Sunday, July 12, 2015

We Broke the WIC Mold

WIC. Women, Infants and Children. It's a government subsidized program that has actually been around a long time. They're there to help pregnant women and children from birth to age 5 get proper nutrition. It's an income based program. We've been on it for the past  4 years. Little Man has since "graduated" from the program and I no longer receive vouchers for him. We still have another 2 and a half years with Princess. This is generally a good program, except when it comes to my children. Leave it to me to have the odd balls!

Okay, Little Man wasn't so much of an odd ball. The only issue they had with him was that he is built like a linebacker! He's been in the 95th percentile for his weight since he was 4 months old. At that time, he was also in the 95th percentile for his length too. We weren't on WIC then. When he was about 2, we had moved and I actually applied for WIC. Their income guidelines are quite high, so a lot of people with young children will qualify. Okay, so things were fine with him until he started getting out of the 95th percentile for his height. That was when the WIC person would look at me. Before she could say anything about it, I would always say, "His pediatrician isn't concerned." Yeah, they're trying to make sure these kids aren't "obese." Yeah, well, Little Man is active. He plays outside, runs around. We don't eat out a lot. There's no problem with him. He's just one of those built kids.

Then I got pregnant with Princess. Okay, things were fine, until I had to do the breastfeeding class. Yes, as part of the program, you have to do classes. Most of them have been okay, up until this point. I was never able to breastfeed Little Man. He wouldn't latch. He was tongue tied and we didn't find out until he was 6 months old! Okay, well, when I got pregnant with Princess, my intent was to try again. So I went to this class. I HATED it! I mean, okay, breastfeeding is best and it's WAY cheaper for WIC because they will provide formula if you can't breastfeed, but talk about breastfeeding propaganda. They gave you the whole line that breastfeeding actually makes your child smarter. (There's actually been no real proof to that because there hasn't been long-term studies on long-term breastfed kids.) I mean, okay, I get that it does help your child's immunity and you tend to bond with your child (you can actually bond with a bottle fed child too people!) and all of that good stuff, but there was NO mention of "Breastfeeding is hard!" or "If you can't do it, don't worry, we'll still help you!" or even "It's okay to pump and give your baby a bottle of breast milk."

Okay, so I was willing to let this one class go. No big deal. It was just one class of the about 5 others that I'd done.

Well, then Princess was born premature. Thankfully WIC was there with a pump so I could pump breast milk for Princess. Granted, they weren't always the most supportive lactation consultants when they would call. (I had two consultants calling me at various times, one from WIC and one from the hospital.) But, I kept at it, until I began to realize I was depressed. I felt like a dairy cow. (Oh, they don't tell you that in the class!) Had to go in and milk every day, several times a day. And oddly, it reminded me of how a dairy cow is milked.

Yeah. Kinda like this!
Then Princess developed a milk protein allergy. It was like God was stepping in and saying, "Don't worry, I've got this!" WIC couldn't harp on me for not feeding my child breast milk. She was allergic! Ha! (Okay, I really didn't feel that way at the time, but still!) Okay, so Princess was going to come home on special formula. WIC wouldn't cover it, but the insurance did. Thankfully everything was taken care of!

Then princess was diagnosed with reflux and her pediatrician wanted me to put cereal in her bottles. Oh, the look I got when I mentioned that at WIC! No food until 6 months! Well, then I told them the pediatrician recommended it, even though Princess was only 5 months old and they said, "Oh, well, we could do Enfamil AR. It's already got rice in it!" Um, No. Milk protein allergy, remember? Special formula, remember? This happened when I went to sign in for the "feeding your baby" class. Okay, that class wasn't that bad. They talked about making your own baby food. I'd done that before with Little Man. It's cheaper. WIC on provides so much baby food, so I already knew this was an option. Yeah, it's a little annoying that they are all "No food until 6 months!" attitude. I don't think it really helps with obesity that everyone thinks. In fact, I think it actually helps perpetuate food allergies. (Hey, they want you to introduce eggs earlier now and say that peanuts are probably good to introduce early as well! Just still stay away from the honey until a year.) But okay. I was going to introduce food when Princess was ready, the same way I did with Little Man. WIC would've KILLED me with him because I introduced food (rice cereal on the spoon) at 10 weeks old with him! But he was STARVING and his pediatrician was okay with it.

About this time, we realized that Princess was showing signs of being ready to eat. So we introduced rice cereal on the spoon. She was 5 months old. Not 6 months. Not 9 months/6 adjusted like everyone said I should I do with a preemie. So we tried her in her bouncie seat at MeMe's house. The only bib she had there was a toddler bib so it practically covered ALL of Princess at the time! Oh she loved it!

Shortly after this, Princess was diagnosed with PHA2. We didn't know what it really meant for feeding her, but all I knew was to stay away from the bananas! They were WAY to high in potassium. As for "baby food," well, we hadn't been back to the nephrologist yet to know what to do about that. Well, now I had to go in and actually TALK to WIC and do our 6 month recertification appointment. That was a mess! I got bumped from a regular person to the dietitian. Probably better in the long run, but still annoying to have to wait EVEN LONGER with two kids! Yeah, special formula, a preemie, and a rare diagnosis does not make for a fun appointment with people who deal with NORMAL kids. I got my vouchers after talking with the dietitian and things seemed fine. I found out what NOT to give Princess from the nephrologist's nutritionist and we were off and running trying to find baby food. I still wound up making more than I bought and I NEVER bought bananas!

Then I moved. Well, thankfully, we met the dietitian initially in the new county and got everything handled. And when Princess was told to wait on cow's milk until she was a year adjusted, they did those vouchers without the milk on them! Woohoo! Things seemed fine. Little Man transitioned off shortly after his birthday, so now the cupboards aren't SO overloaded with juice and cereal.

In November at NICU clinic, they were concerned about Princess's weight and asked me to increase her calories. Well, upon researching online about kidney diets and increasing calories, they all said I could increase "free fats." Those are those things that fall into the LITTLE BITTY triangle in the food pyramid. Things like mayonnaise, salad dressings, butter, sugar. Those things you're NOT supposed to have a whole lot of. So that's what I did with Princess. She began to have kool-aid to drink and has since begun to LOVE mayonnaise and ranch dressing!

So what does that have to do with WIC? Well, at our last meeting, I met with one of the regular workers. For one, I found out that they are adjusting Princess's age for her weight and height. I always wondered why they would say she was in the "25th percentile" when everyone else was telling me she was in the "5th percentile." Well, now I know! Anyway, when I mentioned about her weight, they told me that she had gained something like 3lbs since her last certification. I thought that was pretty good. I made some comment about increasing her calories because she'd been more active. Then the  woman went on to say, "Well, as long as you haven't been piling on the butter or mayonnaise on everything." I had to bite my tongue because that was EXACTLY what I had been doing!

Thankfully, WIC has gone to online classes. I hated going to classes with Princess. The breastfeeding one was the worst, but even the "feeding your baby" one was kinda bad. Not in content or anything, but seeing the other babies her age. It was HEARTBREAKING at the time to go to those classes and see these chubby GINORMOUS babies and think about my tiny little peanut. And being I had done some of the other classes when Little Man was on WIC, I knew that most of them wouldn't be applicable to Princess.
  • "How to Read Food Labels." Hm....Figured that one out. Except I'm not looking for fat or sodium content. I'm waiting on the NEW labels to eventually come out. (Hey FDA, can we get on it yet?) What I'm looking for is the amount of potassium in anything and everything! 
  • "Drink Your Water!" Yeah, um, we know that one! Princess can't sweat a whole lot, lest she loses a whole lot of her electrolytes, so she's ALWAYS hydrated! 
  • "WIC Food Recipes." Yeah, okay, my kid can't have the beans or the whole wheat bread/tortillas/brown rice. Or about half the fruits and vegetables. So unless you are teaching something that DOESN'T contain bananas, orange juice, beans, whole grains or tomatoes, I'm not interested.
  • "Eating the Rainbow." Okay, try to eat the rainbow of fruits and veggies when you're not allowed to have some of them. Kinda hard when things like bananas, tomatoes, avocados, winter squash, most melons, and other things like that are off the list of approved items.
So going to an actual "class" was not something I was really looking forward to. Granted, I never mind educating people about Princess's disorder, but being a room full of moms and their healthy children talking about something I can't possibly apply in my household isn't necessarily something I want to go spend an hour of my life doing. Especially when it's something that I would have to drive 20 minutes to and then 20 minutes home from. Now, with the online education, I can just pick something from their list, go through their websites and videos and articles and do my class without having to listen to someone recite what the food pyramid is to me. And then they mail me my checks in the mail. And because she's complex, I have them send me her nutrition survey too. It takes WAY too long to fill out because of her restrictions.

I know WIC is trying their best and it works for most families, but obviously, my family doesn't fit the WIC mold. If I had anything to tell them about ways to improve their program, it would be to show more compassion and understanding to children and families with special feeding needs.

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