Where are they now? An update from Nicole Bridges PhD, B Comm (Hons), SFHEA, MPRIA

Then

Amidst trolls who lurk, misinformation that muddies, and insidious marketing,  Nicole Bridges’s PhD, B Comm (Hons), SFHEA, MPRIA (she/her) work illuminates the helpful spaces on the internet. Almost a decade ago, her publication The faces of breastfeeding support: experiences of mothers seeking breastfeeding support online, found that “social networking sites (SNSs) provide support from the trusted community” that is “immediate…practical and valuable…”

In our 2017 coverage, Dr. Bridges pointed out how social media can compliment face-to-face interaction between breastfeeding dyads and lactation care providers, how it can offer moms “access to the collective wisdom of the whole tribe” as opposed to the perspective of one lactation professional, and how it can facilitate social interaction offline.

and now.

Dr. Bridges now serves as the Director of Academic Program for Communication, Creative Industries and Screen Media and is a Senior Lecturer in Public Relations in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts at Western Sydney University. For over two decades, she has been a volunteer breastfeeding counselor with the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

We’re pleased to have caught up with Dr. Bridges as she reflects on the past and future.

Q: What is the most significant change you’ve noticed in maternal child health in the last decade?

A: The increased use and evolution of social media tools to support breastfeeding. The COVID-19 pandemic amplified this and demonstrated how useful social media and online communities can be to supporting families in times of need.

Q: What is the most helpful/profound lesson you have learned about maternal child health in the last decade?

A: That (unfortunately) there is still so much more work to be done and that volunteer peer support organisations like the Australian Breastfeeding Association are needed more than ever before.

Q: Is there a current project, organization, initiative, endeavor or trend in lactation and breastfeeding that excites you most?

A: It will be interesting to see how the introduction and evolution of AI tools can be used to support breastfeeding into the future.

Q: What’s your best piece of advice for the next generation of maternal child health advocates?

A: Always place the parents and children at the centre of everything you do.

Q: Where do you envision yourself in the next 10 years?

A: I do hope that I am still a volunteer peer counsellor 10 years from now and that I can still continue to support breastfeeding families in this role and as a researcher in this area.

Check out Dr. Bridges’ publications since her work was last featured on Our Milky Way:

  • Rowbotham, S., Marks, L., Tawia, S., Woolley, E., Rooney, J., Kiggins, E., Healey, D., Wardle, K., Campbell, V., Bridges, N. and Hawe, P. (2022), ‘Using citizen science to engage the public in monitoring workplace breastfeeding support in Australia’, Health Promotion Journal of Australia, vol 33, no 1 , pp 151 – 161.

  • Bridges, N., Howell, G. and Schmied, V. (2019), ‘Creating online communities to build positive relationships and increase engagement in not-for-profit organisations’, Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, vol 20 .

  • Bridges, N., Howell, G. and Schmied, V. (2018), ‘Breastfeeding peer support on social networking sites’, Breastfeeding Review, vol 26, no 2 , pp 17 – 27.

Celebrating Semana de La Lactancia Latina and the efforts of Lactancia Latina en el Suroeste de Kansas

It’s almost Semana de La Lactancia Latina (September 5- 11)! New this year to National Breastfeeding Month, we celebrate Latina/x families and raise awareness about infant feeding barriers specific to Latin communities.

Residents and visitors of Southwest Kansas have the delight of enjoying the efforts of the Lactancia Latina en el Suroeste de Kansas, an organization formed in late 2018 with the nurturing of the Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition and Ford County Breastfeeding Coalition.

Photo by Rosalba Ruiz, used with permission from Latina/x Breastfeeding Week/ https://www.facebook.com/Latinxbreastfeedingweek

This week, with the help of Carmen Valverde, CLC, Local Coordinator at the Lactancia Latina en el Suroeste de Kansas and 2022 USBC Cultural Changemaker Awardee, we highlight the organization’s projects in honor of Semana de La Lactancia Latina.

At the age of seven, Valverde was an immigrant to the United States. Her passion to help the Latin community comes from not having the support she needed while raising her young children.

“I totally relate to the struggles the families in Southwestern Kansas face,” Valverde comments.

In partnership with Vigness Welding, NACCHO, UnitedHealthCare, Western Kansas Community Foundation, the Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition,  and the City of Dodge City,  Lactancia Latina en el Suroeste de Kansas coordinated the placement of several lactation benches throughout the Southwest communities.

The first bench was placed in Garden City because they have the largest zoo in the rural region. Each bench has a QR code with the Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition directory so that families can find the support they need based on their zip code, Valverde explains.

Photo source Lactancia Latina en el Suroeste de Kansas

Additionally, billboards were installed in high traffic areas. The billboards have information about where to find infant feeding support on social media and information about lactation in the workplace.

Alongside breastfeeding, soccer is Valverde’s other passion; Lactancia Latina en el Suroeste de Kansas is a proud sponsor of the Dodge City Toros and Atletico Liberal. Sponsorship was made possible by HealthConnect One.

Valverde has made it a point not to “reinvent the wheel” in the coalition’s efforts to support breastfeeding and become more visible.

“… I like to work and partner with other organizations and events so that we can both have the best outcome,” Valverde begins. “It just works out better that way… So far the public has received it very well. We’ve had more moms… get involved with our local coalitions as a result of it and the [local] newspaper has done a piece on [the sponsorship].”

During one of the most trying times during the pandemic, the coalition was able to accomplish the recording of a PSA with a local meat packing plant in Dodge City. Valverde says the plant, Cargill, does a marvelous job investing in their employees. Watch the video here.

Lactancia Latina en el Suroeste de Kansas provided scholarships to an all-Spanish breastfeeding training made possible through a NACCHO grant and partnership with Lactation Education Resources’s certified breastfeeding specialist training. Valverde reports that the coalition is currently planning an  in-person skills day training so that the online training material can be reinforced.

Source: United States Breastfeeding Committee

You can learn more about these projects and Lactancia Latina en el Suroeste de Kansas’s future endeavors on Facebook.

Educator and leadership team member shares breastfeeding experiences, supports lactating colleagues

When the PUMP Act was signed into law last year, it expanded the legal rights of some 9 million more lactating individuals, including teachers, who had been previously excluded from the 2010 Break Time for Nursing Mothers law as it only applied to hourly workers.

But even with the revamped legislation, teachers are in a unique position.

In Jill Inderstrodt’s I Study Breastfeeding Behavior. Here’s Why Nursing Teachers Have It So Tough, she explains: “…The bill’s prescriptions are often at odds with the day-to-day logistics of jobs.”

Inderstrodt goes on, “In many cases, teachers have to choose between finding coverage for their classroom or forgoing pumping. With one or two pumping sessions per day, this could mean finding coverage 40 times a month.”

Stacy Synold is an educator and part of the leadership team at a small, private school in the Midwest. She breastfed all three of her biological children, now 25, 22, and 19, beyond their second birthdays.

“I never thought I would breastfeed as long as I did but I followed their lead and found it to be supportive of my parenting choices,” Synold shares.

She continues, “Breastfeeding was so important for my kids, who all had asthma and allergy issues.  I shudder to think of what their health may have been without nursing. What started as a nutritional imperative for me became some of the most treasured [moments] in my life.  Given that I nursed toddlers and even a near preschooler, they were all very verbal and verbally loving about breastfeeding, and I remember all the little names and words they had for breastfeeding.”

There was “sie-sie” for nursies and “noonies” and “nonnies”.

“One time… my son said, ‘I give hugs to the nurse and hugs to the other nurse,” in reference to breastfeeding, Synold remembers.

As it sometimes is, weaning was a momentous event for Synold’s family. When her daughter was about to turn three, she hosted a weaning party.

“We had pink cupcakes and the whole family celebrated.  She had stopped nursing except for once every few weeks so we decided to support her into her next phase.  We gave her a baby doll to nurse if she wanted to and that was her favorite doll for a long time.”

Besides feeding her own children, Synold pumped her milk for the adopted newborn of a local woman who endured the death of her biological baby a year earlier.

“She had high hopes of relactating, but I very much wanted to help her in the short-term,” Synold says.  For eight weeks, she pumped on a three to four hour schedule.

“It was almost like having a newborn again, and my 18-month-old daughter loved my increased production,” Synold remembers. “I would do it all again to see the smile on that mom’s face each time I delivered the milk!”

Synold served as a La Leche League Leader for nearly a decade under the mentorship of Kay Batt, who has been a LLL leader since 1967.  Batt invited Synold to an evening meeting which turned out to be a meeting with an emphasis of supporting mothers and families who worked outside the home.

“She helped me become a better mom and shared so much knowledge, especially about how to support the unique needs of working families who breastfeed,” Synold reflects.

Since breastfeeding her own babies, Synold has witnessed a shift in infant feeding culture.

She cites being appreciative of the laws passed in protection of breastfeeding and the increase in designated places for mothers to breastfeed in public.

“I wasn’t bashful, but my children were easily distracted and needed a quiet place to nurse],” she begins. “I was kicked out of a restaurant in Mayfair Mall once in 2001 for breastfeeding at the table.  Apparently, men and boys ate there…who knew! I said to the woman who was kicking me out when she stated about men and boys, ‘I know, I am feeding a little boy right now!’”

Because of the nature of her work outside of the home while she was breastfeeding, Synold didn’t find herself in the position of needing workplace accommodations. For instance, as a nanny at one point, she says she was easily able to nurse her son without special accommodation. In a different position, her daughter was two, so she was able to withstand longer stretches without emptying her breasts. Her toddler  would then nurse throughout the night as they coslept.

In her recent leadership roles, Synold facilitates safe lactation spaces for her colleagues.

“I always have a comfy area in my office, I offer flexible schedules and plentiful breaks if needed, and seek better locations,” Synold explains.  “One year, I had seven teachers give birth and my office was the only office with a lock.  I ended up out of my office most of that year, so we gave a locking large closet a makeover for pumping.  I did realize I sometimes needed an office!”

Like Inderstrodt concludes, “If we are going to recruit and retain our teaching workforce under such circumstances, teachers need all the accommodations we can give them. That means that legislation such as the PUMP Act must be accompanied by scheduling accommodations at both the school and district levels so that the legislation for lactating mothers transcends paper.” Even before it was signed into law, Synold has exemplified this support.