questions, and possess knowledge sufficient to answer questions about a variety of healthcare topics, including lupus and breastfeeding.

    If you know of someone who is fluent in English and Spanish, and has breastfeeding counseling experience, I’m happy to provide more information. And please feel free to forward along my contact information to friends/colleagues.

    Here is a link to the complete job description:

    https://jobs-altarum.icims.com/jobs/2091/bilingual-breastfeeding-peer-counselor-specialist/job

    Thanks,

    Zack Osgood
    Senior Recruiter
    Altarum Institute
    (734)302-4758

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