Managing WIC When Your Child Has Health Problems

Managing WIC When Your Child Has Health Problems

I am a WIC mama. Well, I have been a WIC mama for roughly the last two years, and I benefited from the program. If you’re reading this and are unfamiliar with WIC, let me do a quick explanation of the program before we jump in.

WIC stands for Women, Infants, and Children, and it’s a government program that supplies food and nutrition education to pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to the age of five. This program benefits those who would not be able to make ends meet otherwise and helps to supplement food for those who qualify. Let me reiterate that WIC supplements food and does not provide for all the nutrition needs of women, infants, and children who are on the program.

All in all, WIC is a fantastic program that helps families who are in need.

When I learned I was pregnant, I went into a flurry of activities that included seeing my doctor for a positive pregnancy test and then trying to figure out next steps. My doctor recommended my husband and I see if we qualified for WIC. Once we qualified, we remained on the program steadily for the next two years until this year when my husband started a full-time job. I recently went to the WIC office to explain we no longer qualify for the program and thank the ladies at WIC for all their help and support.

In the last two years of being on the WIC program, I’ve learned a lot about the benefits of the program, but I want to touch on something that was important to my family: managing WIC with a child who has health problems.

Shortly after my son was born, he was hospitalized for dehydration. This started a number of doctor visits that became our normal for months during the first year of his life. He now has four different doctors, three of whom are specialists in different areas.

As a new mom, I saw lactation consultants, doctors, and other specialists because we struggled with my son’s weight gain. This tied directly into our WIC visits, and it’s something that’s important for WIC mamas to learn how to deal with. A big problem I had in those early months was getting conflicting information from WIC and our various medical professionals. I learned quickly that the WIC office has very strict protocols and questions to go over in their educational counseling sessions. I sincerely appreciate that they make sure to educate women on how to care for their children, so don’t get me wrong about that. However, I sometimes struggled with how “on script” some of the educators were.

As a mom whose child deals with multiple medical professionals, I constantly have to keep up with changing standards, adding or subtracting foods, and changing medications. I keep myself as educated as possible to take care of my son. At the WIC office, however, there were times that I felt criticized for following my doctor’s requests.

I’ll just be honest.

If you have a child who has health problems, you must learn to simply trust the medical professionals you’ve allowed into your life. WIC educators are wonderful people, but they are not primary medical care practitioners, and while they may have excellent information for normal, healthy children, that information may not fit your situation. Another problem I experienced was in trying to educate my WIC educators. Our doctors changed my diet and my son’s diet multiple times in the last almost two years. The WIC educators stayed true to established standards and sometimes insisted on things like the necessity of dairy for my son’s growth.

As a mom it is frustrating to have what seems like critical words with someone about taking care of my child. I understand the WIC educators are simply trying to offer their own insights, but again, it goes back to this: the WIC educators are not our primary medical practitioners. Sometimes rather than explaining something, I simply smiled, nodded, and walked out intent on following my doctor’s plan.

Last but not least, I know the WIC educators are simply doing their job, and I appreciate that. I can’t imagine the number of people the WIC educators see regularly. The women at the local WIC office are always kind, friendly, and have treated me with respect even when we disagreed about diet and nutrition. Unfortunately sometimes there’s a formula employees have to follow, and I think that’s where a number of my disagreements came up with WIC. Because they have certain standards and questions they have to go through, there’s not as much time for actual conversation. So when in doubt, I tried to chalk up our differences to their required standards and not to actual criticism of me as a parent.

Being on WIC made a huge difference in our lives, and I’m so grateful to have had it. I will always encourage women who need it to use it, but I also want to caution parents of children with health problems to view WIC as supplementary information to their primary medical doctor’s health plans.

Do you use WIC? Have you ever felt frustrated by the WIC educators? Tell me what kinds of conversations you’ve had in the comments section.

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