Health and Family Services Cabinet
Peer Counseling Program Helps New Moms Learn to Breastfeed
A new Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) breastfeeding peer counselor program provides support and information for prenatal and breastfeeding mothers – to help ensure good health for Kentucky’s babies.
The breastfeeding peer counselor program, operated through local health departments, provides one-on-one counseling, information and round-the-clock guidance for mothers new to breastfeeding. The United States Department of Agriculture funds the program through a grant. It’s available to participants of the WIC program.
“Our health departments select peer counselors based on enthusiasm for breastfeeding and a willingness to share their experience and knowledge with other mothers,” said Angela Ratliff, state breastfeeding peer counselor coordinator with DPH. “We use counselors who want to help other mothers enjoy a positive and successful experience with breastfeeding.”
A breastfeeding peer counselor is a current or former WIC participant with personal breastfeeding experience.
Peer counseling services in Kentucky are offered at the areas served by the following health departments: Allen County, Boyd County, Gateway District, Green River District, Kentucky River District, Louisville Metro, Marshall County, and Northern Kentucky Independent District.
Shana Hensley, of West Liberty, has been a counselor with the program for almost a year, and has worked with around 140 clients. As the mother of 2-year-old twins, she said she needed some guidance learning to breastfeed her own children and wanted to share the knowledge she gained with other mothers.
“A lot of women think breastfeeding is an old-fashioned thing. It’s unheard of for some,” said Hensley. “Some clients don’t realize that breastfeeding is something you can get help for. If more women knew what it does for kids, everyone would do it.”
Peer counselors’ services have proven to be a significant factor in improving breastfeeding initiation and duration rates among women, including the economically disadvantaged and populations of diverse cultural backgrounds and geographical locations.
Peer counselors are effective in communities where role models for breastfeeding behaviors, knowledgeable health care providers and cultural practices that include breastfeeding as a norm are scarce.
“Among the most powerful attributes is the ability of breastfeeding peer counselors to provide ongoing support and practical suggestions for breastfeeding that are modeled on their own life experiences,” said Ratliff. “The program is providing a wonderful service to new mothers who often just need some encouragement to continue to breastfeed their infants.”
The peer counselors work with their local WIC agency to provide support to breastfeeding moms and families in their region and have started “Mother to Mother” support groups for their communities.
For more information about this program, contact Angela Ratliff at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (502) 564-3827, ext. 4512.