Breastfeeding seminars

Amid Continued Shortage of Infant Formula, Central District Health Department Plans Breastfeeding Workshop | Grand Island Local News

A breastfeeding workshop and celebratory event hosted by the Central District Health Department is scheduled for Thursday at the Grand Island Public Library.

“Each August we like to do something special to recognize breastfeeding in our community and help bring partners together to help clients and other families breastfeed,” said Rachel Sazama, WIC Program Supervisor of CDHD.

Nebraska’s Women, Infants and Children program provides free healthy food, breastfeeding support and nutrition information to program clients.

The workshop should be particularly beneficial as infant formula continues to be in short supply.

“We’ve had calls from moms specifically looking for ways to increase their milk supply because maybe they’re doing both,” said Nancy Esch, WIC lactation consultant. “With relactation, mothers who have stopped breastfeeding for weeks or months can relactate. It’s a process, but they can do it.

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The workshop will be scheduled from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

A course will be offered in English at 2:30 p.m. and translated into Spanish at 3:30 p.m.

“For expectant moms here at WIC, if they wish, we are hosting a breastfeeding class via Zoom,” Esch said. “This is a PowerPoint presentation that goes over the basics and benefits of breastfeeding, how to put your baby to the breast, and some of the newest research coming out.”

“It just gives them a real head start when they’re going to have their baby,” she added.

Breastfeeding may seem like an obvious and natural function, but there’s more to it.

“It’s a learned behavior. And it’s also a learned behavior for the newborn,” Esch said. “It’s like walking. It takes a while for this child to properly close the latch, and mom and baby work together as a dyad. We’re getting rid of some of those notions that it’s a simple task.

“We don’t make it look difficult either, but we’re there for them.”

While some people think WIC is a formula-based program, it is one of the largest breastfeeding promotion programs in the country.

CDHD has an 88% breastfeeding initiation rate, Sazama said.

“That means 88% of our babies have been breastfed at some point,” she said. “We’re really excited about it and trying to get them to breastfeed for as long as the moms want.”

CDHD is also experiencing a formula shortage, as have retailers since the spring, Sazama said.

“Right now, the WIC program has a waiver process so WIC customers can get different types of formulas,” she said. “Before, it was structured so you could only get one specific formula with your perks, so they increased that.”

People call daily to have their formula changed, Esch said.

“They call from the store, they can’t find the formula, and ask if they can please get a different brand, because it’s specific on their card,” she said. “We have this technology now that we can change it while they’re in the store to give them another formula so they don’t go without.”

Sazama and Esch both advocate the benefits of breastfeeding.

Esch described it as “absolutely the best baby food.”

“There are dangers in giving formula,” she said. “Formulated milk is not a sterile product. Breast milk is. Once the milk is established, it’s less time-consuming for moms. The health benefits are amazing. There are over 100,000 ingredients in breast milk. And it’s species specific. Mom prepares it for her baby.

She added: “I could go on for a very long time about the benefits.”

There are several lactation consultants in the Grand Island area, Esch noted.

Consultants include: Alycia Parker and Shawnee Williams at CHI Health St. Francis; Chelsey Kennedy and Brandi Stein at the CHI Women’s Clinic; Libby Crockett at the Grand Island Clinic; Tina Vettel at Grand Island Regional Medical Center; Julie Ahlman in Hastings Mary Lanning; and Jennifer Harney at Aurora Memorial Community Health.

No registration is necessary for Thursday’s breastfeeding workshop. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information on CDHD programs and services, visit