By Cheryl Petersen Contributing writer
The Daily Star
---- — “Seven years ago, 30 people came for the Breastfeeding Awareness Walk,” said Andrea Byrne, WIC Director at Delaware Opportunities. “Today, we had over 140 people join in on the activity.”
Mothers, children, fathers, and caretakers met at Delhi Square on Friday with attention dedicated to the value of breastfeeding. There was networking, and participants qualified to win gift items, donated by local businesses.
“The generosity of the community indicates their support of breastfeeding,” said Byrne.
The Breastfeeding Awareness event was scheduled in conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1 through 7.
“It’s not easy, but I do recommend trying it for a couple of weeks because it’s worth it. The first few weeks are the most difficult,” said Elizabeth Hilton, a resident of North Franklin and mother of 5 children. “Every child is different and I still needed help with my fifth child, Ella, who was born premature. But we are now at 10 months and still going.”
After the birth of Ella, Elizabeth Hilton tapped into the Delaware Opportunities service of peer counseling. A mentor mother came to Elizabeth’s home and helped her with the issue of latching.
“Latching issues are common,” said Shelia Burnham, Peer Counselor. “If there isn’t a good tight seal, the baby and the mother can get frustrated.”
Burnham became a peer counselor after seeing an advertisement in a WIC bulletin requesting mentors. “I called to see if I could help. After nursing seven children, I had the benefit of experience and could relate to mothers,” said Burnham.
“It’s mothers helping mothers to establish and sustain breastfeeding,” said Burnham, who lives in East Meredith. “The program pays the peer counselors for mileage and I get to support what I believe in — breastfeeding.”
First-time mother Suzy Hitt, from Jefferson, was in Delhi with 9-month-old Brooke. “Breastfeeding has been the most challenging thing I’ve encountered, and the most rewarding,” said Hitt. “It’s indescribable. The connection between me and Brooke is incredible. I can’t compare it to anything else.”
Suzy Hitt drinks a lot of water and eats healthy foods. “Pregnancy and breastfeeding has also made me more aware of my own nutrition,” said Hitt. “What I eat affects me and her, and so I naturally want the best.”
During the morning Breastfeeding Awareness event, the group walked from Delhi Square to the SUNY Delhi entrance and back. Infants and children were in strollers, carriers and wagons.
Informational booths were set up on the Square, including Delaware County Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE). “CCE has for a long time had programs to advocate for breastfeeding,” said Jeanne Darling, director of Cornell Cooperative Extension.
“Like the WIC program, we have lactation counseling and nutrition educators,” said Darling. “Our agencies can also loan out breast pumps.”
“Throughout the year, CCE has set up stations at work sites to support working mothers who are breastfeeding,” said Darling. “Or, counselors go into the home. The systems of support cover both personal encouragement, plus technique, to ensure the best breastfeeding experience.
“The latest research shows that breastfeeding is the healthiest nutrition for the baby,” said Darling. “There are statistics that show reduced allergies, obesity and diabetes in children who were fed breast milk.”