Breast milk is often called "nature's perfect food." The health benefits of breastfeeding are well documented, along with the cost savings to families.
Yet, breastfeeding rates in Genesee County are dismal. In the latest state report from 2018, only 22 infants were breast fed beyond 11 months of age, compared with the 1,458 who initiated on breastfeeding at birth.
Breaking down the barriers to breastfeeding is the goal of the Michigan State University Extension Breastfeeding
Initiative Program, funded with a $70,600 grant from the Flint Kids Fund. LaTashia Perry, certified lactation consultant and mother of five children herself, leads the program in Flint.
"Mothers feel like they don't have anyone to understand what they're going through," says Perry. "Being able to see someone not just talking about it, but doing it, helps."
At the Baby Café, located at Atherton Van Y Elementary School, mothers gather for clinical and social time in a family friendly environment. Qiana Edwards of Flint appreciates the support she receives as she breastfeeds her infant, Ariah. Today she wonders if she is producing enough milk, sensing a decrease in the supply. Ariah is weighed on the scale, making sure she is gaining weight and reassuring mom that she is producing enough milk. "I would tell new mothers that if they get discouraged, seek help," Edwards says.
Beyond the Baby Café, Perry offers home visits and consultations by phone. I've see a lot of women excited to breastfeed, and many drop off after six weeks to return to work," Perry says. "Our goal is to get them through the first year. That's why peer counseling support is so important. Mom to mom support with no judgments.