Combating Obesity: Northwest Community Hospital Bilingual Counselors will Educate Pregnant Women on Breastfeeding

Northwest Community Hospital has trained six community-based bilingual counselors who will bring breastfeeding education to the Latino community in addition to supporting women after delivery. The initiative is in response to the nation’s growing obesity epidemic, with statistics showing that breastfed babies are 30 percent less likely to become overweight. The prevention strategy is funded by a Communities Putting Prevention to Work federal grant to encourage mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months of life.

The breastfeeding counselors will work out of the Community Connections Center at 1711 W. Algonquin Road in Mount Prospect and the Palatine Opportunity Center at 1585 N. Rand Road. They completed a 10-week training program, which included 40 hours of instruction from the hospital’s lactation team and community nurse.

“These peer counselors are wonderful ambassadors of the hospital who will reach out to women just prior to delivery, and follow up after the baby is born,” said Karen Baker, director of Community Services at NCH. “They will discuss breastfeeding benefits, how to overcome challenges, and where to seek support services.”

Breast milk provides nutrients and antibodies that not only decrease the likelihood of adult obesity, but also the risk of childhood cancer and diabetes, high blood pressure, respiratory and ear infections, and other conditions. Moms who breastfeed reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. NCH encourages mothers to get baby to breast within one hour of delivery.

NCH’s efforts to promote breastfeeding fall in line with the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, a global program by the World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that encourages exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. Other organizations that support exclusive breastfeeding include the American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Dietetic Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The breastfeeding peer counselors are an extension of the hospital’s Promotoras de Salud program, which recognizes that language can be a significant barrier in healthcare. Promotoras de Salud (Health Promoters) reaches out to the Latino community with important health and social services information in Spanish.

“These programs are successful because the hospital representatives are native speakers who work in their own communities and share the same culture and life experiences as the people they are educating,” Baker said.

For more information about the health benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, visit the hospital online at