It shocked me when an email titled "Tell Congress: Fund WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselors!" came through my inbox from the United States Breastfeeding Committee a few weeks ago. Despite the support of national leaders like U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin and other public figures, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA, and Related Agencies wants to cut all funding for WIC breastfeeding peer counselors in 2013.
The subcommittee wants to cut $60 million worth of breastfeeding support that is not restricted by caseload needs. This impacts our country far beyond the breastfeeding mothers who use the services. Research shows women who receive peer support with breastfeeding are more likely to stick with it, especially in low-income areas. This is important because breastfeeding can help reduce obesity rates and reduce the risk of diabetes, nationwide epidemics that are particularly prevalent in low-income areas.
It's important that all women have access to support if they need it -- it's possible that WIC breastfeeding peer counselors are the only encouragement some women have to start and stick with breastfeeding. In 2010, approximately 2.17 million infants participated in the WIC Program, and about 27 percent of them were breastfed. That's over 585,000 infants who won't get the breastfeeding support they need if these programs are cut from the budget.
If you want to do your part to help, tell Congress to fund WIC breastfeeding peer counselors! I know I did, and I hope you will too!