Local health promotion organizations are teaming up to improve breastfeeding education and support in the Latino community by training more Spanish-speaking peer counselors.
The effort—a collaboration between Healthy & Active Before 5 (HAB45), Contra Costa Health Services’ Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program, and Monument Impact—is training Spanish-speaking community health advocates or “promotoras” to provide peer counseling to breastfeeding mothers, primarily in Concord’s Monument neighborhood. Training is also being provided to nurses and lactation consultants.
The free training uses the “Loving Support” curriculum, which was originally developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service to assist state and local agencies with implementing successful and sustainable peer counseling programs. Loving Support trainings are usually offered in English, but many Spanish-speaking educators have found it challenging to translate common breastfeeding terminology and concepts in a way that is clear and culturally relevant. This training for Concord-area promotoras is one of the first times Loving Support classes have been taught entirely in Spanish in California.
The goal of the training is to better educate mothers in the Latino community about breastfeeding, connect them to appropriate resources, and increase breastfeeding rates throughout the baby’s first year of life. Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for babies and provides several health benefits including reduced risk for chronic disease, illness, and obesity.
Local public health officials say the need for lactation support in the Latino community in Contra Costa has grown as the Hispanic population has grown. State data show that more Hispanic babies are born in Contra Costa each year compared to any other ethnicity or race. In 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, 3,541 Hispanic babies were born in Contra Costa hospitals. White mothers delivered the second most babies that year—3,398.
And while rates of mothers exclusively breastfeeding their newborns in the hospital have significantly improved in the county among Hispanics and other groups in recent years, public health officials say all groups still fall short of the Healthy People 2020 goals of exclusive breastfeeding at 3 months (46.2%) and at 6 months (25.5%). Breastfeeding experts say that supplementation with infant formula is particularly prevalent among Latina women.
“We’ve made a lot of progress in Contra Costa, but we can do even better,” said Monique Sims, the Regional Breastfeeding Liaison for the Contra Costa WIC program. “We believe this Spanish-language training will help Latina moms get the support they need to stick to breastfeeding their babies longer and decrease the unnecessary formula use in this population.”
The training sessions are being held on five Friday mornings, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., from April 25 through May 30 at the Contra Costa Child Care Council in Concord. The 20 promotoras participating in the training are affiliated with numerous child development and public health programs in the county. After they receive their training, the promotoras will provide peer counseling through their affiliate organizations and in their communities.
The classes are being led by Jeanette Panchula, a Spanish-speaking Public Health Nurse and certified lactation consultant that has been providing breastfeeding education and support as a La Leche League Leader since 1975. Panchula translated portions of the Loving Support materials into Spanish for the Concord class.
“Many mothers quit because they don’t see any other alternative when they come against a barrier,” Panchula said. “The more people in the community who are knowledgeable, the better the chance that when a mom has worries, someone will know someone who will be able to recognize the problem and respond positively with ‘there is help and I’m here to get you to them.’”
Healthy & Active Before 5 (HAB45), the lead coordinating agency, is a collaborative initiative in Contra Costa County with a goal to prevent obesity in children ages 0-5 by building partnerships and environments for healthy eating and active play. Over the past three years, through funding provided by the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Community Benefit HEAL Zones Initiative, HAB45 has focused its efforts on improving the health of children ages 0-5 living within the Monument Community in Concord. This training is one among many of the collaborative’s healthy eating and active living strategies to improve early childhood health in the county.
This training is funded by Kaiser Permanente Northern California Community Benefit, Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit: Diablo Area, and the Contra Costa WIC Program Regional Breastfeeding Liaison Program.
Anyone in the county can receive free breastfeeding information in Spanish or English by calling the Contra Costa Breastfeeding Advice Line at 1-866-878-7767. Additional breastfeeding resources are available at cchealth.org/services/breastfeeding