CHAMPS is excited to share about this week’s CHEER Champion of the Week, the Mississippi WIC Program (MS WIC), nominated for its outstanding leadership in breastfeeding efforts within the state! Kimberly Dixon Ramsey, MHA, the State Breastfeeding Coordinator for MS WIC, recently spoke at the January 9, 2019 CHAMPS webinar, “Sustaining Breastfeeding and the BFHI in Mississippi.” It was remarkable to hear how much MS WIC is doing to support breastfeeding and about the positive impact they are having. Download the webinar slides and audio recording here!
“The Mississippi WIC Program was established to promote and support breastfeeding as the optimal feeding choice for infants,” shares Kimberly on MS WIC’s vision for breastfeeding in the state. “We strive to promote the advantages of breastfeeding for mothers, babies, and our communities/state as a whole. Our WIC staff is committed to providing positive interactions with WIC families by enhancing the breastfeeding experience and by working to normalize breastfeeding in our communities. MS WIC strives to be the convener of breastfeeding support and promotion in the state. We see our challenges with increasing breastfeeding initiation and duration rates as a ‘call to action,’ recognizing that we have a unique opportunity to transform the culture of breastfeeding in our state.”
In the January 9th CHAMPS webinar, Kimberly explained that even though MS WIC provides assistance with infant formula feeding, they promote breastfeeding as the optimal feeding choice. The ways in which they support breastfeeding mothers include individual counseling with breastfeeding peer counselors, CLCs and IBCLCs; support groups; educational materials; breast pumps and other devices; and enhanced food packages to support mothers nutritionally while breastfeeding.
In addition, MS WIC is doing a lot to support WIC moms outside the clinic, and to partner with organizations to bring about policy, system and environmental change. They are providing CLC training to WIC staff, hospitals, and community organizations; supporting the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI); and supporting Baby Cafés and community events. The impact of these efforts is far-reaching. There are now 105 new CLCs, increasing the total to 203 CLCs in the state. MS WIC has entered into a formal partnership with 21 hospitals, so that MS WIC can support Steps 3 (prenatal education) and 10 (postpartum support) of the BFHI. MS WIC is also establishing Baby Cafés across the state, offering their staff (breastfeeding peer counselors, CLCs, and IBCLCs) as Baby Café facilitators and volunteers, and serving as a lead referral and education source to Baby Cafés.
“MS WIC is also proud to be a leader in using innovative ‘tele-lactation’ services to improve access to WIC services and increase breastfeeding rates among WIC participants,” Kimberly shares.
The “Pacify” tele-lactation service is an app which mothers download to their phones, and which gives them free, unlimited access to IBCLCs in English or Spanish 24 hours a day. Pacify generates reports and sends them to WIC staff so they can follow-up with participants. In 2016, Mississippi became the first WIC agency in the country to offer Pacify statewide. The results of the Pacify pilot were very positive. The Mississippi Department of Health (MSDH) reported a 10% increase in exclusive breastfeeding rates just 7 months after launching Pacify, and outside researchers found that participants who downloaded the app were 2.5 times more likely to exclusively breastfeed at 3 and 6 months than participants who did not. As a result of these outcomes, MSDH was recently awarded grant funding to continue providing this service to MS WIC participants.
MS WIC is indeed helping to change the culture of breastfeeding in Mississippi. In the January 9th CHAMPS webinar, Kimberly shared on the outstanding increase in breastfeeding rates within Mississippi by comparing data from the 2016 and 2018 CDC Breastfeeding Report Cards. Even though Mississippi continues to be last as a state in its breastfeeding rates, there was a significant increase in its rates over the past 2 years. For example, there was an 11.2% increase in women who had ever breastfed (from 52% to 63.2%); an 11.5% increase in breastfeeding at 6 months (from 23.9% to 35.4%); and a 6.8% increase in exclusive breastfeeding at 3 months (from 21.4% to 28.2%). Similarly, there has been a steady increase in breastfeeding initiation and duration at 3 and 6 months among MS WIC participants within the last 4 years. Most significantly, there has been a 9.48% increase in breastfeeding initiation, bringing the rate up to 48.8% in 2018.
Kimberly would like to thank the Regional Breastfeeding Coordinators, Peer Counseling Staff, WIC Central Staff and local WIC dieticians and support staff.
“They make my job so much easier by ensuring these strategies and approaches are implemented in their respective regions,” Kimberly says. “Each one of them give unwavering support to the mothers and babies in this state with tireless dedication.”
Kimberly would also like to thank the State WIC Director, Diane Hargrove, and Kathy Burk, MSDH Health Services Director, for their leadership and support of the work in the breastfeeding program. Lastly, she would like to thank their community partners, hospitals, and other healthcare organizations for embracing the community-clinical linkage to providing breastfeeding education, promotion and support.
Congratulations, MS WIC! We thank you for your invaluable contributions to the work of promoting breastfeeding in Mississippi!
CHEER Champion of the week
Each Monday (besides public holidays), we will recognize a CHEER Champion for all the work they have done for CHEER (Center for Health Equity, Education, and Research)/CHAMPS (Communities and Hospitals Advancing Maternity Practices).