Pinal County OKs funding boost for local mothers in need

Grace Lieberman

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By Grace Lieberman / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ

A $1.7 million grant to help low-income mothers was approved by the Pinal County board of supervisors last week to support peer counseling services for breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is considered a major health benefit to newborn babies, but women who face obstacles such as lack of work leave or adequate child care are more likely to choose formula. These challenges disproportionately impact low-income families.

“Although breastfeeding is natural, it is not always easy,” said Merissa Mendoza, the Pinal County’s public health division manager for nutrition and vital records. “Mothers and families have questions and concerns surrounding breastfeeding at all stages of a breastfeeding journey.”

The services, including a breastfeeding peer counselor program, are designed for low-income community members and can be accessed either through the county’s public health clinics or by phone. The grant will go into effect in October and run until September 2023.

Previous studies show that, on average, breastfeeding mothers were less likely to report postpartum depression. However, according to Penn Highlands Healthcare, encountering common challenges like lack of milk production can cause anxiety or worsen postpartum depression.

According to the International Journal for Equity in Health, wealthier households are more likely to exclusively breastfeed children.

Mendoza, from the county’s public health department, said through education on nutrition and breastfeeding as well as providing supplemental foods and additional referrals, the program can help families tackle some setbacks.

Many families opt to use baby formula because it fits with their needs and lifestyle. But, after a mass recall from a manufacturer that was estimated to produce around one-fifth of the nation’s formula supply, it’s no longer an easy option.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, which runs the Women, Infants and Children program, WIC, serves 53% of all infants born in the US.

Some formulas still aren’t easily available, but Mendoza said Pinal County’s WIC program has been able to provide participating caregivers the chance to get comparable options.

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Grace Lieberman is a business, science and technology reporter based in Phoenix, AZ

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