French hospital picks up county breast-feeding program

Community Health Centers has backed out of its involvement with the BABES county breast-feeding program, but French Hospital has jumped in to fill the gap.

The program — Babes at Breast Education and Support — has been in the county since 2001, funded by the First Five Commission and administered by the state Public Health Department’s Women, Infants and Children Program staff.

Until last summer, Community Health Centers of the Central Coast had sent a bilingual “lactation consultant” to breast-feeding clinics in Morro Bay, Nipomo, Grover Beach and Paso Robles.

When CHC pulled out, French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo agreed to provide essentially the same services.

Earlier this week, the Board of Supervisors approved a two-year agreement with French.

The transition was seamless, according to WIC’s Linda McClure.

McClure said the consultant, a registered nurse, meets with women who recently gave birth and helps them with breast-feeding.

Despite popular belief, “breast-feeding is an art, not something that comes naturally,” McClure said. She said in other societies women help other women learn the process, but our culture has lost this.

BABES seeks to extend the duration of breast-feeding, county Public Health Administrator Penny Borenstein and Health Agency Director Jeff Hamm wrote in a letter to county supervisors.

“Breast-feeding gives infants significant advantages in general health, growth and cognitive development, and decreases the risk of many acute and chronic diseases,” Hamm and Borenstein wrote.

BABES helped 386 women in 2008-09, they wrote, and is aiming for the same number in the current year.