Louisiana WIC partnership with Pacify Health expands access to breastfeeding support services

Louisiana WIC partnership with Pacify Health expands access to breastfeeding support services.
Louisiana WIC partnership with Pacify Health expands access to breastfeeding support services.
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 10:10 PM CST
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Unlimited, 24/7 access to infant feeding support is now available to the 50,000 women and infants served by Louisiana WIC, through a partnership with Pacify Health. This expands Louisiana’s ongoing work to improve breastfeeding duration rates for participants.

The partnership with Pacify supports the Louisiana WIC Program’s mission to improve health equity by improving access to breastfeeding support services for people in rural areas and for non-English speaking participants. Pacify’s network of more than 100 providers includes board-certified lactation consultants who offer telelactation care in both English and Spanish, no appointments required.

Participants who speak other languages can access a translation line through the Pacify app. Through Pacify, Louisiana WIC will offer participants instantaneous video access to a nationwide network of lactation consultants, plus direct access to its local WIC clinics across the state, all through one, streamlined app. Providing this type of support has been proven to help more parents start and continue breastfeeding for longer, which is known to improve health outcomes for mothers and babies. Access to such care is crucial in a state that has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the nation.

Tara Landry, the WIC breastfeeding program manager for Louisiana, is a registered dietician and international-board certified lactation consultant. She says breastfeeding is something she has always been passionate about.

“I breastfed both my children and it was a wonderful experience,” Landry said. “I know how important it is for moms so it’s always been something I wanted to do. I have worked with WIC for 17 years. I love the program and I am very passionate about public health. I am so excited about being in this role where we are just trying to improve the health outcome of our WIC participants and one of those ways is to breastfeed. My main job is to make sure all our WIC participants have the necessary resources to be able to be successful with their breastfeeding journeys.”

Jenica Walker is a peer counselor in LDH Region 3, and WIC participant herself. She has five children, all of whom she breastfed to different degrees. Landry was her dietician when she first started as a WIC participant; she says she knows first-hand Landry’s passion for the health of women and children in Louisiana. She says her favorite part of the job is reaching out to other moms and giving them the support they need.

“As a peer counselor, we get to have that one-on-one contact with moms who are prenatal or are breastfeeding their child,” Walker said. “We are there checking in on them on a monthly basis initially, just making sure they are educated about the benefits of breastfeeding not only for their baby, but for themselves as well. As we get closer to delivery we call them weekly and talk to them about anything and everything about the delivery or breastfeeding. A lot of them are first-time moms and have never breastfed before. A lot also don’t have anyone in their family or friends who have breastfed so they don’t know what it entails. We are there to answer any questions they may have and to reassure them that any of the questions or concerns they are facing are questions that all moms are asking themselves and wondering and have concerns about. Sometimes all a mom needs is for someone to tell them they are doing a great job and that’s what I get to do every single day.”

Landry says Louisiana doesn’t have the best breastfeeding rates, so access to this type of care is crucial.

“We know that when a baby is given breastmilk the reduced risk of diseases, conditions, overall wellness, infant mortality rate, all those things are greatly reduced when a baby is given breast milk,” Landry said. “Our WIC participants themselves, we have about 14% that will breastfeed and we would love to see that number go up. Our biggest concern is when a mom has a baby, she gets the lactation support in the hospital, but then she is discharged and doesn’t get into her first WIC appointment until a week or several weeks later. That window of opportunity to help that mom when she is having the most vulnerable period, when problems occur, and she doesn’t have that support, that’s where we lose our moms. Pacify, this app, will help us bridge this gap because there is a huge gap.”

Landry says through the partnership with Pacify, moms will be able to use the app whenever they need help or have questions with the touch of a button, including video chats with lactation consultants.

“That is just phenomenal to me,” Landry said. “I know that if I had that resource when I had my babies 20 years ago that would have been great. Especially when it’s your first child and you think you aren’t doing something right. Just having that support for our moms is phenomenal and Pacify fills that gap for us.”

Louisiana WIC participants who would like to access virtual infant feeding support through Pacify can contact their local WIC clinic or call 1-800-251-2229. All WIC participants are eligible.

With other public health partners, Pacify has helped improve overall breastfeeding rates by up to 23%. In a study conducted by the RAND Corporation, Pacify demonstrated that virtual lactation services improve breastfeeding rates and patient experience among women in rural areas. This project recently received additional funding from the National Institutes of Health.

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