Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, in partnership with The Hispanic Health Council, has received a $498,980 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to expand a “Breastfeeding: Heritage and Pride” program to low-income African-American and Hispanic mothers who are patients at the Saint Francis Center for Women’s Health.

The breastfeeding program, developed and currently delivered in other Hartford neighborhoods by The Hispanic Health Council in partnership with Hartford Hospital, recruits, trains, and hires women from Hartford’s low-income neighborhoods who have successfully breast-fed their own infants for at least six months. The rigorous training prepares these women to become breastfeeding peer counselors.

“Breast milk is the perfect food for babies,” said Walter Trymbulak, M.D., Ph.D, Director of the Center for Women’s Health. “Low-income women in Hartford have the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the state. This grant will help us change the culture of formula-feeding the babies of the women who use our Center.”

The Center for Women’s Health located at 1075 Asylum Avenue and its satellite office in the Burgdorf Health Center provide full service obstetric and gynecologic care to the women of Hartford and the surrounding communities.  The Center does over 12,000 patient visits each year and cares for over 600 pregnant women each year.  In serving the Saint Francis mission the Center offers health and wellness programs to all women regardless of insurance status.

Jose Ortiz, The Hispanic Health Council’s President and CEO, states, “We are delighted to have the opportunity to bring this important and evidence-based service to the patients at the Saint Francis Center for Women’s Health. This is another opportunity for the two organizations to partner in addressing health disparities.”

Over a decade of studies has shown that “Breastfeeding: Heritage and Pride” raises the rates of 6-month and 12-month breastfeeding in low-income African-American and Hispanic women in other sections of Hartford. Now, with the support of the Kellogg Foundation grant, mothers in Saint Francis’ neighborhoods will have the same high-quality peer counseling to help them overcome obstacles to breastfeeding.

The peer counselors from “Breastfeeding: Heritage and Pride” will begin working with expectant mothers during their pregnancy, helping to educate them on the health and emotional benefits of breastfeeding for infants and mothers. After the babies are born, the peer counselors will visit the mother each day at Saint Francis and assist the Hospital’s certified lactation consultants in helping the mother initiate breastfeeding.

When the mothers and their babies return home, the peer counselors make home visits to ensure that the breastfeeding is going well, to assist with any issues or problems that arise, and to offer continued encouragement to the new mother. The peer counselors are also available by cell phone at all times to answer mothers’ questions or to help solve any emergent problems.

Studies have shown that intensive peer counseling increases the initiation and duration of breastfeeding, and is successful in populations that have historically low rates of 6-month and 12-month breastfeeding.

Peer counseling is even more effective when the counselors share the same racial/ethnic, economic and language background as the mothers they support. Counselors help mothers overcome pain, discomfort, and feelings that the infant is not receiving enough nutrition.

Intensive peer counseling in guiding mothers during the first six months of exclusive breastfeeding also increases the probability that mothers will choose to fully breastfeed any additional infants they may have in the future. After six months of exclusive breastfeeding, the peer counselors help mothers introduce appropriate baby foods and remain as a resource for mothers who decide to continue supplementary breastfeeding to 12 months.

Research has established that breast milk is the ideal “first food” for infants.  In the first few days after birth, the antibody Secretory Immunoglobulin-A is present in large amounts in colostrum (the early milk). This and other antibodies in breast milk strengthen the baby’s immune system.

Breast milk: is easier to digest; protects against diarrhea and constipation; reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome; decreases the risk of asthma, respiratory infections, allergies, and eczema; contains essential nutrients for the development of the brain, eyes, and nervous system; helps in the development of the mouth and jaw; increases the baby’s feeling of comfort and reinforces a strong emotional bond with the mother.

Research also shows that breast-fed babies: are less likely to be overweight or obese in childhood; are less likely to develop childhood cancers and diabetes; may have fewer behavioral, psychological, and learning difficulties as children; may have increased intelligence levels compared to formula-fed children; and have lower LDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure in childhood.

Pediatricians recommend exclusive breastfeeding up to six months and complementary breastfeeding up to 12 months.


About Saint Francis Care

Saint Francis Care is an integrated healthcare delivery system established by Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, an anchor institution in north central Connecticut since 1897.  Licensed for 617 beds and 65 bassinets, it is a major teaching hospital and the largest Catholic hospital in New England.  Other major entities of Saint Francis Care include The Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital, the Connecticut Joint Replacement Institute, the Hoffman Heart and Vascular Institute of Connecticut, the Saint Francis/Mount Sinai Regional Cancer Center, the Joyce D. and Andrew J. Mandell Center for Comprehensive Multiple Sclerosis Care and Neuroscience Research, and Saint Francis HealthCare Partners.  Johnson Memorial Medical Center, parent organization of Johnson Memorial Hospital, Evergreen Health Care Center, and Home and Community Health Services are also Saint Francis Care Partners.  Saint Francis Care’s services are supported by a network of five major Access Centers and eight additional medical office centers sited throughout the region.  For more information, visit


About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work, and life.

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United State and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit

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3562014-12-29 16:49:55

Moms Who Don't Breastfeed More Likely to Develop Type 2 Diabetes, Study Finds

Read more in Science Daily.

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2642010-08-02 13:56:33

Nursing Mothers Get a Break at Work, Thanks to Health Reform

One little-discussed provision in the new health care reform law requires all employers to provide unpaid break time and private space for nursing mothers to pump breast milk at work. Read more about it in USA Today

Posted in
2502010-07-28 11:44:06

Read all about it!!!

The Hispanic Health Council's Breastfeeding Heritage and Pride Program has been the subject of articles in The Hartford Courant and numerous peer-reviewed journals.

"The conclusion is that breastfeeding peer counseling works, and it works beautifully, but you have to invest in it,'' says Yale School of Public Health Professor Rafael Perez-Escamilla, the co-primary investigator on the Hispanic Health Council's breastfeeding research. To read more, click on the links below:

Differential Response to Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Within a Low-income, Predominantly Latina Population Chapman DJ, Damio G, Pérez-Escamilla R. J Hum Lact. 2004 Nov;20(4):389-96.

A Randomized Trial Assessing the Efficacy of Peer Counseling on Exclusive Breastfeeding in a Predominantly Latina Low-Income Community Anderson AK, Damio G, Young S, Chapman DJ, Pérez-Escamilla R. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005 Sep;159(9):836-41.

Posted in
2112010-05-06 00:00:00

Peer Counseling Promotes Breastfeeding Among Obese Women

Recently presented studies by researchers at the Hispanic Health Council, the University of Connecticut and Yale University suggest that peer counseling helps low-income, obese women successfully breastfeed their newborns. To read more, click here.

Posted in
2362010-05-03 12:34:56

New Study: Higher Breastfeeding Rates in the U.S. Would Save Lives and Money

The lives of nearly 900 babies would be saved each year, along with billions of dollars, if 90 percent of U.S. women breast-fed their babies for the first six months of life, a cost analysis says.

Those startling results, published online on April 5, 2010 in the journal Pediatrics, are only an estimate. But several experts who reviewed the analysis said the methods and conclusions seem sound. Read more.

Posted in
2352010-04-06 10:47:36

Sewing Circle Project


The Hispanic Health Council is seeking volunteers who are good with a needle and thread to make baby slings for its clients.

Baby slings can be a great help for mothers who breastfeed. They offer a safe way to keep the baby close while freeing mom’s hands to do chores or care for older children. They also provide welcome coverage when nursing a baby in public. 

A downside of the sling is that it can be expensive to purchase. So to ensure that slings are available to all HHC's clients, breastfeeding coordinator and lactation consultant Nan Kyer has been making them from donated fabric on her home sewing machine. 

But Kyer can't keep pace with the demand, which hs been averaging six a month. Thus the call for volunteers, perhaps a group of sewing enthusiasts seeking a project. Donations of soft yet sturdy cotton fabrics are also welcome.

To help with sewing or fabric donations please contact Celinet Franco at 860-527-0856, ext. 226 or e-mail her at


Posted in
1332009-07-20 13:48:50