We recently started partnering with April Krumenauer, a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor for the Chippewa County WIC (women, infants, and children) Program in Wisconsin, providing our Multi-use Covers as a donation to support her program. April gives out a cover when her moms hit a certain goal in her program and we love that she is rewarding them for reaching out, getting help, and sticking with it!
For more information on breastfeed support from your local WIC clinic, click here.
We asked her to write a blog post about her role as a Peer Counselor, so without further ado: April Krumenauer.
A woman’s decision to breastfeed her baby is one of the first things she will decide after finding out she is expecting. This is a very important decision to make and it is crucial to have consistent messaging about breastfeeding, whether it be from the woman’s OB doctor, the baby’s pediatrician, a family practice doctor, WIC dietitians, the Breastfeeding Peer Counselor, etc..
First Meeting with Mom
As the Breastfeeding Peer Counselor for our local WIC Program, I attempt to meet with a mom at her first appointment after she finds out she's pregnant and comes to WIC for her initial visit. A face to face introduction is the best way to meet a new mom, but sometimes not always possible. At our introduction, I discuss with moms who I am. I share with moms my breastfeeding experiences and try to make a connection in order to make moms feel comfortable discussing the topic of breastfeeding.
Asking the Right Questions
After we have chatted about ourselves for a bit, I like to ask a mom “what are your thoughts about breastfeeding?” or “what have you heard about breastfeeding?” The responses I get are almost always a different. Asking open-ended questions is the best way to find out how a mom really feels instead of asking a question in a way where the mom will answer with either just a “yes” or a “no”.
I also like to ask “who is your support system or support person?” This gets moms thinking of who her biggest supporters are and who will help her to be successful at breastfeeding her baby. This question also gives me, the Peer Counselor, an idea of what type of support system the mom has. It can also help a mom to make a breastfeeding goal – how long would she like to breastfeed her baby?
Is Baby Here Yet?!?!
I attempt to reach out by phone to moms when they are about 2 weeks from their due date. This is a quick check-in to see if there are any last-minute breastfeeding concerns or questions that the mom may have. It is also a good time to check in because sometimes moms will have their babies early and this is a good way to get the mom some help with breastfeeding if she is having issues early on. Providing help early on to work through issues can help moms sustain breastfeeding and result in better outcomes and breastfeeding rates.
The First Few Crucial Weeks
Once we know a mom has had her baby (and as long as she is ok with it), I will contact her two times in the first week postpartum. As long as she is doing well, I'll then try to connect with her right before 3 weeks postpartum. This is a time when babies go through their first major growth spurt, which can cause the baby to cluster feed (feed more often and in clusters) and this can also cause the baby to be more fussy.
It's good to discuss this with moms because sometimes this can be perceived as “not having enough milk for my baby”. This is a crucial time that moms need extra support. If a mom says she's having issues, I'll refer her to one of our WIC dietitians, the WIC Breastfeeding Specialist, the woman’s doctor, the baby’s pediatrician, or the appropriate medical professional.
One month postpartum
Connecting with moms at around 4 weeks postpartum is another crucial time. At 4 weeks postpartum, a woman’s body is adjusting to the amount of milk she needs for her baby and the initial engorgement has gone down; therefore, a mom’s breasts have softened and have become not as full. This is another situation in which a mom may perceive this as not having enough milk for her baby. My job as the Peer is to give mom a heads up about this and encourage her that she is doing an amazing job and she is a good mom for breastfeeding!
Return to Work or School, Have a Plan!
At 4 weeks, it is also a good time to discuss the topics of returning to work or school with mom. I discuss with moms that it's a law in Wisconsin to allow a woman time and appropriate space to express her breast milk.
It's best to make a plan early before returning to work to help reduce stress and anxiety about having appropriate time and space to express breast milk. I encourage moms to talk about this with their employers well in advance of their first day back.
It is also helpful for a mom to try using her breast pump and get comfortable with using that before her return to work date. I do share my back to work experiences with moms. I let moms know that it's especially important to make sure she's drinking lots of fluids and eating well. If a mom is not drinking and eating enough, she may see her supply decrease. It can seem overwhelming at first returning to work, but it does become part of your routine and I am there to give moms encouragement and support.
Monthly Follow Up
After the first month and up until 6 months, I will contact moms by phone monthly to check in on breastfeeding. After 6 months, I will check in with moms every 1-2 months until their baby is 1 year old. Of course, the mom is always encouraged with each phone call to reach out to me at any time with questions because we all know: things can come up unexpectedly.
My Baby is 1!
Once a mom has reached 1 year of breastfeeding, I do a final call with that mom, praise her for meeting the 1 year milestone, encourage her to continue on breastfeeding as long as she wishes and let her know she is welcome to contact me if she ever has questions. I then send a 1 year breastfeeding certificate, which makes a great addition to the baby book.
At our local WIC agency, we use materials from Coffective.
Coffective is an app we introduce to our pregnant women. It helps them build a plan and prepare for the delivery of their baby. As the Breastfeeding Peer Counselor, there are specific areas I discuss with moms when I meet them in pregnancy. I discuss the “Build Your Team” and “Fall In Love” sections of the App.
Being a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor is being someone who cares, will listen, doesn't judge, will help, will cheer moms on, will remind a mom she is a good mother and tell her she's doing a great job, and understands because she has been there too.
Sometimes the Peer Counselor is the only one a mom has to talk to about breastfeeding concerns and in those situations, it’s almost as if the Peer Counselor is a lifeline to that mom. That's what I love most about my job as the Breastfeeding Peer Counselor!
I am only able to work with my local WIC agency, so if you are interested in Breastfeeding Peer Counselor services and are on the WIC Program, reach out to your local WIC office to find out if there are Breastfeeding Peer Counselor services available to you.
Keep up the good work moms!
Additional WIC resources:
Find out if you qualify for WIC programs here
Contact WIC state agencies here