National Breastfeeding Month (copy)

A breastfeeding counselor demonstrates a breastfeeding pump in this file photo. According to the St. Joseph WIC program, breastfeeding provides antibodies to babies to fight off illnesses.

The St. Joseph Women, Infants and Children program is continuing to promote breastfeeding during the COVID-19 pandemic as it provides antibodies and nutrients to the baby while also helping the overall health of the mother.

The St. Joseph WIC office provides resources for mothers who are breastfeeding or have young children. Breastfeeding peer counselors answer questions and provide resources for women.

While it is not proven that breast milk protects babies from COVID-19, several studies have found antibodies that target the virus in human milk, and infants are less likely to have respiratory symptoms when they get sick, according to healthychildren.org.

Lindsay Hufford, a peer counselor with the WIC program locally, said she enjoys helping with some of the questions that go along with breastfeeding.

“Breastfeeding has lots of benefits for both mom and baby actually, and breastfeeding really helps prevent against possible illnesses,” Hufford said. “That’s why it is the preferred choice of feeding for most infants — not all infants, but most infants.”

Hufford said WIC staff are encouraging women who are pregnant or breastfeeding to talk to their doctors about getting the vaccine. Centers for Disease Control guidelines state vaccines can be offered to people who are breastfeeding or pregnant.

“I feel like maybe the pandemic kind of magnifies the benefits of breastfeeding in regards to immune system support. That’s kind of a positive from the pandemic,” Hufford said. “I know breast milk provides antibodies to our babies no matter what, so moms always have that first line of defense, and I hope that (the vaccine) can add a second layer of defense.”

WIC breastfeeding counseling is available over the phone at 816-271-4880. All WIC services can be accessed by calling 816-271-4723.

Clayton Anderson can be reached at clayton.anderson@newspressnow.com. Follow him on twitter: @NPNowAnderson.

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