Breastfeeding integration through collaboration

“Boobie, boobie,” my 16-month-old Willow insists I nurse her beloved doll as she hoists my breast toward its mouth.

“Boobie, boobie,” she reaches down my mother’s and grandmother’s shirts when mine aren’t in sight.

“Boobie, boobie,” she squeals each morning as I groggily stir from slumber.

Infant and young childrens’ admiration for breasts is hilarious at times but also signifies something greater: their natural inclination to survive.

That said, the people who dedicate themselves to mothers’ and children’s breastfeeding journeys, the ones who help advance the field of human lactation and the ones who help families achieve the healthiest starts for their children, should be celebrated.

I feel so privileged to be able to attend Healthy Children Project’s upcoming 17th Annual International Breastfeeding Conference in Orlando where these amazing people will come together to network, learn and have a great time!

Learning from one another 


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Of these incredible lactation care workers is Breastfeeding Coordinator at Maternity Care Coalition (MCC) Katja Pigur, MEd, CLC who will speak about developing a collaborative approach to MCC’s Breastfeeding Friendly Philadelphia Campaign. Pigur says she is looking forward to connecting with and learning from other lactation professionals and supporters.

“Every community is really unique and I really believe we can learn from each other,” she says. “At the end, it’s all about joining efforts.”

While Pigur says the field of lactation can sometimes be exhausting, coming together with other professionals and engaging in open conversation will be uplifting and energizing.

“I am looking forward to having a good time together and coming home with new energy.”

CLC diversity

Pigur says she became interested in becoming a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) when she started specifically addressing barriers to breastfeeding through her various projects with MCC. Having breastfed her son, she says she is personally familiar with the barriers to breastfeeding.

“The CLC training is really great because you find a very diverse group that offers breastfeeding support in many different ways,” Pigur says. “It gave me insight and passion for breastfeeding.”

Healthy Children Project's “Learn to Teach the 20 Hour” course in Philadelphia
Healthy Children Project’s “Learn to Teach the 20 Hour” course in Philadelphia

For instance, healthy newborns naturally crawl to the mothers’ breast after birth to nurse when immediately placed skin to skin without interference.

“When I saw the breast crawl video, it was an ‘aha!’ moment for me,” Pigur says.

She says she realized that often healthcare is not focused on moms’ and babies’ needs but more so on what is normal for health care providers. After her CLC training, Pigur says she realized maternal infant care sometimes needs to be “hands off.”

Comprehensive care model

Although Pigur suggests a hands-off approach at time, the services that MCC provides are very involved.

Services provided to families are home-based.

“It’s a very different perspective when you go into the home of the clients,” Pigur explains. She says that home visits provide a unique opportunity to involve the whole family in breastfeeding education and support.

To encourage breastfeeding from the start, MCC integrates breastfeeding education into its pregnancy programs.

MCC is currently engaged in a pilot project that sends doulas also certified as lactation counselors to areas of the community with very low breastfeeding rates.

“The program really provides comprehensive support,” Pigur says.

Eventually, MCC plans to expand services to a larger area.

Extending services

MCC’s Breastfeeding Friendly Philadelphia Campaign (BFPC) launched in 2010 to support employers and healthcare facilities in their efforts to implement breastfeeding support.

Efforts are funded by the Get Healthy Philly campaign of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. [Retrieved from: http://maternitycarecoalition.org/public-policy-blog/breastfeeding-critical-to-infant-and-maternal-health/#.UNXumo5hWfQ]

2012 Breastfeeding Friendly Model Employers honored at a public ceremony during World Breastfeeding Week.
2012 Breastfeeding Friendly Model Employers honored at a public ceremony during World Breastfeeding Week.

BFPC works closely with four of the six birthing hospitals in Philadelphia, all of which are on their way to achieving Baby-Friendly designation, Pigur says.

BFPC also helps business owners comply with the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which ensures breastfeeding employees are provided breaktime to pump for nursing children. For more information on MCC’s Breastfeeding-Friendly employers, visit http://maternitycarecoalition.org/professionals/public-policy/breastfeeding/employer-spotlights/.

To further breastfeeding support, many Philadelphia business owners have pledged their businesses Breastfeeding-Friendly by placing a “Breastfeeding Welcome Here” decal in their windows. BFPC asks that business owners train employees to accommodate breastfeeding patrons. Find a list of Breastfeeding-Friendly employers and businesses here.

Starting conversation

When BFPC was in its infancy, Pigur says that it was difficult to get the conversation going about breastfeeding.

“You have to find the right people that are open to talk,” she says.

Pigur also explains that in a difficult economic environment, breastfeeding support isn’t always a priority for business owners. In reality, supporting breastfeeding employees saves a business money even if it is initially perceived as a financial hurdle.

“There is still a lack of acknowledgement of the far reaching consequences of not supporting [breastfeeding],” Pigur explains. “People don’t really see it as a public health issue.”

To remedy this, Pigur suggests creating open conversation about breastfeeding within the community.

For other communities looking to implement a program similar to BFPC, Pigur has this advice:  Don’t be afraid of conversation. Think strategically. Involve yourself. Initiate change.

Additionally, she says that it’s always good when you can show some kind of success.

“When you start something, look for low hanging fruit,” Pigur explains. “When you have those you can build up a track record of success.”

She adds that reinventing the wheel is wasted energy.

When implementing BFPC, she looked across state borders at other programs and adjusted them to the needs of her community.

Remaining in a bubble won’t change anything she says. Instead, Pigur again suggests approaching everyone in the community to open greater conversation.

“That gives you the opportunity to address concerns and doubts,” she says. “The more you talk about it, the more you’ll normalize breastfeeding.”

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