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Healthy Babies Grow Up To Be Healthier Kids

Posted by Amanda D. Heitkamp, Public Affairs, Food and Nutrition Service in Food and Nutrition
Aug 04, 2015
A peer counselor with a mother
Peer counselors undergo training to provide mother-to-mother support in group settings and one-to-one counseling.

WIC works.  But don’t just take it from us.  For more than four decades, WIC has helped produce better pregnancy results, such as increased birth weights and fewer premature births for our nation’s most vulnerable.  And it’s these critical outcomes at the start of life that shape a healthier future for millions of the program’s beneficiaries.

Officially known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, WIC continues to serve as the nation’s most successful, cost-effective and important nutrition intervention program. It provides nutritious foods, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and referrals to health care and social services for millions of low-income families.  And extensive research confirms its success.  Studies find that participating in WIC leads to healthier babies, more nutritious diets and better health care for children.  Participation has even been linked to higher academic achievement for students!

The key component of WIC’s success is rooted in its nearly 10,000 clinics.  These centers provide supplemental nutritious food, health care referrals, and nutrition education, as well as help promote and support breastfeeding through efforts like Loving Support Makes Breastfeeding Work. WIC promotes breastfeeding as the optimal infant feeding choice.  So to best support breastfeeding among WIC moms, we provide counseling and educational materials, offer healthy food packages, and give out breastfeeding aids, like breast pumps.

WIC also has peer counselors, mothers themselves, who share their personal experiences with breastfeeding to WIC moms.  They are trained to provide counseling and assistance to those with similar backgrounds such as language, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.  Peer counselors undergo training to provide mother-to-mother support in group settings and one-to-one counseling through telephone calls or visits in the home, clinic, or hospital.  Peer counselors are also very familiar with the resources available to WIC clients.  They understand questions a new breastfeeding mother is likely to ask and recognize when to refer mothers to other resources during critical periods.

The results speak for themselves. WIC reduces the risk of infant mortality by connecting expectant mothers to prenatal health care, promoting healthy eating through nutrition assessments and counseling, and providing healthy foods tailored to their specific needs.

WIC serves as a gateway to health care by connecting families to resources such as prenatal, obstetric, maternal, and pediatric care; dental care; and counseling for smoking cessation or drug and alcohol abuse. New research even shows that children whose mothers participated in WIC while pregnant scored higher on assessments of mental development at age two than similar children whose mothers didn’t participate.

The benefits of WIC participation lasts well into the school years. Babies born to WIC moms are generally healthier, contributing to improved overall health for the nation.

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition