Local tots help promote breastfeeding
A billboard featuring Jefferson County babies is the kickoff to a campaign to promote long-term breastfeeding in the county.
Funded with part of a $25,000 grant from the Women, Infants and Children program, the "Home Grown Babies" billboard features seven local breastfed babies, ages 6-16 months. It is located just north of town on Highway 26, near Depot Road.
Carolyn Harvey, coordinator of the county health department's Healthy Communities program, said breastfed WIC babies were invited to a photo shoot by Nicky Krause of OoDaLolly Photography, for the billboard and about 20 showed up. Each family got a CD of photos at the end of the shoot.
"Then six of us on an advisory group -- the Jefferson County Breastfeeding Coalition -- looked at and chose seven photos. We have Native American, Hispanic, Caucasian, and blends that show the diversity of our county," Harvey said.
The goal of the new coalition is to provide support for moms wanting to breastfeed, and to make long-term breastfeeding the norm in the community.
Nationwide, Oregon has a high breastfeeding rate, and Jefferson County's rate is one of the best in the state. Some 76.2 percent of all delivering moms participate in WIC, and nearly 90 percent indicate they plan to nurse their newborns.
"But breastfeeding starts to fall off after six months," Harvey said, noting rates drop to 42 percent at six months, and 20 percent by 12 months.
To encourage the nursing of babies for at least one year, "The coalition will advocate for policy change in the workplace and everywhere," Harvey said.
There are many benefits to nursing babies instead of feeding them formula.
Harvey said breastfed kids are more resistant to disease and infection. They have fewer ear infections and fewer dental cavities when they get older.
Nursed babies are less likely to contract diabetes, heart disease and cancer later in life, and are 20-30 percent less likely to become obese.
It also costs a lot less, because the mom produces the milk and parents don't have to purchase baby formula.
Patty Barker, WIC coordinator at the health department, commented, "We're one of the few species that feeds another animal's milk to our babies."
Some of the WIC grant money is also being used to develop a website through the local Chachka Group, to offer support, education, and resources for mom's trying to breastfeed.
Local International Board Certified Lactation Consultants include Janet Bissel, and Barb Ibrahim, and the health department has two additional lactation consultants to use as resources.
Health agencies in both Warm Springs and Madras, and delivery staff at Mountain View Hospital are partnering to promote breastfeeding.
"We want to give new moms, right off the bat, the support they need to start and continue breastfeeding," Harvey said.
The billboard space has been rented for a full year and another photo shoot is being planned for next month. The next billboard will promote families and local people will again be used for the models.
But of the current billboard, Harvey said, "The babies are amazing. We're proud of these moms for breastfeeding their babies and we're thrilled with the billboard."