Policy Update: Improvements in Breastfeeding Practices as a Result of Women, Infant and Children
To increase awareness of children’s health and wellness initiatives, Phipps' Let’s Move Pittsburgh project provides Policy Update, a column on local, state and national health policies that impact you.
WIC, otherwise known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Woman, Infants and Children is a federal assistance program designed by the Food and Nutrition Service to support low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum mothers, as well as infants and children up to 5 years of age. WIC provides free services to its participants, including supplemental and nutritious foods, nutrition education, counseling, health screenings and referrals to health, welfare and social services. WIC’s impact on breastfeeding and early childhood nutrition was highly supported by the recently released Infant Year Report from the USDA’s WIC Infant and Toddler Feeding Practices Study.
The report shows major signs of improvement among breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices, including a 27% increase in breastfeeding rates, a jump from 56% reported in the 1995 study to 83% reported today. Additionally, over 95% of mothers who reported breastfeeding stated that WIC played a role in their decision to breastfeed.1 The study also revealed a 40% decrease in caregivers introducing food to infants at four months of age; a drop from 60% of mothers to only 20%.1 This is a positive change, as the World Health Organization recommends that infants are breastfed exclusively until 6 months of age, and then after 6 months, supplemental foods and liquids should be slowly introduced into the diet to complement continued breastfeeding (known as complementary feeding).2
While breast milk has been confirmed as the best dietary choice for infants for many years, there continues to be difficulty in both the sharing and understanding of best practices, as well as in compliance among mothers. Despite the improvements revealed in this year’s Infant Year Report, there is still work to be done. There continues to be a steady decline in breastfeeding rates among mothers from the first month of life to 6 and 12 months of age, with less and less mothers breastfeeding each month that goes by.3 The goal is that all mothers breastfeed exclusively until 6 months of age, with supplemental breastfeeding until at least 12 months.2 Hopefully, with the continued support of WIC, more mothers will come closer to reaching this goal.
For additional information, please visit the Food and Nutrition Services website.
1 "USDA Study Finds Improved Feeding Practices Among Infants Participating in WIC." USDA Study Finds Improved Feeding Practices Among Infants Participating in WIC | Food and Nutrition Service. N.p., 12 Jan. 2017. Web. 07 Feb. 2017.
2 "Exclusive Breastfeeding." World Health Organization. World Health Organization, n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2017.
3 "WIC INFANT AND TODDLER FEEDING PRACTICES STUDY 2: INFANT YEAR REPORT (SUMMARY)." USDA. Food and Nutrition Service, Jan. 2017. Web. 07 Feb. 2017.