Babies need a lot, as do moms taking care of them, and one of the most important needs is nutrition. The goal of the Colorado Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is to help mothers and babies eat healthy, balanced diets.
The local WIC office covers Moffat and Routt counties, and has an office in the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) building in Craig. The program is federally funded, with the funds being broken down through the states into various smaller units. In Colorado, the funds are designated for counties.
"We teach people better nutritional habits," said Susan Bowler, Moffat and Routt WIC director, "and we run several programs designed to help and educate mothers. Our Nutritional Education program helps women have heavier birthweight babies, and that's proven in studies."
WIC is both educational and supplemental. Participating mothers get monthly checks for foods that have certain nutritional benefits, as well as education and guidance on their dietary needs and their babies' dietary needs. Screening for nutritional status and needs, and referral to other community, state or federal programs are also major parts of the program.
The local WIC program has 372 total clients, 288 of which are from Moffat County, and there is room for more participants.
"Right now, we're funded for 425, and if we don't use that money, it's lost," Bowler said.
The annual funding the local WIC office receives is based upon its case load, and as that number fluctuates, so does the funding designated for this area's office. If participation numbers go up, so does the funding, and vice versa. The Moffat and Routt office has received funding for as many as 500 participants, but the funding for this area has steadily declined as the participation numbers haven't justified that level of monies.
One of the benefits the WIC program offers to area residents is a breast pump loan program.
"We offer a breast pump loan program which gives mothers access to an electric breast pump that's worth $700," she said "This isn't just some $40 pump, it's a hospital-grade electric pump."
The breast pump program is run in tandem with the child birth classes that are offered by the VNA. WIC also coordinates with other programs, including prenatal, immunization, family planning and the well-child program.
To be eligible for WIC, participants must meet financial and nutritional risk requirements. A questionnaire is used to determine if a prospective mother or child triggers one of the program's 50 nutritional risk factors.
"The answers to these questionnaires help us see where, for example, a mother needs help with her baby's diet if the infant weighs too much, weighs too little or has severe allergies," Bowler said. "Just one of the 50 risk factors makes someone eligible for this program.
The benefits of the program are many, according to Bowler, and almost everyone could use some help when dealing with something as intricate as a baby's nutritional needs, both during a pregnancy and after.
"A lot of people could use the help our programs offer. In nine years, I've only seen one perfect questionnaire," she said.