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September 26, 2018

Local WIC Program Graduates Peer Counselors


OSWEGO, NY – As part of their week-long celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, the Oswego County WIC Program announced the graduation of nine additional breastfeeding peer counselors.

Administered locally through OCO, the New York State WIC Program provides women, infants and children with supplemental food and nutrition education to ensure that they are receiving the proper nutrition and health education they require when they need it the most.

The Oswego WIC Program welcomed nine new breastfeeding peer counselors recently. From left in front are: Erin Tsutsumishita, Kimberly Zimmer, Korrine Britton (with her son, Benjamin), Michelle Lauckarn, breastfeeding coordinator / nutritionist with WIC Mary Ellen Pierce and Sarah Downum. In back from left are: Veronica Burton (with her son, Alvah), Della Wood, Amie Coffin, Kelly Jo Gorman, and peer counseling program assistant, Kim Kelley.

The Oswego WIC Program welcomed nine new breastfeeding peer counselors recently. From left in front are: Erin Tsutsumishita, Kimberly Zimmer, Korrine Britton (with her son, Benjamin), Michelle Lauckarn, breastfeeding coordinator / nutritionist with WIC Mary Ellen Pierce and Sarah Downum. In back from left are: Veronica Burton (with her son, Alvah), Della Wood, Amie Coffin, Kelly Jo Gorman, and peer counseling program assistant, Kim Kelley.

The program serves pre-natal, breastfeeding women, postpartum women (up to six months) and infants and children up to the age of five.

While the WIC Program engaged in a number of community outreach and education projects during World Breastfeeding Week, support services manager for the local WIC Program Stacie France said that the highlight of the week was the addition of nine counselors to the WIC Peer Counseling Program.

“We are excited to be welcoming our new peer counselors.  Our nine new counselors are from various towns and villages throughout Oswego County including Hannibal, Williamstown, Pulaski, Central Square and other areas. The addition of these new peer counselors will help us to expand our Peer Counseling Program and allow us to educate and encourage more mothers and expectant mothers to choose breastfeeding for their child,” said France.

The new peer counselors, all of which are mothers who have or currently are breastfeeding, successfully completed an extensive eight-week training course, developed by the New York State Department of Health, which covers how and why a mother’s body makes milk so that they can effectively address any concerns that an expectant mother may have regarding breastfeeding.

The peer counselors provide prenatal and postpartum support and will be available to meet with mothers in the clinic, the hospital, or their home to give them encouragement, share the benefits of breastfeeding, and provide them with the proper education necessary for them to successfully begin breastfeeding.

Established as part of the federal government’s Healthy People 2010 initiative, the Peer Counseling Program provides a wide range of support, assistance, and education on topics such as identifying good milk supply, nutrition facts, positioning and returning to work.

The program is designed to help breastfeeding mothers and encourage pre-natal moms who are considering breastfeeding.

“This is truly a dedicated group of mothers,” said France. “One of them was pregnant for the first week of training and then showed up for the second week of training with a 4-day-old! They are passionate about the benefits of breastfeeding and are anxious to share their experiences and help other mothers discover the joys of breastfeeding.”

France added that peer counselors would soon be meeting with new and expectant mothers who request a counselor.

“Our counselors strive to educate, encourage and empower mothers who would like to breastfeed their child. The counselors meet face to face with their clients and work to develop a relationship that is encouraging and supportive. The education that our counselors receive during their training, combined with their own experiences with breastfeeding, prepares them well for their roles as peer counselors,” said France.

The graduates were impressed with the thoroughness of they training they received, the enthusiasm of the instructors, and the sense of togetherness that the experience fostered.

“I enjoyed sharing our stories and personal experiences, said Kelly Jo Gorman. “It was also very informative and I learned that it is fine to breastfeed a child up to 24 months.”

Korrine Britton, who designed an attractive logo that adorned the shirts the counselors wore, also enjoyed the sharing of personal experiences and appreciated the attention of the instructors.

“The teachers were very warm and in-depth in their teaching. They really went above and beyond their duties to make sure they answered any question we had and understood the material we covered,” she said.

Amie Coffin appreciated the training she received on the proper techniques to begin breastfeeding and ways to meet the unique needs of mothers so that breastfeeding can easily be accomplished.

“I learned a lot and I am anxious to share that knowledge with others.  This information would have been very beneficial to me when I started breastfeeding,” she said.

“We are proud of our new peer counselors,” added Peer Counseling Program assistant Kim Kelley. “With the addition of these new counselors, we anticipate increasing the number of breastfeeding mothers who are using WIC services from 56% to 75%.”

For more information on the benefits of breastfeeding or the many services offered through the WIC program, visit their main office located at the OCO Oswego Health Center, 10 George St., Oswego, which is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., call them at 343-1311, or toll free 1-888-730-3803.

OCO is a private, non-profit agency that has been supporting communities throughout Oswego County since 1966 and touches the lives of more than 20,000 people annually.

OCO is a United Way of Greater Oswego County member agency.

For more information, visit www.oco.org

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