By Mary-Kathryn Craft
S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Women Infants and Children (WIC) Breastfeeding Peer Counselors in the Pee Dee Region recently received national recognition for their exceptional work. The team, led by WIC Program Manager Sadhana Tolani and Breastfeeding Coordinator Jenna Deaver, was awarded the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Loving Support of Excellence Gold Award.
The honor recognizes local WIC agencies that provide exemplary breastfeeding promotion and support activities. The Pee Dee program was one of six selected in the Southeast.
“Our ultimate goal is to empower women by giving them the support they need to overcome the physical, emotional and social stigma barriers to breastfeeding their infants,” Deaver said. “This award reinforces the importance of our daily efforts and inspires our team to continue delivering excellent service to new mothers at a time when they most need that one-on-one support.”
Breastfeeding is important because it improves health by protecting moms and babies from a variety of diseases. It is also an effective way to fight childhood obesity. That’s why promoting and encouraging breastfeeding is a key focus in WIC.
The Pee Dee Region’s WIC program was specifically recognized for its partnerships with area hospitals. The program has agreements with more than 10 hospitals throughout the region enabling peer counselors to visit postpartum moms at bedsides to offer breastfeeding information and assistance. The counselors then provide follow-up support in home visits and at clinics.
WIC breastfeeding peer counselors are mothers who have successfully breastfed at least one baby and serve as mentors to new mothers who want to nurse. Tolani said the award was a great morale boost to staff and is the result of the hard work the WIC team has put in since the Loving Support breastfeeding peer counselor program began a decade ago.
Congratulations to this dedicated group of DHEC employees in the Pee Dee!