About WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counseling

Peer Counseling: Making a Difference for WIC Families

The use of breastfeeding peer counselors adds a critical dimension to WIC’s efforts to help women initiate and continue breastfeeding.  WIC breastfeeding peer counselors provide a valuable service to their communities, addressing the barriers to breastfeeding by offering breastfeeding education, support, and role modeling.   Peer counselors are familiar with the resources available to WIC clients, have familiarity with the questions a new breastfeeding mother may ask, and recognize when to refer mothers to other resources during critical periods when mothers may experience difficulty.  The goal of the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is to integrate peer counseling as a WIC service in every WIC clinic.

In 2004 FNS developed a training and technical assistance project to equip WIC Programs with a framework for designing and maintaining peer counseling programs.   “Using Loving Support© to Implement Best Practices in Peer Counseling” included formative research to understand barriers and motivators to implementing and sustaining peer counseling programs and development of training curricula for managers and peer counselors.  

Key Elements:

  • Formative research to understand barriers and motivators to implementing and sustaining peer counseling programs and to identify training needs. 2004 Formative Research Brief.
  • Implementing and sustaining peer counseling programs and to identify training needs.
  • Identification of best practices
  • Development of Loving Support© Model  for successful peer counseling programs.
  • Development of two training curricula for WIC staff.

Reports
WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Study: Phase II Follow Up Implementation Report - October 2015
WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Study Final Implementation Report - June 2010
Peer Counseling Success Stories: Implementing and Expanding Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Programs - NWA Nutrition and Breastfeeding 2006 Conference.

Who are Breastfeeding Peer Counselors and What Do They Do?

Peer counselors are mothers who have personal experience with breastfeeding and are trained to provide basic breastfeeding information and support to other mothers with whom they share various characteristics, such as language, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.  Peer counselors reinforce breastfeeding recommendations in a socially and culturally appropriate context, and promote breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the mother and baby. 

In WIC, peer counselors are recruited and hired from WIC’s target population of low-income women and undergo training to provide mother-to-mother support in group settings and one-to-one counseling through telephone calls or visits in the home, clinic, or hospital.  

Loving Support© Model 
The Loving Support© Model for a Successful Peer Counseling Program is the framework for WIC Programs to establish policies and practices under each of its required components. The Loving Support© Model addresses program support in two areas:

- Adequate program support from State and local management.
- Adequate program support of peer counselors.