Breastfeeding Groups and Peer Counseling

Breastfeeding Groups and Peer Counseling

Peer breastfeeding support among people of similar sociocultural backgrounds has been shown to lead to more favorable breastfeeding outcomes. Explore models, practices, and impacts of peer-to-peer breastfeeding support in group and one-on-one settings.

Breastfeeding Education, Support, and Promotion: Pennsylvania’s Story

Dottie Schell, BS, RN, CLC, CBE & Devon Gilinger, MPH,CHES,CLC – PA Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics 

TRACKS: Data, Research and Storytelling, Breastfeeding Groups and Peer Counseling, Northeast

The EPIC-BEST (Educating Practices/Physicians in their Communities: Breastfeeding Education, Support, and Training) 

This program targets education and resources on breastfeeding to practices in Southeast and Southwest PA. As an EPIC program, the focus is on promoting the initiation of breastfeeding and increasing the duration of exclusive breastfeeding for about the first 6 months of the infant’s life. EPIC-BEST will address this goal by working with primary care practices on achieving the principles of a breastfeeding friendly office.


This program aims to provide guidance on how to create a breastfeeding-friendly medical home for mothers and their families. It expands on EPIC-BEST to include all office staff who might come in contact with mothers and their families. Practices receive guidance towards becoming a Community-Based Breastfeeding Friendly Practice Model. Through BEST Plus, a Maintenance of Certification (MOC) project was created: Improving Exclusive Breastfeeding Rates in the Pediatric Practice.

Keystone 10 

This hospital-based quality improvement initiative is aimed at improving the protection, promotion, and support of breastfeeding for all Pennsylvania infants, mothers, and families. Funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Keystone 10 assists Pennsylvania’s birthing facilities in adopting and implementing evidence-based maternity care practices with the goal of improving individual facility and state level breastfeeding care and rates and ultimately improving the health of mothers and babies. 83 of the 88 Pennsylvania birthing facilities participate in this initiative through the completion of the nationally-recognized, evidence-based “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.” Hospitals can apply for the 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding one step at a time. This initiative is engaging Pennsylvania’s birthing facilities in local, regional and state level efforts to improve the initiation, duration and exclusivity rates of breastfeeding across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

First Food

This breastfeeding program fosters collaboration opportunities with community partners across the Commonwealth to promote breastfeeding which ensures the healthiest start for babies. Funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, First Food is committed to partnerships and collaborative efforts to increase the number of organizations throughout Pennsylvania that establish policies and programs to support breastfeeding. Community partners will identify their target needs in order to promote, support and protect breastfeeding among their breastfeeding participants, employees or members. Breast milk as a “first food” will be emphasized, as well as the health benefits to mother, infant and the community, when breastfeeding is a cultural norm. First Food promotes the Breastfeeding-Friendly Community. 

Learning Objectives: 

  1. State the four main Pennsylvania Initiatives
  2. Identify the value of each program
  3. Connect the importance of education ,support, and promotion between, hospitals, practices and community organizations

Making Connections: Breastfeeding Peer Support in Community, Clinical, and Virtual Space

Kiddada Green, MAT & Erica Davis – Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association

TRACKS: Breastfeeding Groups and Peer Counseling; Midwest

Breastfeeding peer support can be provided in a variety of settings leading to more desirable breastfeeding outcomes. When community partnerships are cultivated more families have access to breastfeeding education and support. Peer Counselors integrated into clinical maternity-care models improve breastfeeding rates. Additionally, when community partnerships are achieved other professionals are able to convey breastfeeding information and identify available resources. While the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many barriers to breastfeeding peer support, innovative and engaging virtual support options have created new opportunities to reach families to support breastfeeding, including the recent launch of the BMBFA B’Right Hub, the virtual community for parent clubs. The BMBFA B’Right Hub is an easy, efficient, effective and engaging HIPAA-compliant platform for parent clubs and their members.

Learning Objectives: 

  1. Describe the role and scope of a breastfeeding peer counselor and how they serve as a liaison between families, community and clinical settings.
  2. Describe how to cultivate partnerships amongst community-based organizations and clinical settings.
  3. State creative and innovative ways to engage breastfeeding support in telehealth and virtual spaces.
  4. Explain how technological innovations can be used to effectively inform program service delivery and positively impact birth and breastfeeding outcomes.

The CinnaMoms Experience: Elevating Data and Research through Storytelling

K’Lynn Mitchell RDN & Ronietra Stewart, RDN, IBCLC – CinnaMoms PHFE WIC 

TRACKS: Data, Research and Storytelling, Breastfeeding Groups and Peer Counseling; West

CinnaMoms was created in 2015 by Dr. Tonce Jackson and Karla Washington. As certified lactation educators, they were determined to improve the low breastfeeding rates among Black/African American women by providing support circles and culturally congruent resources to our pregnant and postpartum women and their families in the PHFE WIC program. As the program grew, CinnaMoms evolved to provide more than just lactation support. Through advocacy, education, and supporting families, CinnaMoms hopes to decrease mortality rates and other negative health outcomes amongst Black/African American women, infants, and children. During this presentation, I will discuss how CinnaMoms turned this hope into evidenced-based data to underline the importance of how focused interventions targeted towards the benefit of Black/African American infant and maternal health is the right approach in mitigating the alarmingly high mortality rates currently affecting Black/African American birthers in the United States of America. 

In 2021, CinnaMoms was fortunate to receive special funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) via WIC Special Project’s Innovation grant to build the Black/African American Workforce at PHFE WIC, and collect data on how the CinnaMoms Experience enriches the WIC certification period of Black/African American families participating in WIC.  This data is sourced from a longitudinal qualitative cohort of Black/African American WIC participants answering a quarterly survey that myself and the CinnaMoms Innovation Grant team created, capturing their opinions and experiences with CinnaMoms. I will also share additional qualitative data from two focus groups conducted during our research period that amplify the voices of our families and what they wish to receive in terms of support as Black/African American. 

While sharing the data, the stories of our families will be intertwined by my co-presenter Ronietra Stewart, IBCLC, RDN. She provides lactation support while also managing the Black/African American Peer Counselors at PHFE WIC that directly serve our CinnaMoms. This seamless partnership between CinnaMoms and Breastfeeding Peer Counselors has been essential to what makes CinnaMoms great. Throughout the presentation, audience members will see how Breastfeeding Peer Counselors play a crucial role in our sister circles and the provision of CinnaMoms’ services. Overall, audience members will take away the important role sister circles play in the interdisciplinary health care system that is currently failing our Black/African American mothers. 

Learning Objectives: 

  1. List ways that CinnaMoms is optimizing the breastfeeding experiences of Black/African American WIC families in California and beyond
  2. Understand the crucial role Breastfeeding Peer Counselors play in the healthcare team of Black/African American Birthers.

It Takes A Village

Emerald Clark, CBE – Team Pink – It Takes A Village

TRACKS: Black Founder’s Corner, Data, Research and Storytelling, Breastfeeding Groups and Peer Counseling; Midwest

Breastfeeding is the natural, biological way to feed infants. It has been the way infants have been fed for centuries. So, why are breastfeeding rates not higher amongst people of color? This presentation will identify the effects of slavery on black women breastfeeding, how social, economic, and racial disparities affect black women breastfeeding rates today, and what we can do as a collective to change this narrative.

Learning Objectives: 

  1. Identify barriers in the community that sways black women from breastfeeding.
  2. Explain how slavery still impacts black breastfeeding rates today.

Better Together: Paternal Involvement Aligned with Maternal Child Health Continuum

Kenn Harris – National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ) & Wesley Bugg – Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE) & Reaching Our Brothers Everywhere (ROBE)  

TRACKS: Data, Research and Storytelling, Breastfeeding Groups and Peer Counseling; National

The question to answer in the 21st Century is no longer, “Do fathers fit into maternal and child health (MCH)?” but more of, “How and when do fathers fit into MCH?”. The term, “MCH,” does not include fathers, so the big work around fatherhood is “inclusion”. There is growing research that supports father involvement and demonstrates the value fathers contribute to  better outcomes.

It is important to examine the journey of women to pregnancy and consider a father’s role and responsibility in supporting the journey of his partner, which is also his journey towards pregnancy. This journey towards pregnancy has three distinct stages, (1) preconception period; (2) the prenatal period; and (3) the pregnancy period. Understanding how fathers fit into these phases is significant to improving pregnancy and birth outcomes.

Another important factor in the MCH journey is breastfeeding. Traditionally, we think this is an event that occurs only between mother and infant, but today, we consider how fathers fit into this activity. Of course, the education and breastfeeding support conversation with fathers does not begin after the birth of the infant but it should start beforehand. The idea for mom and dad is to be prepared for breastfeeding. His role is only fortified when he is best prepared to support mom and infant, especially from birth to breastfeeding. His support has been linked to breastfeeding duration, which is especially important in Black breastfeeding.

When fathers are connected in the journey up through breastfeeding, you increase the chances for him to remain involved beyond; that is, early infant care/early childhood development. Now he’s plugged in already and positioned to support his partner during the post-partum period, pediatric care and parenting. This level of father engagement can lead to optimal health outcomes overall and beyond.

Successful paternal involvement is fatherhood aligned with maternal and child health (MCH).

Learning Objectives: 

  1. Identify and differentiate the role and responsibility of fathers in the maternal and child health continuum
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of how to include fathers in supporting better pregnancy and birth outcomes
  3. Describe fathers’ role in breastfeeding

The Voice of the Community

Robena Hill – Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association

TRACKS: Breastfeeding Groups and Peer Counseling; Midwest

The Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Club (BMBFC) is Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association’s signature work, a mother-led, peer-to-peer community breastfeeding group. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers come together for fellowship, sisterhood, parenting and breastfeeding support. BMBFC has run without interruption since 2008, serving over 1500 Detroit mamas. During this panel discussion, led by Robena Hill, hear directly from Detroit mamas as they share about their experience participating in BMBFC.

Learning Objectives: 

  1. Explain how participation in Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Club builds awareness of maternal child health issues that affect Black women and babies.
  2. Describe how peer-to-peer breastfeeding support builds self-esteem and self-empowerment.
  3. State ways that mothers work collectively within their community to increase breastfeeding rates.