Investing In Mississippi By Promoting Breastfeeding Support In Delta And Coast Communities
To help increase breastfeeding support, the Mississippi Public Health Institute (MSPHI) is investing a new grant into Gulf Coast and Delta communities to increase awareness and direct support for breastfeeding programs — two evidence-based interventions shown to help increase breastfeeding uptake.
In partnership with the Mississippi Breastfeeding Coalition and the state’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the Making an Impact in the Lactation Community, or MILC, project will provide direct monetary support for breastfeeding professionals’ continuing education through a $150,000 one-year grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
“In Mississippi, the mentality around breastfeeding has evolved to be more supportive, but we still have a long way to go. We continue to see women that do not have the support from family members and the society in general,” said Eliana Glass,CLC, Mississippi Breastfeeding Coalition manager.
Despite public health consensus of its benefit, Mississippi has the lowest breastfeeding rate in the nation. Breastfeeding helps both mother and child by supporting bonding, transferring nutrients not found in formula and reducing likelihood of allergies and diabetes, but barriers to and disparities within breastfeeding persist. Investing in breastfeeding and newborns’ health can correlate to a lifetime of better health outcomes and save billions of dollars in healthcare spending.
“While working as a WIC Peer Counselor I was able to witness this firsthand — there is still a stigma about breastfeeding. We want to start by supporting the health professionals who are already doing this work to help mothers realize the health and financial benefits of breastfeeding, and helping connect women with breastfeeding resources,” Glass said. “This grant will help support breastfeeding professionals to advance their training and bring stakeholders together."
Black women are less likely to breastfeed — in a state with already-low uptake rates and the largest share of Black births, more support is needed to help connect new mothers with breastfeeding support. Part of MSPHI’s community-based intervention efforts involve further identifying barriers to breastfeeding for Black women, such as misconceptions of breastfeeding, lack of support at home or workplace, and gaps between clinical-based patient education and community resources.
MSPHI has identified the following areas to foster increased rates for breastfeeding on the Gulf Coast as well as throughout other regions of the state, such as the Mississippi Delta:
Develop a sustainable system for continuing education for lactation professionals in Mississippi
Support policy education surrounding licensure for lactation professionals
Develop a sustainable system for breastfeeding support for mothers and families by providing stipends to 20 WIC peer counselors throughout the state that will allow them to become International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs)
MILC builds off MSPHI’s current Gulf Coast investments, the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program, which is one of only 31 awards from CDC’s REACH umbrella. REACH supports collaborative efforts to improve the health and well-being of Black families, mothers and babies in Jackson, Hancock, and Harrison Counties. These partnerships help increase support and use of systems and services for chronic disease prevention, strengthen community support for breastfeeding and tobacco cessation. For additional information on the MILC project or REACH, contact Tennille Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 398-4406. For more information on MSPHI, visit www.msphi.org.