The New Mexico Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program has seen an increase in the initiation of breastfeeding by their participants from 47% in 1990 to 67% in 2001.  This increase can be attributed to a more informed and educated WIC staff, many changes made in the clinic environment and educational approach, mother-to-mother peer counseling, the increased availability of breast pumps to WIC participants, public awareness campaigns and coalition building in communities throughout the state.  All of these activities have comprised WIC's Strategic Plan to increase initiation and duration of breastfeeding among multicultural, economically disadvantaged women in New Mexico through these six key areas:

(1)Health care professional training: The WIC Program sponsors an 8 hour  "Breastfeeding Basics" workshop in approximately 4-6 various communities throughout the state each year.  The workshop provides accurate, relevant and culturally appropriate breastfeeding information, updated research and techniques for how to provide critical, timely support to new mothers.   The training is available to not only WIC staff, but any interested health care providers and lay counselors from the community, which results in helping to create a breastfeeding network of people in the community giving consistent and appropriate messages about breastfeeding.  WIC also provides funding for staff to attend more advanced breastfeeding continuing education through the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force's Annual Advanced Concepts in Breastfeeding Conference, University of New Mexico Continuing Education courses and other local educational opportunities as they arise.

(2)Client Education/Support:  WIC staff provide breastfeeding help and education to pregnant and breastfeeding clients through individual breastfeeding support counseling, as well as monthly group discussion sessions.  Staff have been supplied with many types of  bi-lingual and low-literacy breastfeeding education materials and aides to help them better support their clients.  Items such as resource books and information, videos, pamphlets, posters and demonstration baby dolls have been distributed to all clinics to help staff facilitate breastfeeding education.  Also, New Mexico WIC has implemented USDA's national breastfeeding promotion initiative entitled "The Loving Support Campaign," which targets the use of educational materials that specifically address issues found in research conducted with WIC clients: the need for support from significant others especially during early breastfeeding; competing demands for a mother's time; embarrassment about breastfeeding; and emphasis on the benefits of health and bonding with your baby.  These issues are addressed in Loving Support pamphlets, videos and posters used in New Mexico's WIC statewide clinics.

(3) Mother-to-mother Support:   To give new WIC mothers more culturally appropriate, individual support from experienced WIC breastfeeding mothers, WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Programs began in 1993 and continue today in clinics surrounding the Las Cruces area, as well as some clinics around Albuquerque.  Evaluation of this program has found that women with a peer counselor are about 3 times more likely to breastfeed than those without a peer counselor.  Another rewarding result of this program has been an increase in the self-esteem, education and skill level the WIC Peer Counselors. 

(4) High-Risk and Workplace/Return to School Support:  Many mothers are faced with the special challenge of needing to breastfeed a hospitalized infant who is especially in need of the protective factors in breastmilk.  For these high-risk mothers, WIC initiated in 1989 an Electric Breast Pump Loan Program which enables mothers to borrow a hospital-grade, highly efficient breast pump (Medela's Lactina) for the entire time she's separated from her baby.  By providing mothers with this pump, approximately 1500 low-birth weight and/or premature WIC infants this past year received the special health and emotional benefits of breastfeeding.
    Also, surveys of WIC mothers reveal that having to return to a job or school is a major barrier for them in continuing to breastfeed as long as they would like to.  For over ten years now, WIC has been providing these women with support through a Medela manual breast pump which allows them to maintain their milk supply and give their babies breastmilk even though they are separated during work or school hours.  Over 3,000 women this past year received this type of pump, enabling them to breastfeed longer.  

    Because the manual breast pump is more ideally suited for women who only need to express milk about once a day, WIC has now begun to provide a higher quality type of mini-electric breast pump for the mothers who have to pump several or more times daily.  WIC mothers who are working/returning to school and who meet certain breastfeeding qualifications, are eligible to receive, free of charge, a mini-electric breast pump (Medela's Pump In Style) to keep for their personal use.  This enables mothers to keep up breastfeeding when they return to work or school and are separated from their baby all day, thus, needing to pump their milk many times daily.

(5) Public Awareness Campaigns:  In 1992 WIC celebrated its first "World Breastfeeding Week," which is an internationally recognized event created to educate the public about the importance of breastfeeding.  This annual celebration continues to take place every August 1-7, with each year proclaiming a new theme on why breastfeeding is of such importance.  For this past year's theme of "Breastfeeding: Healthy Mothers and Healthy Babies," WIC educated staff and clients about ways breastfeeding improves the health and well-being of both the mother and baby.  Also, clinics statewide honored pregnant and breastfeeding mothers through many types of recognition events and ceremonies.
      In addition to the annual celebrations, WIC works to create a pubic awareness of breastfeeding through various media campaigns, often using the Loving Support Campaign materials.  WIC on an on-going basis provides Loving Support radio advertisements to communities for airing on their local stations, and during the spring and summer of 2000, WIC aired 433 Loving Support television advertisements during prime time TV.  And in the past 5 years, WIC has sponsored over 55 billboards in various locations around the state, displaying the message "Loving Support Makes Breastfeeding Work," with a reminder to call your local WIC Office for help.
(6) Coalition Building:  In 1988 the WIC Program helped to develop the NM Breastfeeding Task Force, a coalition whose goal is to increase the incidence of breastfeeding with an emphasis on low income groups.   Through joining other community breastfeeding advocates in their local Task Force work, WIC staff have been able to motivate and educate local hospitals, worksites, childcare providers and retail businesses to better support breastfeeding women. 

For more information or questions concerning the New Mexico WIC Breastfeeding Promotion Program, you can contact Sharon Giles-Pullen at: 
New Mexico WIC Strategic Plan for   Breastfeeding Promotion
Established 1988