As of October 1, the federally-funded Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) has altered subsidy provisions in order to provide improved nutritional support to low-income families. In addition to including more food items that will reduce the amount of saturated fats and increase healthy fiber in the intake of WIC participants, the revised food packages better encourage and endorse sustained breastfeeding and reinforce WIC’s breastfeeding promotion endeavors.
The adjusted nutritional package provides mothers who solely breastfeed with the opportunity to receive more choices and increased quantities of approved foods, including a monthly $10.00 voucher which can be redeemed for fresh fruits and vegetables. Babies who are solely breastfeed receive increased quantities and a more mixed selection of baby food at 6 months of age. Breastfeeding mothers can also receive breast pumps and other breastfeeding aids to help support the initiation and continuation of breastfeeding.
Although WIC promotes breastfeeding as the preferred method for feeding infants, WIC has historically faced numerous challenges in increasing the prevalence of breastfeeding among participants. Through nutrition knowledge and breastfeeding promotion efforts, WIC employees encourage and support mothers in the breastfeeding process; however, the time that staff has to counsel and educate pregnant women on breastfeeding is restricted. Furthermore, a mother’s choice to breastfeed may be determined by other variables beyond the WIC staff’s control, such as opinions of partners and friends, her doctor, and community acceptance.
Although more research is needed to determine the most effective breastfeeding promotion and support measures needed to increase breastfeeding among WIC participants, we applaud the efforts of the WIC system in altering food packages in order to provide incentives to breastfeeding mothers. By recognizing and supporting the breastfeeding guidelines suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the WIC program is making positive progress in achieving optimal infant and child health, growth and development in vulnerable, low-income families.
WIC is a federal program designed to provide supplemental food to low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, infants and children until the age of five. For more information on the Tennessee WIC program, please call the Shelby County Health Department at 901.544.7583.
For more information on the well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, visit The Urban Child Institute at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/.
Oliveira, V. (2003, July). WIC and breastfeeding rates: Food assistance research brief. United States Department of Agriculture (Report Number 34-2).
Tennessee WIC brings more to the table. (2009, October 19). Tennessee Department of Health. The Daily Times.
 The AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for approximately the first 6 months after birth, continuous breastfeeding for 12 months after birth, and thereafter as long as mutually desired.