Breast Feeding Peer Counselors Offer Support Through Personal Journey

By Tracy Goldizen Ottumwa Courier, Iowa

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Kim Proctor, coordinator of the "Breast Feeding Peer Counseling" program, says that when a woman finds out she is pregnant, she is assigned a peer counselor. That allows the mother-to-be to reach out with questions and prepare for her breastfeeding journey ahead of time.

OTTUMWA

Every mother's journey is different when it comes to feeding her baby. The women behind Breast Feeding Peer Counseling understand that.

Bree Arnold, one of the counselors present at Thursday's open house, stresses that they don't push a certain time of breastfeeding. "We just want to helm them with whatever they want it to be. We try to help a mom reach her goal and even help figure out what that may be."

Kim Proctor, coordinator of the program, said there's so many different aspects to the program. When a woman finds out she is pregnant, she is assigned a peer counselor. That allows the mother-to-be to reach out with questions and prepare for her breastfeeding journey ahead of time.

"Statistics show that the more prepared you are prior to delivery, the more successful you are with breastfeeding," Proctor said. Counselors are available at any time of the day to address a number of issues. If you have a latch problem in the middle of the night, Proctor said the counselors are available.

Arnold and Proctor even noted a time when Arnold was present at the hospital when one of her clients delivered. She said she was able to be there in the recovery room to assist with the first latch.

There's also a support group with the program. In Ottumwa, the group meets the first Tuesday of the month at 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. at Bridge View Center. They also meet at 6 p.m. at Mahaska Health Partnership in Oskaloosa.

Proctor said the support group isn't just about sharing the struggles. It's also about sharing the victories and milestones of the women's breastfeeding journeys.

"Every mom leaves feeling a little less alone in the journey," said Proctor. "It's almost like a family type of atmosphere."

There's also an education aspect to the support group with a guest from the community sharing about their services. Examples of visitors include a car seat technician, NEST, Heartland Pregnancy Center and Child Care Resource and Referral.

Thursday's open house was an effort to share the mission with the community. It was the second year the association held an open house, and Proctor said the event was to celebrate the program's counselors as well as make the community aware that they are there.

Part of it also related back to education. Breastfeeding fell out of favor several decades ago when formula was developed. As a result, it was treated as an odd choice Proctor said.

"A huge part of the problem of breastfeeding is the education of the human body is lapsed," Arnold said. When the breast is mainly used as an avenue to sell a product, it's hard to see it as a health issue, she said.

Legally, Proctor said, wherever a mother can be, she can breastfeed her baby. Whether a mother chooses to publicly breastfeed is up to the comfort level of the mother, Arnold added.

"The biggest problem for moms now is social media," Arnold said. "It's so easy to shame mothers for whatever they do." But not with the Breast Feeding Peer Counselors. Their mission is support.

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