Vermont Department of Health - Women, Infants & Children (WIC)

Exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months among WIC participants

17%Q4 2019

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Story Behind the Curve

The Vermont WIC Program was recently awarded a bonus award for sustained breastfeeding rates among participants above the national levels. While 83% of infant participants were ever breastfeed, 64% were exclusively breastfeed in the 1st week, and 37% in the 3rd month of life. Exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months was at 17% in the quarter ending September 2019. There are several reasons for the decline in breastfeeding as infants age including: difficulty latching, the perception of the infant not receiving enough milk or not gaining weight adequately, lack of support, and parental return to work. The WIC program is involved in the Department of Health’s strategic planning process to improve statewide breastfeeding rates. Specific contributions of the WIC program include continued evidence-based professional development among local and state WIC staff, an emphasis on breastfeeding and breastfeeding supports in local clinics, providing breastfeeding peer counselors in five regions in the state, and promoting the Breastfeeding Friendly Employer Project.

  • Obstetrical and Pediatric providers
  • Hospital birthing centers / maternity staff
  • La Leche League
  • Private Practice Lactation Consultants
  • Strong Families Vermont nurse visiting programs
  • Vermont Lactation Consultant Association
What Works

Knowledge + Support + Confidence = Success

Local WIC staff follow the evidence-based Vermont WIC You Can Do It protocol to assess the strengths of pregnant individuals in the areas of knowledge, social support, and confidence and tailors a follow-up plan to address the areas where additional support is needed.

Community acceptance of breastfeeding as the norm promotes optimal health for families. Vermont law provides protection to breastfeed in public places, and the amended labor law supporting breastfeeding employees in the workplace provides additional support to working parents.

Action Plan

Fully participate in the statewide breastfeeding strategic planning process, implementing activities to support evidence-based strategies set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fund breastfeeding peer counselors.

Provide training professional development among local WIC staff.

Why Is This Important?

While there is well-documented evidence that shows the health benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, not all mothers experience these benefits in an equitable way. The WIC program has a special focus on serving families of lower income to provide supports needed for successful breastfeeding. By regularly looking the disparity present for participants in the WIC program, we are shining a light on the upstream contributors that exist to be able to achieve their breastfeeding goals.

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