Mothers from seven area WIC (Women, Infants and Children) centers will march up and down area streets to promote breast-feeding and its benefits as part of their Breast-feeding Awareness Walks Wednesday, Aug. 8.

The walks will take place in seven cities–Huntington Park, Lynwood, Paramount, South Gate, Bell Gardens, Compton and Cudahy.

These local Breast-feeding Awareness Walks are sponsored by South Los Angeles Health Projects, which manages 11 WIC centers, including several in the city of Los Angeles.

The marches will be among hundreds happening throughout the country during August, which is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month.

The walks will draw attention to the critical need for mothers to breast-feed their infants, rather than rely on formula. They will also remind onlookers that they can obtain valuable breast-feeding education and support services at their local WIC center free of charge.

“There are huge health and financial advantages to choosing breastfeeding over formula feeding,” Deborah Myers, chief of Nutrition and Breastfeeding Services at South Los Angeles Health Projects, said.

“In South L.A. and throughout the country, we’re terribly concerned right now about obesity. A breast-fed baby is less likely to become an overweight child and an obese adult. And this is just one of the many advantages,” Myers said.

Compared to a mother’s breast milk, formula is missing many things babies need to be strong, healthy and smart, according to the WIC Supplemental Nutrition Program of the California Department of Health Services.

Both breast milk and formula contain minerals, vitamins, fat, DHA/ARA, carbohydrates, protein and water. However, breast milk alone contains the additional advantages of antibodies, hormones, anti-viruses, anti-allergies, anti-parasites, growth factors and enzymes.

Formula-fed babies have a greater risk of ear infections, diarrhea, constipation, pneumonia and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), as well as a greater risk of obesity, diabetes, asthma, allergies and cancer.

Saving money is another important benefit of choosing breast-feeding, according to Heidi Kent, deputy director of South Los Angeles Health Projects. “Formula feeding costs a lot of money. The dollars add up because babies need extra formula as they grow, and WIC doesn’t give participants all the formula the baby will need. But the real cost of formula is the cost to the baby’s health and the time parents spend away from work or at the doctor when the baby is sick,” Kent said.

South L.A. Health Projects/WIC promotes good health through a variety of services: nutrition education, free vouchers for nutritious foods, numerous breast-feeding support services, group education on nutrition, breastfeeding, parenting, immunization education, and referrals to community resources.

South L.A. Health Projects is the community services department of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

Women from all area communities can learn whether they are eligible for WIC by phoning (310) 661-3080.