Annual breastfeeding walk, set for Wednesday, aims to help educate public

MORGANTOWN — In June 2014, the West Virginia Legislature passed a law affirming a mom’s right to breastfeed in public.

That natural act still causes discomfort and nursing moms are still being asked to leave some establishments so that other patrons are more comfortable.

The Monongalia County Health Department’s WIC program, with help from others, wants to change that.

To help educate the public and make expectant and breastfeeding moms feel more confident, the 11th Annual Breastfeeding Awareness Walk will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1, at the WVU Erickson Alumni Center.

According to a press release from the county health department, the walk is presented by the health department’s Women, Infants and Children program and the Monongalia County Breastfeeding Task Force. Sponsors include Mon Health Medical Center, WVU Medicine Children’s and Cardinal Pediatrics.

Doors open at 4:30 p.m. There will be a Diaper Derby at 5 p.m., a walk around the Erickson Alumni Center grounds at 5:30 p.m, refreshments, storytime, presentations and prize drawings at 6 p.m.

WIC has breastfeeding counselors to help expectant and new mothers who are WIC clients learn about breastfeeding, Lynne Ryan, breastfeeding coordinator, said in the press release.

In 1991, less than 20 percent of Mon County WIC moms tried breastfeeding. Since expanding the Breastfeeding Promotion Program and adding breastfeeding counselors, that number “has continued to rise to 54 percent,” Ryan said.

The Breastfeeding Awareness Walk is held in conjunction with August’s National Breastfeeding Month (usbreastfeeding.org) and World Breastfeeding Week (worldbreastfeedingweek.org), which this year is Aug. 1-7.

This year’s theme for World Breastfeeding Week is Foundation of Life.

Breastfeeding not only helps infants by providing nutrition and helping the immune system, which cultivates a healthier gut, but it also is good for the moms as well, Ryan said.

“Breastfeeding helps normalize a new mother’s weight, and the state of lactating releases hormones that are relaxing, which helps her body readjust after going through a pregnancy,” she noted.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends breastfeeding because breast milk contains antibodies that can help the baby fight off bacterial and viral infections, Breast milk contributes to proper weight gain and has been linked to higher IQ scores in later childhood, according to the health department..

MCHD WIC breastfeeding counselors provide advice and tips for new mothers, which not only include how to get the baby to latch on to mom’s breast, but also how to feel comfortable doing it in public.

“It’s a learned skill, to nurse in public,” Ryan said. “The more confident a woman gets, the less people notice her.”

MCHD WIC, which encompasses Monongalia, Preston, Marion, Harrison, Doddridge and Taylor counties, also holds breastfeeding classes that are free to the public. In Monongalia County, those classes are at 4 p.m. the first and third Wednesday of the month and at 10 a.m. the second Wednesday of the month at WIC’s location at 1000 Elmer Prince Drive, Morgantown.

The Breastfeeding Awareness Walk is also open to the public. Raffle prizes include a car seat, jogging stroller, Pack ‘n Play.

There is plenty of free parking on-site.

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