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Ep. 97- History of WIC & Breastfeeding

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This is Maureen Farrell and Heather ONeal and this is The Milk Minute. We’re midwives and lactation professionals bringing you the most up-to-date evidence for all things lactation. So you can feel more confident about feeding your baby, body positivity, relationships, and mental health. Plus, we laugh a little or a lot along the way.

So join us for another episode. Welcome to another episode of the Milk Minute Podcast, everybody. Hello. Hello. We have missed you. It’s been a whole seven days and we are back in your ear holes for another amazing episode. Yes we are. And today Heather is going to wow me with the history of WIC. I wanted to do the history of WIC because apparently half of Americans use it.

So I’d like to know how this came about because it’s kind of a big deal and you’ll see that legislatively it was like the biggest feat ever. And why can’t we do this again? You know what I mean? Just for the future, just for a little bit of political perspective for everybody, I wanted to give you a history of a program that truly did change the face of healthcare in the United States for women and children and infants. Not in that order.

I’m excited because I have big, big mixed feelings about WIC. And I kind of think that like, understanding it more would help me with those and maybe also helped me use it for clients better. Right. And you know, we do also have some personal stories from listeners who use WIC. So we are not going to make this a bias episode.

We are going to read good reviews. We are going to read reviews that leave a little bit to be desired as far as how the WIC program has worked for people or not worked for people. So, but before we get into that, I wanted to let you know that there is actually some interesting stuff going on in the world of podcasting in 2022, there’s been a lot of changes in 2021.

Because of the pandemic, large in part pushing people to create podcasts. So now we have like, well, over a million podcasts. And if you didn’t know, podcasts have kind of like slid between the laws. Yeah. As far as broadcasting goes, right? I mean, we’re hosted on a bunch of different platforms meaning your podcast lives somewhere and nobody owns it.

It’s like the last independent, truly unobstructed freedom of speech platform. Sure. That seems dramatic. Well, no, it is like, because anything on TV, it’s like, well, what network are you on? Because ABC is much more likely to air this type of show. Well, now it’s like, what, you know, streaming platform are you on?

Right. Is it Netflix? Is it prime? And they have their own rules and they have their own editing that they do of things. So no one comes in here and tells Maureen and I to stop saying certain things that we need to be saying, you know, and they don’t, they don’t try to, what is the word I’m looking for? Censor?

Yeah, they don’t try to censor us because they can’t legally, they don’t own us. This is content that we own. It’s copyrighted by us the day we publish it. So you know, what’s interesting about this though, is we have our first, really big lawsuit with Sirius XM. Right. And I mean, lawsuits are basically the root of like big legislation changes, you know, like right.

You know, Supreme Court cases and new laws and yeah. Right. So Sirius XM is under fire right now because they do not provide a written transcript for any of the podcast episodes that they put out. So this actually goes against the accessibility guidelines for public broadcasting, which makes you wonder, is podcasting public broadcasting? Sounds like it is to me. Because those laws were created for cable TV because they, you know, people need closed captioning.

That’s where closed captioning came from. So I wanted you to know we’ve been doing transcripts for a really long time and we’re not getting sued. High five! Yeah. So if you want to look at our transcripts, we actually get them professionally done, which you don’t have to do. You could technically just have a computer run a whole thing of the script and put it up there as a text file and that counts, but we don’t. We actually pay somebody to make it really nice looking, to have an embed player on there so you can play the podcast while you read it.

It has clickable links to things that we talk about in there. As far as, you know, external links to the people we talk about and the products we talk about in internal links to our other shows. Right. And to our other episodes.

Yeah. And if anybody is out there using a screen reader with our transcripts, and has feedback for us, I would be very open to making changes. Because personally I’ve never used one. So I don’t know if there are flaws in the way that we do that. Right. But it is really important to us that every type of person can have access to this information. So, you know, let us know if we’re failing you in any way and we are here for it. We are really, really trying to make sure that everybody can access this. Yeah. So yay. And stay tuned. I’ll keep you posted. If you’re interested in podcasting, the world is weird right now for podcasting.

The world is very weird. Spotify. You can rate us now, so please go rate us if you listen to us on Spotify. Yeah. Well Heather. What are you, what did your kids do this week? What did my kids do this week? Well, we had the neighbor kids over because our, my neighbor, Angela is actually an incredible designer and she will not say that about herself, but she is.

And she designed my office space for me for free, just because it was fun for her. I, you know, I’ve been to their house and walking into their house it is very obvious that they had an incredible designer. Yeah. She basically was the architect and brought the plans to them and was like, this is what I need.

And they were like, oh, how about this? And she’s like, Nope, this is what I need. And it’s absolutely perfect. Nice. So as a thank you, we sent them to Pittsburgh and we took the kids for the weekend. I mean, she is, the bar was high because Angela also like homeschools and she has like gluten-free snacks all the time.

And her kids like have these awesome little like stations where they can do crafts at their house. My house is kind of a disaster. Like a bomb went off all the time. Totally normal. Yeah. And so like best-laid plans on Friday before I was going to like, get the house ready for them and kind of set it up in a way that would improve the flow.

And it was a snow day. So that didn’t happen. So I just kind of started the weekend with a snow day. I added two extra kids to the brood. Why not? We had a blast. There was a bouncy house in my house that they totally loved. We did clay at the table. We played in the snow twice. We went to the climbing gym. I made gluten-free cheddar biscuits, which they actually ate.

So props to me. I mean, it sounds like you did a great job. I enjoyed myself. Our little Spanish girlfriend from up the street came down. Her name is Hamina and she’s the cutest ever. And I taught her how to play corn hole. So we played corn hole in the basement and she she’s a brilliant little girl and she actually can, she memorize the entire poem called “Tiger, Tiger” by William Blake and whispered it into my ear.

Oh, that’s so sweet. Then she grabbed my face and she said, I want to look into your eyes. Then she was just so overcome with love. She just jumped on me and gave me a big hug. So it was a weekend full of kids, full of love, utter chaos. I am completely unprepared for most other things that came after the weekend, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Nice. How about you? What’s up with you? Well we had a lot of precipitation in the last week, so like, if, if you guys don’t live in West Virginia and you think of it as like a Southern state, let me just tell you, we actually get a lot of snow, but what happens also is we have like alternate warm days, just like right after it.

So we got 13 inches of snow in like two hours, which was great. And it was super fun. We built a snowman. Your sheep were like what! My chickens would not come out. Chickens, like do not want to step on the snow. I literally had to shovel a path to the water for them. Cause they, like, I like tossed them out of their house and they just sat in the snow.

Can I ask a stupid chicken question? Do their little, so, talons, yeah? Sure. What do you call their feet? Yeah, I mean, they have, they have feet. Feet. So there’s no like there’s no fat on their feet. Do their little feet freeze completely? They can get frostbite on their toes. I’ve actually had chickens lose toes due to frostbite before.

So it hurts them to be in the snow. Yeah. But like, come on, walk to the water and go back to your house. They’re really dumb. You need to crochet them little chicken socks. But then they would just shit on them. I don’t know, we get to solve the, I’ve been worried about chicken feet for a long time. There is some meat on them.

People actually eat chicken feet. So they’re not just like skin and bone. Like they look like skin and bone. There’s just not a lot of fat. But chickens are very skinny under all of that. Like if you’re not raising, you know, like meat chickens that have been bred to just be super big, normal chickens, or like, I mean, birds are very skinny, you know, they’re fine.

They have feathers. It’s okay. When they roost, they like fluff up and engulf their little toes. I wish I could fluff up and engulf my little toes. I have the chorus feet ever, and I was sticking between my husband’s dies. He loves anyway. I had to add to like, just shove them out of their house. Cause they would just sit there all day and not eat or drink.

What about. They’re fine. They were they’re fine. They had; the snow was like up past their knees. Not a big deal. You ever lose a sheep cause it looks like snow. And you’re like, where the hell did it go? They are far dirtier than they appear. Oh, when it snows, you’re like, oh, you’re disgusting. Mary had a little lamb situation. You are all mud. Your sheep are not as white as snow. They are not even close to as white as snow. No, it’s like sometimes if I move their pasture where it’s not very muddy and it rains her a few days and they’re out in the rain, they get really clean and I’m like, oh my God, what? Anyway. Yeah, we built snowman.

And then the day after it rained two inches. And just turned everything into ice and slush and then the river flooded and one of our roads flooded and it was just like, I mean, that’s how it is here. You know, welcome to West Virginia, everybody. Yes. Welcome. I’m preparing for a mudslide at the next, the next snow sleet day that we have right by our house, like where the Creek meets the road. Morgantown is really bad for that.

Yeah. We’re mudslide -y over here. Yeah. And then on the way here today, I guess it was like eight degrees when I left and so all of the schools called for a two-hour delay and I didn’t know that. And so I was like driving past all of the schools during school drop-off time, which is horrendous.

You do not want to be in a kid drop-off line, even as a parent of one of the kids. No, I got stuck in the drop-off line and I was like, oh my God, like I took the back road because it’s usually faster. No, I should have taken the highway, everybody. Yeah. Well, I mean, that’s what happens when you homeschool and you don’t know what’s going on.

I have no idea. I consistently get stuck behind buses because I have no idea what’s going on. That must be so freeing to not have to worry about that. In a way. Yes, that is one thing I do not have to worry about with homeschool. Yeah, it can be very disrupting to work on other people’s schedules, for example, just before we hit record on this, I got a call from the daycare that says we are closed for 14 days because a baby tested positive.

And I said, 14? I thought the CDC just said five days. And they said, apparently it’s now back up to 10. And I said, well then where the heck did 14 come from? I’m pretty sure too like the recommendations are different. Like schools need to close for a certain amount, but if you’re a healthcare worker with COVID, you should go in. You should definitely go in. Which doesn’t like, guess what?

Most healthcare workers have kids and aren’t going to be able to come in if their whole family has to quarantine because they’re, COVID positive. Right? So now my husband, bless him, is scrambling out of work and going to pick up the baby during nap time and has to get her a COVID test today and pick up the ADHD meds for my son. So his day is completely shot and this is just, you know.

If one more person says pivot. I swear to God we’re pivoting. Shut up, man. Yeah. Yeah. So that’s what we’re doing today. Maureen, do we have a question for the day? Yeah. I have one from Courtney H and she said, what do you do to store your pumped milk at work? I’m a teacher. I do have a mini fridge, but do you guys do the pitcher method? Do you do bags? We only have a short amount of time to manage it, and I’m just trying to figure out what’s easiest and most convenient. Dude, I will never use anything but a Ceres Chiller anymore. Yeah. I think that is by far the most convenient thing. And that is the pitcher method. So it’s a specialized thermos that is made to keep breast milk.

You don’t have to keep it in the fridge. And that is a really good option. You pool it all in the inner chamber. Bam. You’re good. Alternately, if you have a bunch of bottles and you have a mini fridge, just bring some caps and extra bottles and throw them in the fridge. And don’t worry about pooling it. If you’re like, I have exactly 10 extra seconds, that’s fine too.

And you know, they are a little bit expensive, but if you are pregnant listening to this, plan ahead and tell people about it because first of all, it’s such a high-quality thermos that you can have it forever. You can use it for soup later. You can use it for water. You can use it for wine if you’re going to the beach.

I mean, this is not something that you’re going to throw out after you’re done breastfeeding. So really it’s a great Christmas present. Just keep it in mind. If you’re building your registry, we can put a link to it in the show notes for you. And we have a 15% off promo code that we’ll put down there as well.

So, if you can’t afford the chiller and you’re kind of in a pinch and you need something right now, I really like the kinnde system. It also connects the bags directly to the flanges so you pumped directly into the bags. And a lot of people say, but like, what happens if the volume is different on both sides?

Or what if you have to combine? I always had to combine, like to have a full feeding. I never had like four ounces on one side and four on the other. It was always like one-on-one side and two on the other. I just pumped and it was like, Here’s two ounces. Here’s a half ounce. Yeah. So I would usually pump into a bottle, like just a regular bottle on one side that was clean and pump into the bag on the other side, and then just pour the bottle into the bag and call it a day.

And sometimes it was a three-ounce bag. Sometimes it was a four-ounce bag. Sometimes it was three and a half and she’s still fine. Sometimes you just write four ounces on a three-ounce bag and give it to daycare. Right. Exactly. And it’s really not something to stress about because that’s one feeding out of the whole day.

So I guess the reality is there are a lot of different ways to do this. So I would think about the system that you use to then feed milk to your baby, right? If you’re using something like the kinnde system or you want to do that, that’s one less step. If pooling your milk into one bottle or using a Ceres Chiller works, we recommend that highly with the Milkstache.

Yes. We love that. The Milkstache comes, well it doesn’t come with the Ceres Chiller, but you can buy it in addition to the Ceres Chiller. And it’s like an ice cube tray where you pour the milk from the thermos into the tray and it freezes your breast milk in half ounce cubes that will fit in either a wide mouth bottle or a skinny mouth bottle.

And that way you have the same amount every time, and you don’t have to mess with bags at all. Period. And it’s silicone. So you’re like reusing it. You’re keeping one use plastics out of the environment, which is also great. Easy to clean, blah, blah. I love it. Me too. Okay. Well, I’m sorry there’s not just one answer, but try, you know, if what you try doesn’t work, try something different. It’s going to be okay.

Hey, everybody. Heather here with some good news for you. If you’ve been wanting a lactation consult with me, but you’re not really sure how to go about it, I finally can take some insurance. So if you have Blue Cross Blue Shield, Anthem, or Cigna PPO, there’s a very good chance that you can get your visits a hundred percent approved with me.

So if you fill out the short form, it’ll take less than two minutes in the show notes with your insurance information, we’ll know in as little as five hours, if you’re approved and then we’ll throw you right on my calendar. And then we get to hang out and guess what? It’s not just one visit. I can see you prenatally.

I can see you before you go back to work. I can see you when you start solid foods. I can see you through weaning. I mean, we got this whole journey covered. So shout out to those insurance companies for valuing this as work, and I’m here for you every step of the way. So click the link in the show notes to learn more about my private consults and make sure that we can get you what you need. I look forward to working with you. Bye.

Okay. You ready for this? Oh, I’m so ready. Teach me about WIC. What is WIC? What is, what does WIC stand for? WIC, WIC stands for women infants and children. And I have to give a shout out to the National WIC Association because they actually have some really good videos on the history of WIC and how it’s managed and how it came to be.

And I actually took the time to watch all of the videos. And I’m going to give you the cliff notes. Thank you so much. So thank you, National WIC Association for making this job much more easy for me. This still counts, right? If it’s not like hard hitting research? Well, I think what I really want to get out of this today is like, I want everybody at home to learn more about it so they know how to use it better and so I know how to use the better for my class.

And also I feel like there’s stigma attached to using WIC to a point. We both used WIC. We both were WIC users and I was a WIC person who kind of was a more non-traditional WIC person. You know, I fell through the cracks cause I didn’t have insurance and technically at the time that I got pregnant, I was not married.

So I automatically qualified for Medicaid because I was an unmarried pregnant mother who was in college. I also automatically got Medicaid when I got pregnant. Yeah. Right. So, you know, and it, it definitely helped me during that transitional time, which is exactly what it’s supposed to. That’s what it’s made for. Yay.

I love social services, but I will say with my own experience with WIC, I’m a little apprehensive. Hit me with it. Okay. So what is it? WIC is supposed to be a special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children. And it’s meant to be a short-term program for people. And it’s designed to teach them about nutrition and different health behaviors and support those health behaviors in a targeted high-risk population.

So it is meant to target people. It’s like, I, and you don’t have to qualify as all of those things. You don’t have to like be an unhealthy, poor, formula feeding person to qualify for WIC. You could just be like one thing, you know. Basically you just have to fall into the right income bracket and you qualify. Exactly.

WIC is currently managed by the National WIC Association and their motto is, “Feed them well, love them lots. Your child has you. And do you have WIC.” I do not love that. It’s too long for a t-shirt, WIC. It is, but I’m also just kind of like, that just feels like you’re treating me like a child. Yeah.

Okay. So I’m going to take you back in time to the 1960s. Oh, that’s a very, it’s like a lot of things were happening then. So many things. So of course, civil rights and antipoverty groups were all coming together during that time and bringing light to the issue of child poverty.

You know, at that time and, you know, into this time, the African-American black population was lower socioeconomic status, not by their own choosing, but because of the way our system was designed. Right. Systemic racism again. Right. So we had a large proportion of black communities that were in the lower socioeconomic status.

They had less access to food and less access to healthcare. And so we saw a larger amount of black people suffering and their children suffering from malnutrition. And this was becoming apparent in their public health systems. So public health doctors were starting to notice. The civil rights movement was gaining traction and therefore antipoverty groups and public health groups were coming together to be like, oh, Hey, by the way, did you do know children are starving?

And this wasn’t actually just a race thing. So when they really started looking at it, of course the race situation brought everything to light. But when they really started looking at the numbers, they realized, oh wait, this isn’t like a black or white thing. This is a poor people thing.

Yeah, it turns out there were a lot of poor people and still are. It’s just that there was a larger number of poor black people at the time so it looked like a black issue when really it’s just like, Hey, maybe we need to help people in the lower socioeconomic status bracket, get some access to food. Was this one of the first times that these kinds of like campaigns were like publicized and on television? Yes. And I’m going to tell you about it.

Okay. So in May 1968, there was a CBS documentary that came out that was world-renowned. It’s called Hunger in America, hosted by Charles Kuralt. And this documentary, it was horrifying to people that were sitting in their little nuclear families on Long Island or wherever the heck they were, Los Angeles, and you know, enjoying their 6:00 PM meal.

And there’s pictures flashing across the screen of little kids who are starving in our country in America. And even at that time, we were sending over a billion dollarsā€™ worth of food internationally to other countries. Sure we were. It’s a very United States thing to be doing. I’m sorry. Anyway, Hunger in America on CBS.

Okay. So Marianne Wright was this awesome woman who wanted Kennedy to come and tour the Mississippi Delta area because she thought that if he could see it for himself, it would create such a passion within him that he would be able to lead everybody in this campaign to end hunger in America. So took him down there, it was very well-publicized. It was very sad.

So the government put together the Citizens Board of Inquiry to identify these hunger issues in the United States and where they were coming from. Like you got to get data first, like, you know, before you spend money. One picture does not say at all, so let’s get some actual data and they did, and it was not great.

Meanwhile, there’s like a small little interesting program beginning to form in Baltimore. So we have Dr. David Paige at the Johns Hopkins Institute in Baltimore, who worked as a doctor in the public health sector. And he was noticing over and over and over again that these children of the more poor population were severely anemic and had other health issues because of their lack of nutrition.

So he puts together a program where, what if we treated food like it was medicine and prescribed food and had it paid for. Oh my gosh, giving children food who need it. Yes. And just started to see what happened. So medical researchers were reporting that these poor nutrition had devastating effects on the mind as well as the body.

And they started learning that iron deficiency, anemia, early on can lead to long-standing changes in the brain. So his small experimental program in 1969 actually was the model that WIC used to build its program because it worked. So they provided food as a therapy, just like you would the medicine.

And they did this by getting a grant through the Maryland Food Committee and they got better nutrition for babies then, because they started to see like, oh, when you give kids iron rich foods, it starts to work. What about these babies? So it expanded and the program then was called IFIF. If, if I F I F iron fortified infant formula program. Wait, are they giving formula to breastfeeding parents?

So the poster said, if you do not breastfeed, iron fortified infant formula, or IFIF, has the iron, protein, vitamins and minerals, your baby needs. So they did address the fact that it wasn’t supposed to replace breast milk. It was supposed to replace that bullshit Carnation instant milk that people were using with the vitamin drops.

That was that time that they were like, what if I just mixed orange juice and Carnation? Right. I don’t think we’re actually; I really feel like David Paige was ahead of his time in that he could have very easily said, you know, forget breastfeeding. Don’t even mention it. They could just put it on a poster. Oh, that’s good.

I’m just always ready to go. I think the worst of old white men. I know, I don’t know. I feel good about this guy. And I do like that they mentioned, if you do not breastfeed, this is the better formula. Because at that point in time, the formula didn’t exist. It was the Carnation instant milk with the vitamin drops.

Like they had just realized, holy shit, if you don’t put vitamins in there, kids get rickets. So I think the ricket scare back then actually pushed pediatricians more towards, oh, maybe breastfeeding is better, but the way it worked for his program was that the mothers would pick up the formula at clinics. But this obviously was very difficult.

I mean, if you’ve tried to get a postpartum mom to do anything, it’s difficult because it’s hard to leave the house. I mean, especially back then, not everybody had a car for every person. It was like a family car. So the distribution was really, really rough for the formula. So they came up with the formula voucher, which was much like a Traveler’s check that the mom would sign and redeem at the store.

Which I am all about accessibility. Right? So they were thinking about these groundbreaking things and identifying the issues like the gaps and how we can get this program to work for postpartum people. They’re a rough group. Yeah. It’s a fleeting moment in time. It’s a very vulnerable time and they often don’t have the resources to get the stuff that you have for them.

Absolutely. Well, and also like if we have other children, getting out of the house and it’s a lot, we all know we’re all there. Yeah. We’re all. We’re all. So at the same time that David Paige’s program was expanding, the federal government was also trying to solve this big hunger problem on a national level.

And we have a couple key players. Tell me, introduce me to them. So we have Rodney Leonard who oversaw the food assistance and safety programs. So he was like the lead of the committee. I don’t know. He probably walked with his elbows like really far out or something. You know, jaunty step, I don’t know, like I’m, I’m the overseer of the food assistance and safety program.

Hello, Rodney. Good morning. You know? So they needed to be able to prescribe the food for the clients who were not ill. They needed food, but in order to meet the request, they developed a system of commissaries on the federal government’s dime. So they built these commissaries in the local clinics, which include infant formula.

So you can like go shopping in your clinic, which is kind of cool. So Rodney Leonard, who I was just talking about, the overseer, and Jim Thornton, who was aid to Senator Hubert Humphrey came up with the idea for the federal pilot program that would become the special supplementary food program for WIC.

Okay. So they found Dr. David Paige’s program at the Johns Hopkins Institute and St. Jude’s also had something going on as well. So they provided food and formula for women and children who were identified as at risk and the program by the federal government that they came up with was only supposed to be two years long.

And included a scientific evaluation of the health outcomes, of course, because anytime you’re going to throw money at it, you got to see if it worked. And they awarded $20 million a year. So Thorton and Leonard expected Republicans to push back on this, which is interesting at the time, you know, you would think like child hunger, you know, everyone would be down for it, but they decided to try to find their way around this because they knew that they, they knew, of course, as you know, who’s going to vote down certain things. So they did a workaround, which I thought was actually kind of brilliant, but you’ll see how it was a little sticky later. Right. So they actually wrote language into their legislation that required the administration to implement the program.

So they stuck the word shall everywhere they could to make it a legal obligation to carry out Congress’s wishes. So the, the president couldn’t even go against it. So they also found this very fascinating. They tapped a little-known resource in the agricultural department. So they had these special monies that like nobody ever used from the department of agriculture to provide guaranteed funding streams for this program. I mean, but that’s some foresight right there because keep in mind the department of agriculture at that time was like setting pricing for grain and working on like imports and exports of agricultural products, not feeding. They have a lot to do. Not feeding humans. They had no idea what they were doing with this program.

Can you imagine being the head of the department of agriculture and getting this memo like, oh, by the way, here’s $20 million, feed the children. Excuse me. I’m sure it was worded like we’re going to; this will end up in the hands of farmers, right? Boom, boom, boom, boom. Anyway, so. They spent a couple years trying to push it off on different departments because they were like, no, really, we don’t know what we’re doing.

So meanwhile, of course there’s still some like legislative stuff happening because this is only a two-year program. And as the department of agriculture is pushing it off, time is ticking away. So they enlisted Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey as the chief sponsor and got, he was pumped about it. Like he honestly was pumped.

He showed the poverty porn of malnourished children in the presentation on the Senate floor. And he was like taking senators one and two at a time to talk about this and, you know, talk about health care and talk about what pediatricians are saying and talk about vaccinations, which were happening at the time also.

So we had a lot, a huge public health push. It was kind of a hot public health time, to be honest. I’m sure it was pretty exciting to be a public health person back then. Maybe not, if you are a public health person who worked in 1968, holler at your girl. So this bill after Hubert Humphrey did all his, you know, shaking hands and kissing babies, passed very easily.

And it was actually signed into law September 1972. However, nine months passed and the department of agriculture did not implement the program. Obviously, as I was saying, they had no clue what they were doing and it took them years to figure out how to get this thing off the ground. So people get upset when you don’t do the things you’re supposed to do with monies that were allotted for that.

So your boyfriend, Ron Pollack. Yeah. A young civil rights worker. This is someone you can get behind Maureen, come on. Got em. You know, they had a little thing called frack and they filed suit in court and they forced the department of ag. I can’t say, I hate that, ag. They forced the department of agriculture to implement the program.

And it actually, because of this lawsuit went from a $20 million program over two years to a $250 million per year program from the remedies in the court proceedings. What they did was like, oh, okay. You know, you’re trying to make a $20 million a year program over two years, but why do we need to wait that long?

Let’s do a larger amount of money in a shorter amount of time and see what the outcomes are now, because people are starving like today. So they were convinced that the WIC program could fill this gap in the federal nutritional aid program. Because obviously they had some programs in place. They were just failing, especially failing babies.

So supplemental to the public-school lunch program, which was focused heavily on older children. WIC had the niche to serve the youngest population. I have to say, this is still happening to a degree because unless your child is enrolled in public school in America, it’s like they don’t exist. Oh yeah, absolutely.

Like no one checks up on you. Like you’re not going to be truant for school if you never enroll in school. Right. Oh yeah. I know about like, who’s gonna find you. Yeah. Like, yeah, you have a social security number and you have a birth certificate and then like there’s no committee of like, let’s follow up on the children who have birth certificates, but never enrolled in school.

I mean, I work with Amish communities sometimes. Even if they do birth certificates and social security cards, they are not filing a notice of intent with the school. Like you are technically required to when you homeschool. I mean, no. And nobody checks up on that. I mean like, yeah. So these kids are slipping through the cracks.

Like a lot of them are slipping through the cracks and then they show up in public school and they get their free lunch. And that’s great, but like that huge brain development time and physiological development time between birth and five years old, that’s five entire years of growth that they didn’t have good nutrition for.

Right. And that like, as far as brain development goes, is like the most important, right. Right. Exactly. So anyways, because of Ron Pollack, they forced the hand of the department of agriculture. They got more money involved and they were finally able to open their first official WIC clinic in Pineville, Kentucky.

I love Pineville. You do? Yeah, I’ve been there. Tell me about it. I just, I just, I dunno, I’ve done a lot of traveling around Appalachia to see different friends and stuff. It’s a cool place. What’s cool about it? I don’t know. Trees, the WIC program is cool. Apparently the WIC program. The OG WIC program. If you’re from Pineville, Kentucky, can you please find us on Instagram and give us a whoop whoop?

Yeah. So yeah, so that was the first one. And then it spread from there through advocacy programs who got the inside scoop on the money that was available. Because again, I feel bad for the department of agriculture in a way, but they also did not make it easy to get the money and implement it.

Like, how are the, what do you have to, how do you get it? You know, I want to start a WIC program. How do I do it? I don’t know. So these advocacy programs put together the actual application packets and then distributed them across the country, basically doing the department of agriculture’s job for them.

So they discovered that low-income pregnant and nursing mothers were vulnerable. Oh my God, what a discovery. And needed better nutritional balance. And that the children of low-income families were especially vulnerable to malnutrition. So, you know, David Paige continued to be a part of these conversations with his program at Johns Hopkins.

And we had all kinds of positive results that immediately started rolling in from the WIC programs around the country. It was a pretty exciting time cause you know, when you eat, you immediately feel better. It’s not like medicine where it’s like, oh, in six weeks, when your SSRI kicks in, you’ll feel better.

It’s like, Nope, you’re hungry. You eat food. You feel better. You pay attention in school better because you’re not hungry. Yeah. All of that, like very positive things. Maternal stress probably came down a great deal because their children weren’t starving. So now we have Alan Stone who was aide to Senator McGovern, and he drafted legislation to establish a permanent WIC program.

Cause remember, this was all temporary. This was like, we’ll see if food works. If it pans out, if it pans out. So funny enough, not funny, faced his share of skeptics. Sure he did! Everybody who implements public programs like this. Yeah. Yeah. So when I looked into this, I was like, okay, what are they actually, what could they possibly say, well, who’s going to be skeptical?

And apparently the word in the legislation and the word amongst legislators that were opposed to this was that public health centers aren’t going to do this. That’s funny. They’re not going to want to hand out food. Like any of them have actually worked at a public health center. And, you know, luckily those skeptics are kind of shot down and it was signed into law in 1975.

So we have officially had a permanent WIC program paid by the federal government since 1975. Let me just bump back up here to my numbers. So around 1974, 1975, there were 88,000 participants. Okay. Okay. So now we reach more than 8 million people. Cool. And half of America’s infants and a quarter of the kids under 5.

Okay. So it’s actually become a basic part of our nation’s nutritional safety net. Yeah. I don’t love that. I mean, like that scares me. Like, I love it. Like I love it. I’m so glad it’s there. But as a permanent program, could we also talk about maybe how to decrease the load on the WIC program? It’s not just like sweet, it worked .Double down, triple down, quadruple down.

It’s like more and more and more and more like, when is it going to explode? Like how do we help get a more sustainable nutrition program for everyone? Well, and that, that’s what I think is I’m like, okay, if half of the children in America are getting this, what if just all of them did? Right. Like what if we just fed everybody because food is a basic human right?

Yeah. I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know the answer and I really, I didn’t come here today with like any kind of an opinion, really. I just, my fear when I read that, it’s like. Yeah, because it feels in our political climate, like social services are always on the chopping block. Yeah. So half of the American babies are getting WIC.

What happens if all of a sudden 0% of them are? You know, we’re right back to where we started. So, you know, I’m all about empowering people. How do we do that? How best do we do that? And of course, you know, still 50% of babies are getting it, 50% aren’t. Are they actually needed or do they just not know how to apply or is it like? Right.

Yeah, exactly. So lots of questions that I have and, you know, I’m, I’m, at this point, I’m into it. Like I’m into the, the history of this. It’s amazing what old white, powerful men can do when they really put their minds to it in a short amount of time, relatively short amount of time, like right. You know, the mid 1960s, it is 1975.

We have a permanent program with $250 million a year. Plus, you know, of course it’s going to be more now. So the department of agriculture administered the program, but it’s carried out by states via a network of state agencies. So healthcare workers are supposed to be at the clinics and they will perform the health assessments to determine the needs of the individual family.

And then the mothers would receive vouchers, which could be redeemed at grocery stores for cereal, juice, eggs, milk, and infant formula that was high in protein, calcium, and vitamins. So they were required to get the formula that was good. It was a requirement of the program that mothers received nutritional information.

So they had to actually go through a little bit of a course to talk about nutrition. And the hope is obviously that they educate them and help them understand it a little bit better and it can become more of like a habit. Okay, sure. Say what you’re going to say. I just. Say it. Go ahead. I have a lot of mixed feelings about forced education as like a requirement to get some, like a necessary service. Like if somebody doesn’t show up for one of their sessions, for any reason, maybe they don’t want to, but more likely their car broke down. They didn’t have way to get there and they couldn’t take the bus and whatever. Do then they lose their services, you know?

And that’s like kinda how this whole thing is set up or at least it was when my first son was little and I just have a problem with that. Like conditional social services. Well, yeah. And also, I don’t know, from my perspective, and maybe this sounds ridiculous, but like I was in nursing school, right? Oh yeah.

You’re like, I know about nutrition and I literally just don’t have money. Yeah. I know all about it. Like that’s I was thinking too is like also the little paper you handed me really has shit nutritional info, just FYI. Like I don’t need six servings of grains a day. Thank you. You know, and also what if it’s not, what if the foods that they actually provide that they’re willing to provide don’t fit within your cultural food group?

That is, oh man. So really they’re kind of like stripping you of your identity and culture and maybe I’m overthinking that. You’re not, you are not overthinking that. I am supporting you there a hundred percent. And that is one of my biggest gripes with this program. Maybe we’re jumping ahead, but like, I felt like, you know, you go to the store and you’re like, okay, I can get canned beans, but not dried beans.

What? Or like, I can get five gallons of 1% milk, but I cannot get one gallon of organic whole milk. Like who decides that bullshit? I don’t know. It’s a numbers game, but then again on such a large scale, how do you determine? I don’t know, but I really just wish the WIC program was more like the snap or food stamps program where it was like money that you can spend in the way that you decide is appropriate for your family.

You know, so if I wanted to buy bulk rice and beans that would feed us for two months instead of a week, I could do that. I think there was mention of, they were worried that it wouldn’t be used the way it was supposed to be used. And that’s just like, I dunno that whole scale of mistrust in people, because they’re poor so they must be stupid.

Is it mistrust in women? Right. So many problems. Or was it mistrust in men who were abusing the food stamps and like it wasn’t actually getting to the women and the children? I get that there are misuses of social services, but frankly, I feel like if they were more available and less conditional, we would have less misuse of them.

If it was just normal to have them, then it wouldn’t be such a commodity that people are abusing. Yeah, I agree. I agree. I mean, the, and of course we’re not like slamming the WIC program. It’s just discussions that we all think about. And you know, when you’re in your postpartum period, you don’t really have time to think about stuff like this.

We’re a little bit, you know, we’re going deeper in this. Obviously we’ve been looking at this for a really long time, and I honestly, I’m excited to kind of hear how Maureen feels about it because I don’t know. This is good discussion. And actually, if anyone from the WIC program is listening out there, Let us know, write your email.

What’s your personal story? What’s your take on working for the WIC program? And this isn’t a problem, like I don’t have a problem with the people who work for WIC or the peer counselors. It’s the whole like design of the system I think is flawed and like should be worked on. I also looked up the annual budget for WIC now is about $6 billion, which if you consider inflation, hasn’t actually, like it’s grown, but not that much. Hmm. So that’s interesting.

Anyway, just wanted to throw that in there. Well, you know, there was other stuff that they were doing also, which was pretty neat. So, you know, and they still. Tell me some good things. They still do this. So by getting, because they were making people come to the clinic to get the vouchers and the nutrition education required for the program, they actually got people to come to the clinic. Right. So they took advantage of the fact that people were showing up and they did like full health care exams, got people enrolled in Medicaid and got them vaccinated. Right. And I think those are all really good things like centralizing sources of healthcare.

And I know like they checked my son for anemia and they checked him for lead poisoning, I’m pretty sure. Yeah. I think I stopped using them very quickly because I was really sick of the, like stuff. Well I couldn’t do it. I actually, I had to continue seeing WIC because if you had, well, this is my story, but if you are enrolled in WIC and your kid is getting their vaccinations from WIC, the pediatrician’s office will not cover it.

So I couldn’t get vaccines for my son’s pediatrician because we had a certain type of Medicaid and so we could only get our vaccines from WIC. So I’d have to do two appointments. I’d have to go to the pediatrician and then I’d have to go to WIC. That seems frustrating. It was frustrating.

And it was just one more barrier to care. Like if I wasn’t me, I might not have taken the extra trip to get him vaccinated. Interesting. But it was required to have him vaccinated for a daycare. So, right. I had to do it. So much controversy.

But can you tell me some of the good things that WIC does, especially surrounding breastfeeding? So well in the beginning, there wasn’t actually a whole lot going on with breastfeeding other than saying we’re not replacing breastfeeding with formula. We’re replacing shitty formula with better formula. The controversy around the fact that they weren’t talking about breastfeeding was huge. So we had all these advocacy groups that were popping up that were giving them hell about the formula and a lack of breastfeeding education.

And the breastfeeding rates were so low at that time, like so ridiculously low. And that was like, prior to the big, when this first started, it was just when the LA Leche League was like starting their push. And it was like, kind of before the big public health pushes for breastfeeding. Yeah. So also I can’t help but imagine, and I didn’t read this anywhere. I’m just imagining.

But as the numbers started racking up for how much this was going to cost and how much formula costs as the advocacy groups are like, Hey, what about breastfeeding? It’s free. The lawmakers had to stop and be like, well, they do have a point. It is free. And you know, like we have a lot of money. It’s only free if you don’t value the time of people who breastfeed.

So. Well, this it’s heating up in here. So WIC did step up their efforts to encourage mothers to breastfeed and they do now include breastfeeding education as well as peer counseling to support all their breastfeeding people. Yeah. Yeah. And I think the peer counseling program is like the most successful thing they’ve done to support breastfeeding.

I didn’t know anything about that. Yeah. I wasn’t a part of it either, but like when I was getting my lactation certification that was presented over and over as like one of the best things about WIC. Interesting. Which I can understand, because like, you know, if you are in that income bracket, statistically, you are way less likely to breastfeed for many reasons I will not go into. And probably then your community is not super supportive of it just because it’s out of their experience. So having a built-in peer counselor program, I mean, we know like the parent’s motivation to lactate and to feed their baby that way is the single biggest determinant of success.

And so having a peer counselor who can support you in that and reaffirm that is super important. Well, you know, when I went to WIC as a breastfeeding parent, they did have me see a lactation consultant. I barely remember it, to be honest. It was very short. I don’t know how in the heck they made it that short because I can’t ever keep it that short with my patients.

But it wasn’t perfect, certainly. And it wasn’t perfect after that. I was still nursing on a nipple shield on one boob after that. So I don’t know what happened there. And I left there with a can of formula. So, and I don’t remember, I can’t say that like one thing led to another thing or that they made me take the formula, but I know I left there with formula as a breastfeeding parent.

So the situation at my local WIC office was that there is one lactation consultant that service like five offices. And she would be there one day a week. And basically not everybody saw her. And so when I had called for help at some point, because I had just wicked thrush and I needed assistance, they were like, well, maybe in two weeks you could see her when she comes back around, but she’s gotta do Upshur and Lewis and blah, blah, blah.

And I was like, oh, fuck me. Okay. Yeah. Where do you go after that? I mean, if you don’t know. You’re basically, and you have that can’t have formula they sent you home with last time. Yeah. What was that about? Why did they send you home with formula? I don’t remember. So I can’t even say, I mean, they might’ve been like, are you formula feeding?

And I might’ve said no, but I’ll take it just in case because you don’t know, like when you’re 25, you’re like, I don’t know. Yeah. Some 25-year-olds do know and good for you. I didn’t, but. Well, I was 26 when I had my son, so I knew, oh, well, you’re so smart, but yeah. So obviously we know that these preventative services and these the WIC services in general saves money in the long run because we have children that are now properly nourished, which are much more likely to stay out of emergency rooms and they’re going to do better in school.

And therefore they’re going to be better contributing members of society and hopefully taxpayers when they start working. Right. It’s, it’s a chain of events that then occurs when you start people off, like from, from an even playing field rather than a disadvantage. Right? Meanwhile, people in Sweden are like, why did it take you so long to realize that when you invest in children, you’re investing in the future of your entire country? Welcome. America or the US still does not know that PS still not there.

Well, 30 years later, we still have a strong bipartisan support of the WIC program and people obviously rely heavily on it and it’s now a basic part of healthcare. So anytime you’re making a thing that supplemental, a basic part of healthcare makes it seem like why is it as a supplemental? It should just be a basic part of healthcare.

Right? So, you know, this goes down as one of the best pieces of legislation that Congress has ever passed, and it’s helped tens of millions of infants and mothers and children. So really, I think the most exciting thing about all of it for me, from a 30,000-foot view, is that people worked together across the aisle to solve a common problem.

And they did it decently quickly and they did it in a way that was sustainable for the future. And things can always be better. I can always be better as a person, so I’m fine with criticizing things. I hope they’re fine with us being a little bit critical of their program. Well, and I do, I do want to I do want to say that I, I don’t think we started out this episode wanting to shit on WIC quite so much, and like reiterate that I think it is an amazing essential service and I just really think that improvements can and should be made.

And I do want to mention that usually your doctor should be asking you at your visit if you qualify for WIC, or if you have looked into that, it’s like on our electronic medical records. And if you need more information, your department of health is usually where you want to go. Your DHHR and they have all the applications you need and you can also just go to WIC’s website. Thank you.

Do you know what I really need, Heather? So many things, but I’m guessing a drink of water? Yeah, but water gets a little boring. That’s true. It does. So I like to add just a little Liquid IV now and then. Oh man. I love Liquid IV because it’s gluten free, soy free, dairy free, non-GMO, and made in the USA.

Yeah. And it’s a great tasting daily electrolyte drink mix that utilizes this like cool technology that delivers hydration to your blood faster and more efficiently than just water. Plus it just kind of makes you a little bit happy. And I add a little bit of fizz to mine. I don’t know about you, but I actually add a little bit of Perrier to mine and I make it a little fancy sometimes when I’m feeling it. I like this. And they don’t just have a hydration multiplier.

They’ve got a sleep mix too, which I love. And one for energy, which does not make you shaky and wacky and weird like coffee does. It just kind of gives you that extra edge that you need in your life. So if you’d like to order Liquid IV, you can use promo code MILKMINUTE for 25% off your order and free shipping. That’s and enter promo code MILKMINUTE for 25% off and free shipping.

Okay, well it’s time for an award. Yeah, we need to wrap up that. It felt negative at the end. I didn’t want it to feel negative. It’s okay. It’s hard not to be salty, you guys. We’ve been working in this space for a while now. And these awards remind us that some stuff we’re doing is working. Right. You know, we have these wins that are really important to highlight because it is not easy every single day, but there are people out there having wins and maybe tomorrow you’ll have a win.

And hopefully soon our federal government will have a win. Yeah but really though? Hmm. Okay. This is from Brianna Cass. And she said that she graduated mental health therapy for PPD and PPA. Yay. She also reached out to her doctor about setting up preconception appointments with the MFM, since she had preeclampsia with severe features, a pulmonary edema, all kinds of stuff with her son.

And it was super traumatic, both the birth and recovery. She thought for sure she would never have another baby, but here she is now. Here’s hoping that her next pregnancy and delivering will be smooth sailing. And she sent us a really cute picture of her and her one-year-old who she has breastfed since birth.

Well, Brianna, that’s amazing. And just so you know, typically what we see with subsequent pregnancies is less severe symptoms of preeclampsia. So yeah, we are really hoping for that for you. And I just want to say I feel like the big win here is like graduating from her mental health therapy and reaching out for more help.

Yeah. That’s incredible. And also snaps for your preconception appointment because preconception appointments are an incredible way to establish with your doctor, how to be in the best fitness physically, mentally and emotionally before you conceive. Making sure you have the right vitamins on board, making sure you have the right resources on board, making sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.

And I’m sure the preeclampsia and the mental health stuff was a hot topic that they talked about in the preconception, just to kind of set a baseline for expectation and what it’s going to look like when you get that positive pregnancy test. Yeah. Congratulations on all of that. Brianna, I’d like to give you the Gushing Graduate Award because we are absolutely gushing over all of this and we are so proud of you.

Yes. You’ve graduated one thing and now you’ve started another thing and that’s how it goes. And we are totally gushing over your accomplishments. Well, thank you for submitting that to us, Brianna, and thank all of you for listening to another episode of the Milk Minute Podcast. The way we change this ginormous system that is not set up for lactating families is by educating ourselves, pissing off legislators and educating our children.

If you found some value in the content we created today, or in any other episode, please consider supporting us by going over to our Patreon at, and maybe joining us for the low, low price of $1 a month. And if you can’t do that, we totally get it. And we would love it if you would just tell a friend for free and just let them know that we have this resource here for them, and that we want to share all of our best knowledge with you. All right, guys, we’ll see you next week. Bye-bye.


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