National WIC Association

In Defense of WIC: The WIC Program Should Promote Breastfeeding for its participants

March 8, 2017

You may encounter the following criticism of WIC: The WIC program shouldn’t promote breastfeeding because low-income working women probably have life circumstances that are not conducive to breastfeeding. Here are some suggestions for how to respond if and when you encounter this claim:

Sample Talking Points:

  • Lack of support in breastfeeding is a reflection on the country’s national policy and perspective on the importance of breastfeeding.
  • WIC collaborates with local and community pediatricians and hospitals to promote and support breastfeeding and baby-friendly hospital environments.
  • WIC participates on state and local breastfeeding coalitions to improve continuity of breastfeeding care, make public spaces breastfeeding friendly, and fight for policies that support breastfeeding.
  • WIC services improve breastfeeding rates among diverse populations of low-income women.1
  • Participation in the WIC breastfeeding peer counseling program is associated with an increased rate of breastfeeding initiation.2
  • Women who attend WIC breastfeeding support groups are twice as likely to plan to breastfeed as those who do not.3
  • WIC breastfeeding initiation rates have risen from 42% in 1998 to 70% in 2014.4
  • Maternal WIC participation has been shown to improve breastfeeding rates.5

Peer-Reviewed Literature to Corroborate these Points:

1 Forrestal S, Briefel R, Mabli J (2015) WIC Breastfeeding Policy Inventory. Prepared by Mathmatica Policy Research under Contract No.AG-3198-B-10-0015. Alexandria, VA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. P. 41.

2 Gross S, Resnick A, Cross-Barnet C, Nanda P, Augustyn M, Paige D. (2009). The differential impact of WIC Peer Counseling programs on breastfeeding initiation across the state of Maryland. Journal of Human Lactation, Volume 26, Issue 4. Pages 435–43; Yun, S., et al. (2010). Evaluation of the Missouri WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) Breastfeeding Peer Counselling Programme. Public Health Nutrition Volume 13, Issue 2. Pages 229–37.

3 Mickens AD, Modeste N, Montgomery S, Taylor N (2009) Peer support and breastfeeding intentions among black WIC participants. Journal of Human Lactation Vol.25 Issue.2.

4 Thorn B, Tadler C, Huret N, Trippe C, Ayo E, Mendelson M, Patlan K. L, Schwartz G, & Tran V. (2015). WIC Participant and Program Characteristics 2014. Prepared by Insight Policy Research under Contract No. AG‐3198‐C‐ 11‐0010. Alexandria, VA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service.

5 Metallinos-Katsaras E, Brown L, Cochamiro R (2013) Maternal WIC Participation Improves Breastfeeding Rates: A Statewide Analysis of WIC Participants FASEB Journal Vol.27 No.1 Supplement 122.7.

WIC Testimonial:

“I know the WIC Program offers many benefits to women, infants and children. The nutrition education, as well as, the foods are a big help to many families. But for me the most important thing was the breastfeeding support I received. I had no immediate family members or friends that were able to help me with some breastfeeding issues I had. With one quick call to my local WIC office I was able to come in and meet with a peer counselor and get the help I needed. I can truly say that if it wasn’t for the WIC Program and their peer counselor I would not have been able to breastfeed my children as long as I did. ” WIC Participant, Maryland