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Peer Counselors Key to Breastfeeding Success

Tuesday, July 30, 2013 | 03:05am

World Breastfeeding Week is Aug. 1-7, 2013                                  

NASHVILLE – While many mothers get off to a good start with breastfeeding a new baby, there is often a sharp drop in breastfeeding rates in the weeks or months after delivery. Community support is essential to help mothers and babies continue the vital practice of breastfeeding. Governor Bill Haslam has declared Aug. 1-7 World Breastfeeding Week in Tennessee to demonstrate the state’s ongoing support of this important public health endeavor. As part of this health observance, the Tennessee Department of Health is emphasizing the importance of peer counseling to the success of breastfeeding for both mothers and babies.

“Breastfeeding is an optimal health choice for babies and is one of the best examples of primary prevention, something we can do to prevent disease from ever occurring,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “We fully support all efforts to encourage more mothers to nurse their babies, and we urge Tennesseans to learn about the benefits of breastfeeding to help build the community of support for nursing mothers and babies.”

Breastfeeding Support:  Close to Mothers” is the theme for World Breastfeeding Week 2013, highlighting the importance of breastfeeding peer counseling. Peer counselors are usually women from the community who are trained to support breastfeeding, regardless of their educational or professional background. Numerous studies have found peer counselors effectively improve rates of breastfeeding initiation, duration and exclusivity.  

“A peer counselor is an invaluable partner in helping mothers gain confidence in their ability to breastfeed,” said Michael Warren, MD, MPH, TDH director of Family Health and Wellness. “When new mothers have someone who can understand and identify with their experiences, they may better enjoy and cope with parenthood.”

Continued support to sustain breastfeeding can be provided in a variety of ways. Traditionally, such support has come from family members. However, as societies change, support for mothers is needed from a wider circle, which may include trained health workers, doulas, lactation consultants, community leaders, friends or fathers and partners.

TDH has designated breastfeeding experts available in all of Tennessee’s county health departments. Find a list of county health departments online at

Tennessee lawmakers also support the vital practice of breastfeeding. The Tennessee General

Assembly has passed laws protecting a mother’s right to breastfeed in any location, public or private; prohibiting local governments from criminalizing or restricting breastfeeding; and requiring employers in Tennessee to accommodate breastfeeding mothers at work.

Many Tennessee health department locations are holding activities throughout the month of August to encourage and support breastfeeding. Find a list of planned activities at  

For more information on breastfeeding, visit and the following websites:


World Breastfeeding Week is sponsored by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. Learn more at

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. For more information about TDH services and programs, visit

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