Renea Floyd recently brought her 5-month-old son, Drew, to the Carrboro Community Health Center for a visit with Rosemary Byrnes. “Look at you,” Byrnes said, smiling at Drew. “I can’t believe how much he’s grown.”

The exchange showed the rapport Byrnes, a breastfeeding counselor Piedmont Health’s Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Program, has developed with Floyd – one of the goals of the program.

The Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Program pairs an expecting mother with a peer counselor at the Carrboro Community Health Center. The program is offered as part of the center’s Women Infants and Children (WIC) Program.

WIC is a federally funded health and nutrition program for women, infants, and children. WIC educates families about nutrition and helps them find healthy foods, health care and other community services.

Breastfeeding peer counselors at Piedmont Health help encourage and educate expecting mothers about breastfeeding techniques and its benefits. The program aims to encourage counselors to develop friendly relationships during an expecting mother’s pregnancy – and to continue that relationship after the women give birth.

“It’s a proactive rather than reactive approach to breastfeeding support,” Byrnes said.

Floyd works with staff members at Piedmont Health while caring for her two boys, Drew and 2-year-old Christopher “R.J.”

She wanted to learn more about breastfeeding while she was pregnant with her first son R.J. Her doctor told her about the WIC program at Piedmont Health. Floyd said she started using this program because breastfeeding is an inexpensive and healthy way to feed her children.

“It’s good for me,” she said. “I wanted to be natural and breastfeeding was more natural for me instead of using bottles.”

Many health-care professionals agree that breastfeeding helps both children and their mothers in numerous ways. Breast milk is rich in nutrients and antibodies that protect babies, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health’s web site (http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding). The website also states that breast milk helps both mothers and children fight various diseases, including Type 2 diabetes.

Floyd said breastfeeding also seems natural for a child, but it’s still a learning process for both the mother and her child.

Byrnes agreed that new moms often have questions and sometimes have concerns or face challenges while learning about breastfeeding. One common challenge, she said, is the expectations about newborn behavior. Babies eat very frequently and these expectations sometimes come with self-doubt.

Floyd said some of her friends and family told her that breastfeeding can be painful. She said her breastfeeding experience was not as painful as she thought it would be.

Breastfeeding may seem harder than bottle feeding a baby, but Floyd and Byrnes said it’s worth the effort. Floyd said breastfeeding helped her build stronger relationships with her two boys. She recommends it to other expecting mothers.

“Try it for the health of the baby,” Floyd said. “It’s a great bonding moment, too.”

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