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New mom: Sequester cuts to women's center would "break my heart"

Theses days, little Kayden is eating like a champ, but a few weeks ago he was malnourished and fighting for his life.

"I was scared out of my mind, I was scared out of my mind about his not getting enough," said Kayden's mother, Cierra Kelley. "He was two days old when I took him to the hospital. He was only two days old, I didn't know what was going on. So he went to see a lactation specialist at Piedmont health."

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  • Cierra Kelley and son Kayden of North Carolina were helped by a Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program that is now threatened by sequester budget cuts. CBS

    The lactation specialist is just one of the services available through the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program also known as WIC. Kelley is one of nine million WIC participants in the United States.

    "My mother didn't breastfeed so she didn't know much about breastfeeding," Kelley said. "Any questions that I had she was always able to answer them. I was scared for the first week about breastfeeding, you never know if you are doing it right unless someone tells you."

    In addition to breast feeding counseling, WIC also offers food vouchers which average between $60-70 per person, per month

    "I am young, so with WIC you get food support, milk cheese, things like that," Kelley said. "You need to keep your body healthy. You have to keep nutrients in your body so you can pass it on."

    But impending budget cuts could cut WIC benefits for hundreds of thousands.

    "There are different things that could happen but in short $600,000 could be cut there are different options trying to run the program as long as possible and then making cuts as we get closer to the fiscal year," said Heather Miranda, a WIC supervisor.

    Kelley, 21, is in her third year of online classes to become a social worker, but she does not work outside the home. With almost 60 percent of infants born in the US enrolling in WIC, some argue that the program needs to be scaled back."

    "I think it is hard because I don't think a lot of folks don't understand at the grassroots level what will happen to these families," Miranda said. "As being someone who works with these families regularly -- I had a woman who had to stop breastfeeding because she did not have enough food to feed herself. It's devastating to hear that and to know there will be cuts that will make it even worse ... it makes me incredibly sad that we would balance the budget on the backs of infants women and children."

    If Congress does not act, half of the proposed federal spending cuts will come from defense and half will come from discretionary spending which will impact social safety net programs like WIC.

    "Nobody wants to see their child suffer or go through anything," said Kelley. "If they cut the budget short and took away the opportunity to call down there and see what is going on with him, if something is going on with my breast milk, and something is going wrong and I am not able to get the support that I need, that means my son would suffer and that would break my heart."

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