Volume 1 | August 2020
The Wonders of WIC
Breastfeeding
Since its beginnings the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, commonly known as WIC, has provided vital pre- and post-natal services to millions of moms, infants and young children through our state and local partners. The last several months have refocused attention on just how vital WIC is and shone a light on the people, services, strategies and partnerships that work to serve WIC families across the Northeast Region. 
 
The Wonders of WIC is our way of capturing and sharing out your successes, your innovations and your people. August was World Breastfeeding Month. At the USDA we celebrated National WIC Breastfeeding Week with the presentation of Loving Support Awards of Excellence and across the Northeast Region there were hundreds of local celebrations. It seems the perfect time to spotlight one of the Wonders of WIC…breastfeeding.
Loving Support Awards of Excellence
Pam Miller, the Administrator of USDA Food and Nutrition Service, joined the virtual recognition ceremony for the 2020 Loving Support Awards of Excellence.
 
“As a mother of two, I understand the rewards and challenges of breastfeeding,” said Miller. “It takes the support of family, friends and others to be successful. And it’s not just the technical advice and assistance that is needed, but new moms need genuine encouragement, someone to talk to and to know someone is in their corner cheering them on.”
 
Miller commended the Northeast Peer Counselors and Breastfeeding Coordinators who have adapted to virtual methods of providing WIC breastfeeding support during COVID-19 such as Zoom classes, telemedicine and phone calls. She credited them for supporting postpartum mothers at the very start of the breastfeeding journey. Whether it’s overcoming language barriers WIC participants may have, or challenges mothers face such as early fatigue, or returning to work, “I applaud all the state and local agencies for their tremendous work, and a special congratulations to everyone being honored,” said Miller. “Your exemplary service helps to build stronger and healthier communities across the Northeast and is something you should all be so proud of.”

The award program was established by USDA to recognize local WIC agencies that have provided exemplary breastfeeding promotion and support activities. The intent is to provide models and motivate other local agencies to strengthen their breastfeeding initiatives and ultimately increase breastfeeding initiation and duration rates among WIC participants.

The award is given at three levels of performance that build on one another: Gold, Premier and Elite.
This approach recognizes three groups of agencies that include those that are demonstrating model practices, as well as those who are at varying stages of implementing exemplary breastfeeding
promotion and support practices.

This year, thirteen WIC clinics throughout the Northeast Region received awards---one Gold Premier and twelve Gold.

(Photos - Thanks to Jheanell West, USDA Regional WIC Team Lead and proud breastfeeding mom, for sharing the photo of her beautiful children. On right, FNS Administrator Pam Miller. Awardee photos courtesy of featured WIC programs.)
Gold Premier Awardee
Burlington District Office, Burlington, VT won the Gold Premier Loving Support Award of Excellence. The District offers round-the-clock help to mothers needing breastfeeding support. Burlington has sustained breastfeeding rates among WIC moms that are above the state and regional average
2 years in a row.
Gold Awardees
St. Albans District Office, St. Albans, VT won the Gold Loving Support Award of Excellence. St. Albans WIC staff have developed strong community health networks to serve families.
Middlebury District Office, Middlebury, VT won the Gold Loving Support Award of Excellence. Middlebury uses a Prenatal Breastfeeding Survey to gauge moms' knowledge and interest in breastfeeding.
Rutland District Office, Rutland, VT won the Gold Loving Support Award of Excellence. Rutland's Peer Counselors stay in touch with moms those few weeks following birth, and provide resources for moms to continue breastfeeding as they return to work.
City of Hartford, Hartford, CT won the Gold Loving Support Award of Excellence. The Hartford WIC team connect with moms 24-72 hours after delivery to support moms during their breastfeeding journeys.
Fair Haven Community Health Care, New Haven, CT won the Gold Loving Support Award of Excellence. Fair Haven WIC staff conduct home visits and develop community partnerships to create a network of support for breastfeeding moms.
Optimus Health Care, Bridgeport, CT won the Gold Loving Support Award of Excellence. Hosting a screening of the Chocolate Milk documentary is one way Optimus fills the gap in breastfeeding services to Black mothers.
Thames Valley Council, New London, CT won the Gold Loving Support Award of Excellence. Thames Valley hosts regular meetings for moms and their families to garner a supportive environment and support for breastfeeding moms.
City of Bangor, Bangor, ME won the Gold Loving Support Award
of Excellence. Bangor's Breastfeeding Peer Counselors make immediate contact with moms after birth. Team member Tara Gould was named Young Nutritionist of the Year.
Dorchester South Boston, Boston, MA won the Gold Loving Support Award of Excellence. Through partnerships Dorchester piloted Community Baby Showers to educate expectant parents on breastfeeding, safe sleep protocols and community health services.
New Bedford, New Bedford, MA won the Gold Loving Support Award of Excellence. To overcome language barriers for Portuguese families, New Bedford hired a trilingual Peer Counselor, improving breastfeeding access and education for many moms.
North Central, Fitchburg, MA won the Gold Loving Support Award of Excellence. With no prenatal breastfeeding available at the local hospital, North Central fills the gap with its breastfeeding classes and support groups.
Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY won the Gold Loving Support Award of Excellence. Recognizing the challenges new moms face in hospitals, Wyckoff Peer Counselors make weekly hospital visits to help moms successfully latch their babies after delivery.
Spotlight on Breastfeeding Peer Counselors

We interviewed Breastfeeding Peer Counselors working in WIC clinics in Connecticut and the
US Virgin Islands.

Find out what Peer Counselors do, how they connect with and support moms, and learn how WIC pivoted its service delivery model during the pandemic.
 
Read the story by clicking the image to the left.

(Photos courtesy of Peer Counselors featured)
Anja Higashibaba has been a Peer Counselor for one of New Hampshire's largest WIC clinics for the past year, serving moms across Rockingham County with Southern New Hampshire Services. Anja's favorite thing about her job is also the most challenging---approaching moms exactly where they're at, saying, "I'm not a healthcare professional. I'm just another mom offering
peer-focused guidance and supporting them through everyday conversation. This is my favorite part because it allows for an open connection with moms and an opportunity for them to feel like someone is listening and understanding."
In East Hartford, CT WIC Peer Counselor
Messha St. Juste-Dawkins, IBCLC hears from a mom about the hurdles she faces meeting her fully breastfeeding goal, after initially supplementing with formula in the hospital and the challenge of continuing to breastfeed while returning to work. With the ongoing phone support of quarantined Peer Counselor Messha and other WIC staff this mom is now fully breastfeeding her twins during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Breastfeeding Month Highlights

Rhode Island
RI Baby Café, RI Breastfeeding Coalition, Flourish Fund and Women & Infants held a Get Your Milk On! virtual Breastfeeding Bash for breastfeeding moms to connect and celebrate.

USDA
@USDANutrition tweeted throughout National WIC Breastfeeding Week to highlight the health benefits of breastmilk, provide links to USDA resources and recognize the hard work and effort that occurs at the state and local levels to provide breastfeeding support
to WIC families.
Connecticut
New Haven WIC, Yale New Haven Hospital, New Haven Breastfeeding Task Force and the Community Alliance for Research & Engagement hosted a virtual celebration on Zoom of Black Mothers Breastfeeding Week. It provided a place for moms to connect and hold a nurse-in.

US Virgin Islands
Virgin Islands WIC held a virtual Big Latch On to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week. This global latch asked moms to post breastfeeding selfies to social media. In its 11th year, more than 12,000 participants
took part in virtual events hosted within their communities across the globe.

New York
In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, North Country Breastfeeding Peer Counselors hosted a virtual Bingo game for moms. Moms posting screenshots of their marked Bingo cards to Facebook were entered for a chance to win a gift card.
Vermont
During World Breastfeeding Week, the Vermont Department of Health celebrated the role of Peer Counselors, Lactation Consultants and Nutritionists who help WIC moms and babies thrive. Not only is breastfeeding healthy for humans, it's healthier for the planet as well; a key theme in this year's WBW.

New Hampshire
During World Breastfeeding Week the New Hampshire WIC Nutrition Program posted a video with a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor as a way for WIC families to get some quick and easy tips on healthy snacks and meet one of WIC's team members.
Massachusetts
During Breastfeeding Month Massachusetts WIC Breastfeeding Program
posted tips on how to make breastfeeding easier as part of its #BFTipsTuesdays social media campaign.
Maine
Maine State Breastfeeding Coalition celebrated the second annual Native Breastfeeding Week with a virtual event. Participants met the planning committee behind this year's celebration and heard how it provides a snapshot of Native and Indigenous Peoples'
lactation experiences
and stories.
Breastfeeding Rates
Breastfeeding Rate Charts
Wonder how your breastfeeding rate stacks up with the nation or other states? Click the graph below to see the breastfeeding rates for each New England State, New York and the US Virgin Islands.
The Northeast exceeds the national rate and USVI leads the region!
Data of fully and partially breastfed infants sourced from WIC Breastfeeding Data Local Agency Report
Around the Region
In East Hartford, Connecticut WIC Nutritionist Meredith meets a breastfeeding mom in the parking lot to issue a breast pump package, all while socially distancing and wearing masks to keep each other safe.
Just like WIC staff around the region, Monroe County, New York staff connect with each other via video conference calls; maintaining a cohesive group all while homeschooling, isolating and serving WIC participants during the pandemic.
Amanda, Nutritionist and Certified Lactation Counselor at Chelsea/Revere WIC in Massachusetts, posts support for WIC families during the pandemic and reminds them that WIC is ready to serve and help families access the healthy food they need.
 
In Maine, Allison an IBCLC and Breastfeeding Coordinator turned her vehicle into a mobile weigh station to monitor babies during the pandemic at risk of being underweight. Moms love it, WIC gets accurate data and a new state Best Practice is born!
Diana at Catholic Charities of Long Island, New York working remote during COVID-19 helps a new mom access WIC benefits and find special formula for her newborn baby.
Mary Catherine is an IBCLC at Women & Infants Hospital in Rhode Island. She connects with moms and babies post discharge during their doctors' appointments at Hasbro Children’s Hospital and loops in the local WIC programs with the care plans, providing a continuum of support for many WIC families.
(Photos courtesy of state and local WIC programs)
Get to Know Your Regional WIC Team at USDA
As we get to know more about you and your work we thought you might like to know a little more about us. Featured below are two members of our Team, Megan Kallio and Michelle Chirby.
(Photos courtesy of staff featured)
Megan Kallio is a Team Lead for the Northeast Regional Office WIC Team. Megan specializes in nutrition services, breastfeeding, grants, funding and more within WIC program operations. 

Megan came to USDA as a pathways student and worked in WIC, School Nutrition Programs and SNAP-Ed while she completed her master’s program and dietetic internship. After completion and becoming a Registered Dietitian, she joined the Agency full-time in SNAP and recently joined the WIC team. 
 
Prior to becoming a Registered Dietitian, Megan was a toddler/preschool teacher where she enjoyed guiding children to learn and explore new things, especially the foods they eat.

During her free time she enjoys spending time with her family and watching hockey games!
Michelle Chirby is a Program Specialist for the Northeast Regional Office WIC Team. Michelle specializes in the areas of nutrition, breastfeeding, certification and eligibility, as well as the WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Programs.
 
She has worked for USDA in Child Nutrition Programs and WIC for five years and first joined the Agency in the Western Regional Office as a returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Benin, West Africa 2012-2014).
 
Michelle is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Maternal and Child Nutrition, and working toward certification as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. A strong believer in the “side hustle,” she also runs her own business as a certified birth doula and teaches dance and fitness classes. She lives in Providence, RI and enjoys reading, cooking and taking walks with her partner and pup.
In the News
Resources
Breastfeeding Support Resources
Whether a mom is beginning to think about breastfeeding, just starting, overcoming challenges or thriving on her breastfeeding journey, USDA has lots of resources available to help along the way. Check out some of them today.


Tell Us Your Story/Give Us Feedback
We want to hear from you. What do you think of the Wonders of WIC? Give us your thoughts.
 
We want to emphasize you. Please send up your best practices, stories, photographs or social media.
 
If you have a story idea or someone you think should be profiled, let us know. We want to tell your WIC stories here and in other USDA communication channels, including our soon to be launched regional podcast series---Field Reports. Maybe you have an idea of someone in the WIC World who would be a great subject for a podcast.
 
Lastly, if you know of someone who’d like to be added to the distribution list please email us via the contact button below. 

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