Program offers support, fresh food for breastfeeding mothers
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Mallory Bonie is not new to motherhood. Her eldest daughter is now 7 years old.
But when she gave birth to her second daughter Ahdelina, three months ago, she felt like she was relearning everything about caring for an infant.
Bonie has breastfed both of her children, but had trouble initially feeding Adhelina. Making an appointment to speak with a lactation consultant at a hospital was challenging while trying to manage a new baby and young child.
That was when Bonie decided to find a local support group for other moms in her situation.
She discovered the Market Mommas Club, a new program for moms who are Medicaid eligible or receive WIC benefits, created by local non-profit Market Umbrella, which oversees the Crescent City Farmers Market.
The program connects moms to local breastfeeding support groups such as the La Leche League, Café au Lait, Baby Bistreaux Nutrition Clinic and CHAMPS NOLA Baby Café. These groups provide an informal setting for new moms to receive support and ask questions to each other as well as certified lactation consultants who work with the groups. Moms who attend a monthly meeting with one of the support groups additionally receive a loyalty card that gives them $80 in Crescent City Farmers Market tokens each month over the course of six months.
The benefits since joining the Market Mommas Club has been two-fold for Bonie and her kids.
She said it’s helped her with food costs and given her the opportunity to buy new food she normally wouldn’t be able to try.
A lot of her worries about being able to breastfeed Adhelina were also addressed.
“This is an outing where you can include your child,” she said. “There are a lot of questions and concerns you have as a new mom and it has felt good to know that are a lot of other people with the same issues.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that mothers should exclusively breastfeed their infants for about the first six months, saying it is the best source of nutrition for most infants and can reduce the risk of some short and long-term health conditions for both infants and their mothers.
However, despite these recommendations the CDC reported that less than 50 percent of infants born in the U.S. were exclusively breastfed through the age of 3 months. Only 25 percent of infants were exclusively breastfed through six months, according to the CDC’s Breastfeeding Report Card for the U.S. in 2018.
“In theory you would think breastfeeding is simple,” said Portia L. Williams, a registered nurse and certified lactation consultant. “You follow how you were raised. If mom and grandma bottle fed you, you do the same. If you go against that it’s like saying they were wrong.”
She added that there are significant disparities between black and white mothers who breastfeed.
The CDC reported in 2016 that black mothers are 16 percent less likely to breastfeed than white mothers.
About 60 percent of mothers do not breastfeed for as long as they’d like for a variety of reasons, according to the CDC. This can include issues with lactation or latching, concerns about the infant’s weight and nutrition, lack of family support and cultural norms, and unsupportive hospital policies and work policies that don’t support breastfeeding.
Louisiana was second only to Mississippi with the lowest rate of infants who had ever breastfed, according to a CDC report looking at breastfeeding rates among infants born in 2015. Only about 67 percent of infants born in Louisiana had ever been breastfed. Alaska had the highest breastfeeding rate at 93 percent in 2015.
Williams is also the coordinator for the Baby Café breastfeeding support group in Louisiana. It is part of a national chain of groups where pregnant and breastfeeding moms can get support from certified lactation consultants and an opportunity to share their concerns and learn from other moms.
Providing a support network for mothers who want to breastfeed as well as the added incentive of access to fresh food from the Crescent City Farmers Market is a step toward improving Louisiana’s standing, Williams said.
“The goal is to give moms an incentive to breastfeed and provide a safe, non-judgmental space where they can walk in and feel supported,” she said.
Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com