In the summer of 2016, the Idaho Women, Infants, Children (WIC) program’s breastfeeding accomplishments helped it receive a Breastfeeding Bonus Award of $103,882 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Many of the WIC-designated breastfeeding experts also participate in the Idaho Breastfeeding Coalition to help supplement their knowledge and community outreach efforts. It was proposed that a large portion of the Idaho Breastfeeding Bonus Award go toward funding a first-ever Idaho Breastfeeding Summit, a conference that would strengthen breastfeeding efforts currently benefiting the state of Idaho.
Many national breastfeeding organizations claim the key to lengthening exclusive breastfeeding duration rates is taking a community approach toward ensuring mothers and babies are supported in multiple areas of their breastfeeding experience. This is difficult in rural Idaho where miles can separate important stakeholders.
Long-term health benefits of breastfeeding for the child include a reduced incidence of childhood obesity, cancers, allergies, and asthma. For the mother, breastfeeding increases the bonding with the baby and also reduces the risk of some cancers. Idaho has the second-highest breast feeding rate in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The Idaho Breastfeeding Coalition spread the news of the summit to physicians, dietitians, nurses, WIC staff, and other community members, resulting in the attendance of 160 people over the summit’s three days from Aug. 1-3, 2017.
After consideration of all input, speakers Jane Morton, Marianne Neifert, Thomas Hale, and Marsha Walker were engaged to lend their expertise on topics such as hand expression and pumping, the late-preterm infant, and medications for breastfeeding mothers. The summit concluded with coalition-building, sharing, and taking action. The summit was an great time to recognize the breastfeeding accomplishments of local Idaho community members, such as hospitals who have taken the steps to “Ban the Bag” and eliminate formula sample distribution in their discharge bags.
The Panhandle Health District was recognized for being the first in the nation to receive the USDA’s Loving Support Gold Elite award for its Peer Counseling Program. The Idaho Division of Public Health’s own Elke Shaw-Tulloch, Andy Bourne, Ivie Smart, Kristin McKie Bergeson, and Mimi Fetzer spoke about the ways their programs promote breastfeeding.
The summit resulted in newly formed connections, an abundance of breastfeeding promotion resources, and an invigorated desire to promote the most optimal form of support for mothers and babies in Idaho.