Mothers’ advocate promotes benefits of breastfeeding

Posted 8/24/23

Most parents stop thinking about breastfeeding once their child is weaned but not Amanda Couture.

Amanda, a Warwick mother of two, is a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor at the East Bay Community …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Mothers’ advocate promotes benefits of breastfeeding


Most parents stop thinking about breastfeeding once their child is weaned but not Amanda Couture.

Amanda, a Warwick mother of two, is a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor at the East Bay Community Action Program’s (EBCAP) Women, Infants, and Children program (WIC). WIC provides a variety of services to pregnant and postpartum women and children from birth up until their 5th birthday. Services include nutrition advice, referrals to community resources, healthy foods and breastfeeding support.. Amanda works at EBCAP’s East Bay Family Health Care location in Riverside serving families from East Providence. The same services are offered in Warwick by the Westbay Community Action Program at 487 Jefferson Blvd.

“Every mom who walks through the door… they meet with me,” said Amanda. Her goal as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor is for her clients to breastfeed for the first year of their children’s lives, but Amanda says there’s no such thing as a hard and fast rule. The main thing is to ensure clients are comfortable. Her office is decorated with paintings and photos of breastfeeding mothers.

“It’s about normalizing breastfeeding,” she says, to help clients get over any initial apprehension. Many of Amanda’s clients fear creating awkwardness while breastfeeding at work or feel they don’t have enough support from their spouses. There’s an intimacy to the work that often leads to the formation of a years long bond. Six years after starting as a peer counselor at WIC, Amanda says she’s still in contact with many of her past clients, often receiving texts or Facebook messages from parents showing how big their kids are getting. “My role as their peer counselor never really ends.”

This August, EBCAP is celebrating National Breastfeeding Month, a distinction first made by the US Breastfeeding Committee in 2011. Throughout the month, efforts are made to increase outreach and awareness about the resources WIC has to offer. EBCAP’s WIC Program is federally-funded and has to make additional proposals to receive additional funding on special breastfeeding projects, but Amanda said the funds are usually granted. No surprises there.

In 2018, EBCAP became the first WIC agency in Rhode Island, one of only 12 agencies nationwide given the honor, to receive the Gold Premiere Breastfeeding Award of Excellence from the US Food and Nutrition Service.

Her own struggles

Amanda had struggles of her own with breastfeeding as a mom. With her first child, she explained, “I breastfed for 2 weeks and stopped because of postpartum depression, and with my second child I got ahold of the postpartum depression but thought I was starving my child because I didn’t produce enough milk.” She said that sharing this story with her clients helps build the relationship between her and the parent by showing them that it’s okay if breastfeeding doesn’t work out as planned. Although she emphasizes the benefits of breastfeeding as part of WIC—breast milk adjusts to a baby’s nutritional needs, helps develop the baby’s immune system to protect from disease, costs nothing and doesn’t have to be stored or carried around. However, she recognizes that it’s not right for everyone.

As a peer counselor at WIC, Amanda has worked with all kinds of clients—married moms, single moms, teen moms, families with two moms and transgender moms (and dads, and parents). She said that she was proud WIC is all inclusive.

“I don’t want any single person to walk through that door and feel uncomfortable,” Amanda said.

Although each client’s individual experience may be different, Amanda explained she and the rest of the team at WIC treat everyone the same by respecting personal pronouns and using appropriate terms like “chestfeeding” for some transgender or nonbinary parents.

With a focus on comfort, Amanda can move easily to important topics like dispelling myths about breastfeeding. She asserted the biggest misconception is that breastfeeding hurts. “It’s not supposed to hurt,” she said, and if it does “generally there is a reason for that pain.”

Since the first National Breastfeeding Month in 2011, breastfeeding rates have raised across America—from 74.6% to 83.2% of babies breastfeeding, according to the CDC’s annual Breastfeeding Report Card. More parents are persisting with breastfeeding too, with the percentage of babies breastfeeding at six months rising from 44.3% in 2011 to 55.8% in 2022. These statistics are both up from the all-time low in 1971 when, according to the National Institutes of Health, only 24% of babies were ever breastfed—an encouraging prospect for breastfeeding advocates.

Beth Nitkin, Director of East Bay Community Action WIC Program, agrees. She’s been working with EBCAP for decades, and has seen firsthand the impact it has had to encourage breastfeeding.

“WIC had had one of the greatest impacts on increasing the breastfeeding rates since the 1970’s (WIC started in 1974), she said proudly before going on to say “there’s always room for improvement.”

breastfeeding, peers, mothers