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PHOTO GALLERY — Breastfeeding event starts strong, will continue

The infant mortality rate locally is higher than the state average, which prompted the Jefferson Healthy Texas Mothers and Babies Coalition formation and access to federal funds in an effort to greater protect newborns.

Kara Michael, a WIC lactation consultant with the Port Arthur Health Department, said recent data shows Jefferson County had 7.1 deaths per 1,000 births compared to the state average of 6.2 deaths.

“Infant mortality is a multifactorial issue, but breastfeeding is a factor in preventing these deaths,” she said. “Breastfeeding education outreach will continue to be needed in our community to address these health disparities.”

The Coalition is using Department of Health and Human Services grant funds to target areas with poor maternal and infant mortality rates and health outcomes.

That effort locally was realized this month with the inaugural Jefferson County Breastfeeding Celebration on the La Plaza Garibaldi back patio in Port Arthur.

Michael was “very pleased” at the turnout and she appreciated the pregnant mothers seeking breastfeeding education and also the support partners on hand who are integral to breastfeeding success.

“We definitely want to bring this back as an annual event,” Michael said. “We also plan to petition the court for Jefferson County to recognize August as “Breastfeeding Awareness Month” again.

“I was definitely surprised by the amount of feedback we received wishing this event was on a Saturday so that working mothers would also be able to participate. We will definitely be considering this moving forward next year.”

Community members who would like to know more about breastfeeding are welcome to contact Michael at kara.michael@portarthurtx.gov or visit breastmilkcounts.com for basic information.