Peer Counselor Perspective on Breastfeeding and Skin to Skin

Every year, we visit Capitol Hill to share stories of birth and health and support with our legislators – stories like the one that follows. But these stories don’t need to be shared only on Capitol Hill. They need to be shared in our home districts, too. So today, we are calling for a coordinated day of action – to share stories that demonstrate the power of community-based, peer-to-peer support for moms, babies and families all over the country.

Do you know your legislators? If you don’t, today is a good day to learn their names. Then you can reach out. Let them know you’ve seen the power of community-based doulas and breastfeeding peer counselors in your community. Let them know you want to see more of that – more programs like these – more of what works. Need help?  

Let’s celebrate – together – the Power of Community.

Thank you, Charlotte, for getting us started.

by Charlotte Torres, PC, CLC
Mile Square WIC Program- Senior Peer Counselor
Chicago Region Breastfeeding Task Force- Membership Committee

Charlotte and her daughterI started my journey as a client of the WIC office. Ms. Belinda Sayadian, the IBCLC at Mile Square, along with Peer Counselors (PCs) that were working in the office at the time, supported me during my breastfeeding journey with three children.

Ms. Belinda always encouraged me to become a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor (PC) but it was not until I was in the hospital after having my third child that I realized this was something I could really do. The young lady that shared the room with me was nervous, crying and becoming frustrated between the baby not latching on and a nurse who was trying to be helpful but in a very strong way. When the nurse left the room, I built up enough courage to talk to the mom. While we talked about other things besides breastfeeding, she and the baby calmed down. I sat and breastfed my son and helped her latch her son to the breast. She cried again, except this time she cried tears of joy. I was not officially trained as a peer counselor, but this was one of my most memorable experiences as a PC.

Looking back on that experience, I can see how talking with moms prenatally can make such a big difference when it comes to breastfeeding. Prenatal education can break myths, educate moms on what to expect, prepare moms to help themselves, and most importantly empower our moms that they can do this! Our biggest problems with breastfeeding duration – such as latching, not enough milk, pain, or returning to work or school – can be addressed during pregnancy.

We may not all get to see our moms on a regular basis during pregnancy, but we can all give our moms a tool that will help her through the first few days, and that is to encourage mom to do skin to skin. As Peer Counselors, we know the benefits of skin to skin. Our moms can benefit from knowing, as well. At my WIC site, we tell all of our moms about the benefits of skin to skin. This has helped us combat the “spoiling” baby concern as well as breastfeeding concerns.

We had a mom at our clinic that had children prior to the last child. She was sure she did not want to breastfeed this child. We continued talking with her throughout her pregnancy and of course talked about skin to skin. Mom called after she delivered. While doing skin to skin, baby actually latched onto the breast. Mom was so shocked yet excited to see that baby did it with no help. Mom and baby successfully breast fed and as mom puts it, “Changed her whole life!”

Skin to Skin is the one tool that anyone, from doctors to nurses to clinic staff to family members, can encourage a mom to use anytime.

Peer Counselors are not only a great support for moms, but also for doctors who are supporting a breastfeeding mom. Working together to ensure the health and well-being of mom and baby is a great way to support each other.

Charlotte Torres has been a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor for six years at the Mile Square WIC Office in Chicago.   

 Now we want to hear from you! 

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