Have you ever met someone for the first time but felt like you’ve known that person all your life? A while back, I had the pleasure of speaking with founder and executive director of Femtique Associates Incorporated Judith Beaulieu, RN, BSN, MIS, CHC, RYI and I instantly fell in love. Her bubbly manner is so inviting; I could have chatted with her for hours like with an old friend.
Beaulieu’s organization provides health coaching for women with a special focus on breastfeeding support. It secured its articles of incorporation in July 2011.
I am astonished by Beaulieu’s capacity to understand and appreciate the needs of mothers and babies; she doesn’t have any children of her own.
Beaulieu says her ideas for Femtique are never-ending so she keeps a journal nearby for jotting down her 3 a.m. visions.
“How can we increase breastfeeding rates through awareness?” Beaulieu asks herself. “Well, I got this idea that we could commission an artist that would put a picture to what breastfeeding looks like. In today’s society you don’t really see it.”
Beaulieu became acquainted with motherhood artist Katie Berggren after browsing her images online and later through a project with the Pennsylvania Breastfeeding Coalition. Beaulieu serves on its grant committee.
“She took to the idea like a duck takes to water,” Beaulieu says of Berggren. Soon after Berggren created Hearts Full Of Hope.
Berggren says it was hard not to feel motivated about “the opportunity to create a piece that would speak of Femtique’s urge to educate mothers and the community as to the value of breastfeeding at least through the child’s first 6 months”. She says the image for Hearts Full Of Hope materialized almost immediately.
Beaulieu plans to dedicate the commissioned, promotional, original painting to Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin for her dedication to breastfeeding. The painting will also be sold as prints and charms to raise money to fund Pennsylvania nurses’ Certified Lactation Counselor training.
“My hope is that Hearts Full Of Hope can help to serve as a visual vehicle for Judith on her journey,” Berggren says. “An image that can help to get a message across when there isn’t time or space for words.”
Femtique also offers quilted art, Baby Fats’ Quarter Quilts, as another form of fundraising.
In the late 18th century, quilting was a creative conduit for the stifled voices of women. Quilts served to tell and exhibit the stories of their makers.
To Beaulieu, the quilt perfectly parallels the important bond created between mother and infant during skin-to-skin contact.
“We need to put those hugs and skin to skin positions back into our lives instead of putting babies in strollers and handing them bottles,” Beaulieu says. “We need our babies to be with us.”
Goals to satisfy
Eventually, Beaulieu would like all Femtique associates certified as lactation counselors. She explains that health coaches with nursing backgrounds and professional lactation certifications allow for a holistic experience for the client.
She uses the example of a mother who undergoes cesarean section also needing breastfeeding support and explains that she will benefit from a caretaker with multifaceted training.
Through Berggren’s artwork and other fundraising endeavors, Beaulieu plans to sponsor as many nurses’ CLC trainings as funds offer.
“Nurses just don’t have the money to pay for the credentialing,” she says. “When they are ready to leave the clinical setting and go to community work, the job change just doesn’t afford them the extra credentials.”
Beaulieu explains that Femtique’s clients seek help for a variety of reasons, but she says continued breastfeeding support is of popular concern.
She emphasizes the importance of creating safe, public areas for women to breastfeed their babies.
Beaulieu recalls an outing to a Barnes and Noble cafe with a colleague a couple of years ago. A group of mothers engaged in a book discussion while nursing their children. Her uncomfortable co-worker suggested they sit elsewhere so not to disturb the nursing mothers.
Looking back on the situation, Beaulieu called Barnes and Noble to ask what kind of protection they provide for nursing moms. The store manager cited discreet nooks and crannies between shelves where mothers are welcome to nurse their children.
“It’s one small little goal just for that one big need,” Beaulieu says of creating public areas for breastfeeding dyads.
Of Beaulieu’s other goals is the creation of a yoga camp for teenage girls. She hopes it will allow them to bring awareness to their bodies. She says teens need some kind of outlet so unwanted pregnancies can be reduced.
“It’s so obvious that yoga is the craze,” Beaulieu says. “But no studio is like Beaulieu Yoga and Health Coach Studio because it is run and overseen by a nurse.”
And instead of her instructors simply looking to make a living, Beaulieu says Femtique associates are looking to make a difference in the world.
Femtique backs the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). Supporting the initiative is a great way to “put those hugs back into our lives” as Beaulieu suggests.
A change in health services
Beaulieu feels a change in the health care paradigm.
“I would like to align our services with the reform bill so that we will be in the forefront of healthcare,” she says. “We will be able to get people to stay healthy.”
Technology and prescription drugs, rise in chronic diseases and administrative costs drove United States’ health care spending close to $2.6 trillion in 2010. [Retrieved from http://www.kaiseredu.org/issue-modules/us-health-care-costs/background-brief.aspx]
“The writing is on the wall,” Beaulieu says. “”There is not going to be money for hospital care. Everyone knows something has to be done differently.”
She suggests a preventative approach and what better way than to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.
“We’ve got to make noise and I think this is the way to do it,” Beaulieu says. “We need the world to be more friendly to our children so they can grow up healthy.”